Mabel Hardcastle (née Grimshaw) was an important figure in the history of Weatherfield.
Mabel was the illegitimate child of a Hackney chambermaid called Beatrice. As a baby, she was left with Archie and Agnes Grimshaw and raised in an East London slum dwelling. At twelve, Mabel was told the truth about her parentage and left home to take over Agnes's sister's lodgings at the Bluebell Tavern in Poplar. Landlord Charles Deakin gave her a job as a skivvy and, thinking her a talented singer, invited her on stage, where she proved an immediate hit with the audience. Another fan of Mabel's voice was Louis Rambaud, owner of the Coronet Theatre in Hackney, who on hearing her singing in a music shop signed her up right away. As Rosa Hanbury, Mabel entertained large audiences in London's music halls in the 1890s, and was rumoured even to have played for royalty. Her most requested song was "If Only You Could Love a Girl Like Me (I Would Love a Boy Like You).
Mabel's association with Weatherfield began with her correspondence with Sir Humphrey Swinton, a landowner whose family wielded considerable power and wealth in Manchester. Most of Weatherfield was owned by Sir Humphrey and he had already started plans to demolish the tenements and build new terraces. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Swinton fell for Mabel and set up her in a house in Oakhill as his mistress. After Swinton's wife Helen's death, and Sir Humphrey's own from a heart attack in 1900, Mabel inherited his wealth and saw his plans for Mawdsley Street and Albert Street (later renamed Coronation Street) to completion.
The new houses were positioned opposite Hardcastle's Mill in Victoria Street, and in the process of working on the new properties Mabel formed a close relationship with Charles Hardcastle. The pair married in a lavish ceremony at St. Mary's Church in 1904. In April 1926, Mabel came out of retirement as Rosa Hanbury to perform in the Rovers Return in celebration of Princess Elizabeth of York. That same year, Charles Hardcastle died, leaving his inheritance to Mabel, although the family suffered considerable financial losses during the Depression including the closure of the mill in 1931.
Mabel's Swinton inheritance included all the houses in Coronation and Mawdsley Streets except for The Rover's Return and the Corner Shop. She never forgot her past and in 1902, 13 Coronation Street was let rent-free to Lizzie and Enid Harrison, who Mabel knew from her days in the London music halls.
She passed away in 1947 and, while her death was announced in the Weatherfield Gazette, it is unlikely many people were aware of who she was or the vital role she played in the creation of the town which she had come to regard as the home she never had as a child.
Mabel's legacy in Weatherfield today is Rosamund Street, which is named after her.