Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow for more than four decades until her death in January, was honoured with the outstanding achievement gong at the British Soap Awards.
William Roache, who played her on-screen husband Ken Barlow, presented the award along with Beverley Callard to her husband David Beckett.
Roache told the audience his long-time co-star “was a wonderful, natural, instinctive actress who devoted her career to Coronation Street”.
The event also included a tribute to EastEnders’ John Bardon (Jim Branning) who died last year.
EastEnders was the big winner and was named best soap after its 30th anniversary year culminated in a live episode revealing who murdered Lucy Beale.
It won eight awards with Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale) named best actor and Kellie Bright, who plays Queen Vic landlady Linda Carter, named best actress.
The search for Lucy’s killer was named best storyline and the soap’s live episode won the accolade of best single episode.