Hammer star who appeared in Coronation Street

Born: June 16, 1942;

Died: September 17, 2017

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SUZAN Farmer, who has died aged 75, was an actress best known for a number of appearances in the Hammer horror films, especially Dracula: Prince of Darkness in which she despatched Christopher Lee by shooting at a frozen moat and watching him sink to a freezing death.

In 1978, she also had a stint on Coronation Street, as one Ken Barlow's love interests. Her role was chiropodist Sally Robson but, like many of Ken's other girlfriends, it was doomed to failure and she was gone within a few weeks.

Farmer had always wanted to be an actress but her start in life was not promising. Both her parents were alcoholics and her father died when she was just four. The family were then declared bankrupt and Farmer left school at 14 to try to make her way in the world.

Within four years, she had landed her first film role, in 1958's The Supreme Secret; she also enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama and started landing small parts on television, appearing in ITV Television Playhouse and The Marriage Lines with Richard Briers.

Her first work for Hammer was 1963's The Crimson Blade, which avoided the usual horror genre for an English Civil War story (the stars were Lionel Jeffries and Oliver Reed). A year later, she was back for The Devil-Ship Pirates, another swashbuckler but this time set during the Spanish Armada. It starred Christopher Lee, with whom Farmer would work again.

Her part in Dracula: Prince of Darkness was much meatier and the film is good too - in fact, many critics see it as the quintessential Hammer film before budgets became tighter and the plots more ludicrous. Farmer also had the honour of dealing out one of the more inventive deaths that Dracula suffers.

Farmer did some other work in horror, notably Die, Monster, Die! in 1965, which starred the great icon of horror, Boris Karloff, although Farmer was unimpressed. Karloff was not, she said, as charming as he appeared.

Her parallel television career was also progressing. Coronation Street came in 1978, but there were also appearances in the thriller Man in a Suitcase and The Saint with Roger Moore. She also appeared in The Persuaders, Dixon of Dock Green and Blake's Seven.

By the early 1980s, her acting career was essentially over and her later years were not happy. Speaking in the House of Lords on the occasion of his maiden speech, Farmer's brother, Michael Farmer, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party, described how he and his sister had grown up.

"We were born at the end of the war, and both our parents were alcoholic. My father died from this when I was four, and violence was a part of that backdrop. We were soon bankrupt and, with a mother still struggling with drink, my sister and I experienced the poverty, neglect and shame that are such potent drivers of social exclusion."

He went on to describe how he had benefited from his time at boarding school but said his sister had not been so fortunate. "She left school at 14 and, in her subsequent years, struggled with broken relationships, alcoholism and depression."

Suzan Farmer is survived by her brother.