Former Emmerdale actress and child welfare campaigner Coral Atkins has died at the age of 80 after a short battle with cancer

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Emmerdale and Family at War actress Coral Atkins has died age 80 from cancer.

Coral played Ruth Jameson in Emmerdale in 1993 and is also known for her role as Sheila Ashton in the 1970s drama A Family at War.

But she is also remembered for the work she did for disadvantaged children, setting up a home for them at Crossways, Hoe Benham, near Newbury in Berkshire.

Emmerdale, Coral Atkins

Coral as Ruth Jameson in Emmerdale, with Norman Bowler as Frank Tate

Born in London in 1938, Coral was a pupil at Shaw House School, Newbury, before moving back to London to become an established actress on stage and on the small screen.

But she decided to leave the profession at the height of her fame to raise funds and set up the home for disadvantaged youngsters.

In total, she cared for 37 children at Crossways and another home in Gloucestershire.

The home eventually closed in 1996 after a string of public fundraisers over the years.

“She had to battle for funds and also against social services, who wanted to move children on continuously,” says her son, Harry Whitehead, in Newburty Today.

The story of the Coral Atkins Children’s Home at Crossways was told in TV drama Seeing Red, starring Sarah Lancashire and screened on ITV in 2000.

Seeing Red, Coral Atkins, Sarah Lancashire

Sarah Lancashire playing Coral Atkins in Seeing Red

Remembering his mother, Harry Whitehead said: “She was a remarkably powerful character.

“She was completely fearless as she faced the end of her days, telling me ‘there’s no tragedy in an 80-year-old woman dying’.”

She is survived by her son and two grandchildren, four-year-old Nila and Bran, aged one.