Peter Baldwin - best known as 'Derek' in Coronation Street.
Peter was born in Chidham, Chichester , West Sussex in 1933, the oldest of two boys born to Primary School headmaster William Baldwin and his teacher wife. Younger brother Christopher was born in 1938. In 1939 after the outbreak of World War II Peter and Christopher moved to their grandparents home in Horsham. As a child Peter had a great love of the theatre and was always appearing in plays for the family. He visited the theatre for the first time when he went to see Peter Pan at the Chichester Theatre. At the age of 12 he was given a toy theatre which sparked off a hobby that he still pursues. Peter was educated at Horsham Grammar School . After leaving school, Peter was called up for his National Service in the Army at Aldershot , where he stayed for eighteen months.
Peter then enrolled at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and one fellow student was One Foot In The Grave actress Annette Crosbie. After graduating, Peter joined various repertory companies before returning to The Bristol Old Vic. In 1960 he joined The West of England Theatre Company in their production of The Way of The World . Other stage work includes The Inspector Calls, Romeo and Juliet, Dance With Death, The Browning Version, Ever Decreasing Circles, You Never Can Tell and Macbeth.
In 1969, Peter made his television debut in Girls About Town. In 1976 Peter was appearing at The Kings Head Theatre in London in The Browning Version when he was asked up to Manchester to audition for a role in Coronation Street . He got the part of salesman Derek Wilton, who was to woo and let down Mavis Riley for the next 21 years. His Street debut was on 7 June and Peter commuted between Manchester and London on the British Rail sleeper. Over the next twelve years he appeared on and off in the show and also made television appearances in Bergerac, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Seven Deadly Sins and the sit com Odd Girl Out. In 1985 he played DC Paul Garrett in Operation Julie. In 1987 he returned to the theatre, playing alongside Tom Baker as Mr Birling in An Inspector Calls when he was asked back to Coronation Street , this time as a regular character.
Just as Derek Wilton was to become a regular character, Peter's wife Sarah was diagnosed as suffering from cancer. In true showbusiness tradition, Peter decided to continue, knowing how such a problem could disrupt the Street's storyline. He commuted back and forth until his wife's last days. "Going back to work in The Street was a good thing for me," Peter would later say. "It meant I had something I could immediately concentrate on." Peter's 'Derek Wilton' became a popular figure on- and off-screen, with Peter being one of the cast's notorious gigglers.
In January 1997 Peter was told his contract was not being renewed by producer Brian Park, who felt that Derek had gone as far as he could go. The news devastated Peter and fans alike but Derek's fatal heart attack following a road rage attack was transmitted on 7 April 1997 . Thelma quit the series shortly afterwards.
Since leaving The Street, Peter has been vary busy with appearances on This Morning, GMTV, Crosswits and The National Lottery but he also returned to the stage for the first time in ten years when he did a national tour of A Month of Sundays. He then appeared as Uncle Gus in the children's television show Out of Sight before doing the pantomime Cinderella at Nottingham 's Theatre Royal. He appeared in the musical Summer Holiday at Blackpool over the summer of 1998. Peter has plans to appear in a new play called That's Showbiz.
Peter married Play School presenter Sarah Long in February 1965 after an off and off romance since they met whilst appearing on stage in Romeo and Juliet at the Bristol Old Vic in 1961. The couple had two children, Julia, who works in television and Matthew who is a psychiatric nurse. Peter later dated radio drama producer Cherry Cookson until 1990 and was then involved with Coronation Street production manager Jan Munm.
During periods of unemployment, Peter would often work at Pollock's Toy Museum and managed Pollock's traditional toy shop in 1980. This led to Peter's interest in collecting nineteenth century toy theatres. After the death of Benjamin Pollock, Peter was asked to take over the ownership of the shop. He still often works in The Benjamin Pollock Toy Shop in Covent Garden on days off and he has also had a book published called Toy Theatres Of The World.
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