The show's production team was tested when many core cast members left the programme in the early 1970s. When Arthur Leslie died suddenly in 1970, his character, Rovers' landlord Jack Walker, died with him. Anne Reid quit as Valerie Barlow, and was killed off in 1971, electrocuting herself with a faulty hairdryer. Ratings reached a low of eight million in February 1973, Pat Phoenix quit as Elsie Tanner, Violet Carson (Ena Sharples) was written out for most of the year due to illness, and Doris Speed (Annie Walker) took two months' leave due to bereavement. The audience of ITV's other flagship soap opera Crossroads increased markedly at this time, as its established cast, such as Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon), grew in popularity. These sudden departures forced the writing team to quickly develop characters who had previously stood in the background. The roles of Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), Ivy Tilsley (Lynne Perrie), Deirdre Hunt (Anne Kirkbride), Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox), and Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) were built up between 1972 and 1973 with characters such as Gail Potter (Helen Worth), Blanche Hunt (Patricia Cutts, Maggie Jones), and Vera Duckworth (Elizabeth Dawn) first appearing in 1974. These characters would remain at the centre of the programme for many years.