East Lancashire Coronation Street actors have paid tribute to co-star Betty Driver who died today at the age of 91.

An ITV spokesman said she "died peacefully in hospital" in the early hours of this morning.

She had played the role of Rovers Return barmaid Betty Williams (Turpin) in the soap for 42 years.

The actress had been in hospital for six weeks. She had also been unwell earlier in the year and was treated for a chest infection in 2010.

Driver had originally auditioned for the role of Hilda Ogden in 1964 after a 36-year-career in radio, television and the stage.

She was then persuaded to come out of retirement in 1969 to audition for the role of Betty instead.

Her character became known for her famous hotpot - but Driver herself never tasted the dish as she did not eat meat.

Driver appeared in more than 2,800 episodes of Coronation Street and was made an MBE in the Millennium New Year's Honours list.

Edenfield-born Antony Cotton, whose character Sean Tully also worked behind the bar at the Rovers, said: "Today is a very sad day.

"I am devastated. We've lost our Betty.

"She was one of the funniest people I've ever met and definitely the kindest.

"I will miss her so much. Her star shone bright and long. Sweet dreams, Duck."

Accrington-born Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays transsexual Hayley Cropper, said: "Farewell to our Betty.

"They don't make them like you any more. Feel so lucky to have known you."

Former Rossendale resident William Roache, who has portrayed Ken Barlow since the soap began, said: "I loved Betty dearly, she was not only a colleague, she was a friend and godmother to my son James.

"She will be missed in the Street but she will be missed more so as a warm and loving person."

Haslingden's Jennie McAlpine, aka Fiz Stape, referred to Betty's sister in her tribute.

She said: "She is sat drinking a cuppa with Freda and having a long-overdue catch up."

Former Coronation Street Vicky Entwistle, who lives in the Ribble Valley and played Janice Battersby in the soap, said: "I send you a tender kiss and huge cuddle Miss Driver!

"Amazing, talented lady with an enormous heart."

Last year, when the soap celebrated its 50th anniversary, Driver insisted she would never retire from the show.

She said at the time: "I love working. I can't retire, I won't retire - I never ever will."

An ITV spokesman said: "She will be sadly missed by everyone who knew her."