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Former Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh said she was 'absolutely blown away' after receiving the title of Honorary Freeman of the Borough.

More than 200 people packed into the Coppice Theatre at Accrington and Rossendale College, where she once studied, to receive the borough's highest award.

Julie, originally of Elmfield Street in Church, was also reunited with former teachers including Olga Mulderigg and Martin Cosgrif, during a 'This is Your Life'-style ceremony.

Julie said she was 'really proud' to be from Accrington and paid tribute and thanks to friends, family, teachers, former drama groups and the late Dorothy McGregor, founder of the Maundy Relief charity, of which Julie is a patron.

She said: “Thank you so much to the Mayor and to Hyndburn council and a special thanks to Michael Cunliffe who put in so much work to organise tonight.

“I am really, really proud to be a Lancashire lass and I'm very proud to be from Accrington and Hyndburn.

“Thank you so much to all of you. That was out of this world. I loved every single second. You have all absolutely blown me away.

“Thank you for tonight. You are all amazing.”

Julie, who found nationwide fame as Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street, was invited to sign the Roll of Honorary Freeman before being presented with a badge of office, framed resolution, gifts and flowers from college principal Sue Taylor.

A presentation was made by pupils from Hyndburn Park primary school where she attended as a youngster before Julie and the crowd were treated to performances from Hyndburn Youth Council, Accrington Academy, Accrington and Rossendale College, Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre and Theatre and St Christopher's CE High School.

Friends and former tutors also paid tribute to Julie throughout the evening.

Mr Cosgrif, who taught her at Accrington and Rossendale College, said she was a 'joy to teach'.

He said: “She was funny, cheerful, caring and supportive. She liked everyone and the feeling was mutual.

“She is a national treasure and I think we should put her on a podium and put railings around her. She isn't a star turn, just a star.”

Lucy Hardwick, manager of Maundy Relief, said she was 'magic and sparkle' and a 'true and faithful friend'.

Last year Julie received acclaim for her portrayal as Sylvia Lancaster, the mum of murdered Rossendale teenager Sophie Lancaster, in The Royal Exchange Studio's production of the play Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster.

Sylvia, who attended the ceremony, told the audience: “It's amazing and a real honour to be here. Over the last five years our relationship has been pretty close and at some stage you were even me so it's all a bit bizarre really.

“Black Roses is a very personal and heartfelt message and play and I wouldn't trust that part to anybody else but you Julie as I know you take that to heart and you mean every word.

“As far as the charity goes you have been brilliant. You are an absolute pleasure to be with and you deserve the Freedom of Hyndburn.

“The reality is it isn't about your acting skills, it's about what you bring to the community and the joy and the laughter you bring to people you have dealings with.”

Hyndburn Mayor Munsif Dad said it was a 'very special occasion honouring a local lass'.

He said: “It's lovely to see Julie back in her home town along with her family and many friends.”

Conservative councillor Peter Britcliffe said Julie has 'never forgotten her roots'.

He said: “My late friend Ken Hargreaves thought Julie was absolutely wonderful. He was a great fan of Coronation Street but most of all he admired the work that Julie did here in Hyndburn.

“I feel we award you Freedom of the Borough not because of your undoubted acting skills, but because your heart is in the right place.

“Despite the fame you found as Hayley, you never forgot your roots.

“You participate in the Rotary walks which over the years have raised thousands of pounds for good causes in Hyndburn. And your support for dear Dorothy McGregor was actually legendary.”