An actress, born at the Municipal Maternity Home, Middlesbrough, on 20 July 1943, the daughter of Henry William Emerton (1892–1954) and his wife, Beatrice Reay, née Cutter (1910–1972), who both ran the Corporation Hotel, Middlesborough.
Her parents later ran the Streatham Park Hotel, now called the Furzedown
She is best known for her roles in Are you being served? (1973-85) and Eastenders where she was cast in the pivotal role of the downtrodden matriarch Pauline Fowler in the original cast of the BBC soap opera EastEnders. She appeared in more than 1400 episodes, until her character's death in an episode broadcast on Christmas day 2006.