Coronation Street favourite Betty Driver has died 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.
The ITV spokesman said: "She will be sadly missed by everyone who knew her."
Barbara Knox, who plays Rita Sullivan in Coronation Street, said: "I have lost a very dear friend and the Street has lost a very great character, a professional to her fingertips - she will be greatly missed."
Julie Goodyear, fellow barmaid Bet Lynch in the soap, said: "It was an honour and a privilege to work with Betty Driver for 25 years.
"We laughed together, we cried together and never once had a cross word. She was a totally professional actress. A true icon and legend and a very dear friend."
Ms Goodyear said Driver was "the very foundation of the Rovers Return" and added: "She will be missed and remembered by millions."
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.
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."
Driver appeared in more than 2,800 episodes of Coronation Street and was made an MBE in the Millennium New Year's Honours list.
Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts said: "Betty was a wonderful actress and remarkable woman.
"It is humbling to think that the 42 years she spent on Coronation Street was just half of her extraordinary career but Coronation Street certainly benefited when she decided to join our show in 1969.
"For more than four decades she delighted many millions of Coronation Street fans with her fantastic performance in countless great stories both dramatic and comic.
"Betty was always a delight to work with and whilst there is a great sadness at her passing away Betty will be remembered by everyone on Coronation Street with tremendous admiration and affection."
Simon Gregson, who plays Steve McDonald, said: "I have known Betty since I was 15 years old, we always had a very good relationship and I was fortunate to be one of her friends and I am going to miss her."
Her close friend Charles Orr said: "A true legend has left us with enough love and memories to last a lifetime."
Katherine Kelly, who plays Becky McDonald, said: "Our Betty - the true and constant Queen of the Rovers.
"The most famous street in the kingdom will never be the same now you are gone, but those sparkling eyes and cheeky laugh will live with me forever."
Charlie Condou, Marcus Dent in the soap, wrote on Twitter: "Very sad to hear our wonderful Betty Driver has passed away. A true Corrie legend. She will be missed."
The veteran actress was known for her cheery personality but told in an emotional interview last year of her loveless childhood.
Speaking on Desert Island Discs, she revealed that she and sister Freda had a "sad little life".
Driver told presenter Kirsty Young: "We never got a kiss. We never got a present, nothing. My mother was so strong that my dad just gave up. He was a sweet person but he just gave up.
"She was so domineering there was nothing you could do about it. It was a very, very sad little life, me and my sister, you know."
On a lighter note in the interview, she also admitted she would not be able to rustle up one of the hotpots that made her character so popular in Weatherfield.
She told the Radio 4 show: "No, I'm dreadful - I'm a terrible cook. I'm rubbish in the kitchen."
Coronation Street's Helen Worth said: "Our dearest Betty was loved by all she met, and will be sadly missed by all the cast and everyone working on the Street.
"The legacy she leaves is of laughter and love.
"The Rovers will not be the same without our adorable Betty."
Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, 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."
William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in Coronation Street, 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."