Comic actor Roy Barraclough, who played Rovers Return landlord Alec Gilroy in Coronation Street, has died aged 81.
Julie Goodyear, who starred as his on-screen wife Bet Lynch, led the tributes by saying she was "devastated" by the loss of her "dearest friend".
Lancashire-born Barraclough was also known for his partnership with Les Dawson, especially their portrayal of gossiping housewives Cissie and Ada.
His death on Thursday morning came after a short illness, his agent said.
'Like a married couple'
Goodyear, who appeared alongside Barraclough for many years on the ITV soap, said: "I have no words to describe how devastated I feel.
"We kept in close touch and spoke to each other at least two or three times every week.
"I will treasure all the happy times we had working and laughing together. We were just like a married couple, crazy, I know, but true.
"Rest in peace Roy. I will always love you."
Barraclough made his debut on the Corrie cobbles in 1964 as a tour guide and landed the role of Alec Gilroy in the early 1970s.
He joined the soap permanently in 1986, with his character marrying Bet and the pair becoming fixtures behind the bar of the Rovers Return.
Thursday night's show will be dedicated to Barraclough.
Beverley Callard, who plays Liz McDonald in the soap, said she would be "forever indebted" to Barraclough.
She said: "Along with Julie Goodyear, Bill Tarmey and Betty Driver, he taught me everything about this job. He almost got me sacked many times because he made me laugh so much.
"It was a joy to be in his company. He was one of the funniest people I knew and he had the biggest heart. I feel honoured to have known and worked with him. He will be sadly missed."
Simon Gregson, who stars as Liz's son Steve, said the actor had given "so much to entertaining people".
He said: "Roy's passing has come as a huge and sad shock. He was a lovely man and amazingly funny.
"I learnt so much from Roy and was very proud to call him a friend."
Barraclough left Coronation Street at Christmas 1998. Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: "Roy was a delightful person as well as a wonderful actor and will be greatly missed by all of us connected with the programme.
"The fact that the character of Alec Gilroy was at the heart of the show for so many years and was held in such affection by so many fans is a tribute to Roy's genius, for drama as well as comedy."
Barraclough started his career as a comedian and pianist at an Isle of Wight holiday camp before joining the Huddersfield Repertory Company and then Oldham's Coliseum Theatre company.
His partnership with Les Dawson began in the late 1960s and they struck up a much-loved double act as Cissie and Ada.
The gossip-loving northern pair - full names Cissie Braithwaite, played by Barraclough, and Ada Shufflebotham, played by Dawson - were seen on TV in the 1970s and '80s.
Dawson's daughter Charlotte tweeted that she was "devastated" at the news of Barraclough's death, adding: "At least you get to be reunited with my daddy."
The actor was seen on screens most recently last year, in a revival of classic sitcom Are You Being Served?.
His numerous other TV appearances included Last Tango in Halifax, Last of the Summer Wine and Casualty, with stage work including Death of a Salesman.
Barraclough was awarded the MBE for services to drama and charity, and had been the patron of Willow Wood Hospice in Greater Manchester for more than 20 years.
He died at the hospice following his illness.
On Twitter, a statement from the soap said he had brought "warmth and love" to the role.
Matt Lucas tweeted a picture of the pair together filming BBC Two's Pompidou, writing: "Happy days with Roy Barraclough on 'Pompidou'. Lovely man, brilliant actor."
And Martin Hancock, who played Spider on Coronation Street, said Barraclough was "one of the kindest, funniest and talented people" he had worked with.