Vera first appeared in 1974, working in the Mark Brittan mail order warehouse on Coronation Street, and became a particular friend of Ivy Tilsley (Lynne Perrie). In 1983, she moved into No.9 Coronation Street, much to the dismay of her new neighbours.
She was married to Jack Duckworth (Bill Tarmey), but they argued frequently although she still made an effort with Jack, often using the comically spoken phrase "Don't you love me any more, Jack?". Despite their problems, Jack and Vera cared about each other. Together, they formed a very popular soap couple.
The Duckworth marriage was always rocky due to their wayward son, Terry (Nigel Pivaro), and extramarital flings. Jack once had an affair with Street man-eater Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), and went on a dating programme in which he donned a wig, fake name, Vince St Clair, and French accent. Bet joined the dating programme and was shocked to see Jack's video. She encouraged Vera to go, especially to see a video of a man named "Vince". Vera and the other girls then launched a plot for her to get even with Jack.
Claiming she was a young widow, Vera arranged to meet "Vince" at The Rovers. She was wearing a ginger wig as he approached her from behind, then slowly turned around to face Jack – and scare the daylights out of him, much to the amusement of the pub crowd who were in on the joke. "You're no flipping widow, either!" Jack said. "No, but I will ten minutes after I get you home!" Vera answered.
Vera also had her fair share of lovers: she was tempted by a former paramour in 1991 in Blackpool, but stayed with her husband. In 2000, when she believed she could die during in an operation, she confessed to Jack that Terry might not be his real son, but the product of a fling early in their marriage. Jack told Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) he had always known about the affair, and was convinced Terry was his as, to his shame, they are very alike.
Vera had a variety of jobs over the years. In 1974, she was working in the Mark Brittain mail order warehouse on Coronation Street working alongside Ivy and Edna Gee. Also working at the warehouse were Ken Barlow (William Roache), Gail Potter (Helen Worth), and Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones).
After the warehouse fire in 1975, Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) opened up his clothing factory – Baldwins Casuals. Vera worked at the factory as a machinist, working alongside many of the street's residents including Ivy, Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix), Ida Clough (Helene Palmer), Shirley Armitage (Lisa Lewis), Ernest Bishop (Stephen Hancock), and Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire). After working at the factory for 13 years, Mike sold it in 1989 to developers, and it was demolished.
Vera had a career change after her lodger Curly got her a job at Bettabuys Supermarket, working under boss Reg Holdsworth. Workmates included Kimberley Taylor and again, Ivy.
In 1995, the Duckworths inherited some money after Jack's brother died, and they bought The Rovers Return Inn, with Vera becoming the landlady. After four years in the pub, it all went pear-shaped, having no option but to sell to Alec Gilroy. For a short time in 1999, Vera and Jack moved into Eunice Gee's (Meg Johnson) B&B, and when Eunice moved to Spain to help her sister run a bar, she left Vera and Jack as managers of the B&B. When Eunice sold the business, Vera decided to slow down a bit and got a job in Roy's Rolls café, working alongside Roy Cropper (David Neilson), Hayley Cropper (Julie Hesmondhalgh), Frankie Baldwin (Debra Stephenson) and Becky Granger (Katherine Kelly). In 2007, after a fall in which Vera hurt her ankle, she decided to retire for good.
Another thing that rocked Vera's world was when, during their trip to the United States, Jack confessed to having lied at their wedding (by making a smudge on his year of birth to make it look like another number), and said he was two years older than he really was to impress Vera. Since they were not legally married, they tied the knot in the famous Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. This story played out on the home video 'Viva Las Vegas' and was not featured in the regular series, so may not be part of the series' canon.
The Duckworths have three grandsons: Paul (by Andrea Clayton), Tommy (by Lisa Horton), and Brad (by Tricia Armstrong), but didn't see them for a long time due to Terry's reluctance to be a father.
Paul was conceived in the mid-1980s, but Andrea Clayton fled with her family to escape Terry. In the early 1990s, Terry made his girlfriend, Lisa Horton, pregnant. He was imprisoned but vowed to marry her, and the pair were delighted when Terry was allowed out of prison (albeit handcuffed) for his wedding. They duly married and the groom tried to make a run for it from the police, and he revealed that he only married a heartbroken Lisa to try to escape. She gave birth to Tommy and set up home with Des Barnes, but tragically was run over and killed. Jack and Vera took the little boy in, but while they loved having their grandson, they found it difficult to make ends meet, as Vera had quit her job to care for Tommy full-time. Regardless of this, she looked forward to Christmas, as Terry was due to be released from prison and she hoped they would then be a proper family. However it wasn't to be, as upon leaving prison, Terry took Tommy to Lisa's parents in Blackpool and returned without him, having agreed to give him to the Hortons in exchange for £2,000 a year. Vera could only sit by and watch as Terry lied that he had done it for Jack and Vera's sake, causing Jack to punch and disown his son. Despite pleading with Terry and Lisa's father to return him, they refused. Terry quickly left the street and Vera was left completely devastated.
Finally, a one-night stand with barmaid Tricia Armstrong resulted in baby Brad, but Terry didn't want to know, and she left with a new lover. The Duckworths tried several times to win Tommy from the Hortons, but to no avail.
In February 1991, at Vera's mother Amy Burton's funeral, a man named Joss Shackelton approached Vera and told her that he was the father she had never known. He also stunned her when he let her in on the family secret — his father was the illegitimate grandson of King Edward VII, thus Vera believes herself to be a second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. Joss lived with the Duckworths for a while before moving into his old flat, where he later died of a heart attack.
Jack and Vera calmed down over the years and took in the likes of Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall) as a surrogate son for wayward Terry, who was often in prison or some sort of trouble. They were very well known as a down-to-earth northern couple and comic double act. Jack adores keeping pigeons, but Vera could not stand them. In 2006, Jack agreed to sell his dead body for a certain sum of cash to an artist who enjoys painting stuffed humans, so he could buy Vera a Christmas present. When Vera discovered this, she argued with the woman, who then turned up, inspired by Vera, they agreed to both pose for the artist, but on condition that they would be buried as normal.
Vera was restricted for most of 2007 to her house due to an injury to her ankle and was cared by Tyrone and Molly Compton (Vicky Binns). They bought her a baby monitor so Jack, Molly and Tyrone could talk to Vera while they were in the pub. Later, Jack and Vera's grandson Paul Clayton arrived on the street but little did Vera know that Paul was scamming Jack and Vera out of money, stealing money from Jack and blaming it on Tyrone. Vera was disappointed in Tyrone but Molly was adamant that Tyrone hadn't stolen the money. Vera refused to believe this of Molly and could never believe that her own flesh and blood could steal from her. Jack & Vera celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary with a party at the Rovers in August 2007. Vera decided that she and Jack were to move to their dream place of Blackpool but Paul was forced to confess to Jack that he had stolen the money for the house. Jack was appalled but had to keep it secret from Vera as he didn't want to hurt her and destroy her dreams. Vera still desperately wanted to move to Blackpool so Jack eventually told Vera that he spent a lot of the money they saved to help Paul buy his half of the restaurant, but added the excuse that he spent it before he knew they were going to Blackpool. Jack knew that if he told Vera the truth she would be heart broken and she was still greatly upset and went to bed to get over the shock.
On 7 January 2008, Vera wanted to further her plans to move to Blackpool so Tyrone went to Blackpool to get her property brochures to help them decide which properties they could afford, Vera was overjoyed and grateful that she had more choice. On 11 January 2008, Vera picked a house in Blackpool that she wanted she and Jack to buy. They put in an offer for the house for £10,000 less than the asking price, Vera picked up the phone and said that she felt like she was going to have one of her "premonitions." Vera's "premonitions" were right and the phone rang after Molly and Tyrone came back into the house and told Jack and Vera that they wanted to put in an offer for the house, Vera and Jack were elated as were Molly and Tyrone. On 14 January 2008, Vera was making further preparations for the move and even started packing. Some objects brought back memories for her and she wanted Paul to stay on and live with Molly and Tyrone at No.9, Jack told her that they should leave them to sort out the living arrangements, but Tyrone was later convinced by Molly to let Paul stay for the extra rent. On 15 January 2008, Molly was deciding plans for the house for after Jack and Vera were leaving. Vera saw her plans to add wooden floorings but Vera cut in saying that the houses on the street were simple for "simple" working-class people, Tyrone and Jack agreed with Vera as she reminisced about serving meals and her time at No.9, Vera became a bit reluctant and asked Jack if they were doing the right thing. Later Jack, Vera, Molly, Tyrone and Paul all gathered at the Rovers and toasted to their future as they were departing in six weeks time. Vera and Jack were adamant that they wanted to keep their departure under wraps as they didn't want a big fuss.
On 18 January 2008, Vera and Jack went to Blackpool to measure up the house in preparation for their move there in six weeks time, and Vera complained that her shoes were uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Paul had found an old photo of the couple from when they were younger and had taken it to get a copy in better condition, which pleasantly surprised Jack and Vera when they returned. Vera complained about her shoes and Jack sat her down and pulled them off. Vera told Jack that she loved him and she had never loved any one else and pushed Jack to say the same. A little reluctantly, as always, he did and grabbed her slippers for her. He then said that he was going to go to The Rovers for a short while and although Vera tried to insist on him staying with her, he said he wouldn't be long and he had been with Vera all day and needed some time to relax. When he returned, he found Vera asleep in her armchair. He tried to wake her up but she did not move and when he felt for her pulse, it wasn't there. Vera had died peacefully in her sleep. She was 70 years old. Although shaken, Jack remained calm and kept Vera warm and when Molly and Tyrone arrived with drinks for a celebration, Jack broke the news to them. An emotional Tyrone fetched Paul from work who too broke down in tears. When the paramedics arrived, they explained that Vera had died from heart failure in her sleep but said that she hadn't experienced any pain. When a concerned Betty, Emily, Rita, Dev and Roy saw the ambulance outside, Jack told them that Vera had died. They expressed their condolences and shock that Vera had gone. News quickly spread around Weatherfield. One time enemies, Paul and Tyrone, united to comfort each other and Jack ended up in the yard, talking to his pigeons in tears, saying how beautiful Vera was and how much he loved her.
Vera makes one last appearance on 8 November 2010, appearing as a ghost with Jack after he dies. She tells Jack she'll be late for a bus and they dance together.
Originally, actress Elizabeth Dawn was only contracted for a couple of episodes, but producers saw potential in the character of Vera and brought her back two years later for another short stint, before finally making Vera a regular from December 1976. The character remained in the series until 2008, when due to Liz Dawn wanting to leave the show because of ill health, the character was killed off.
On 23 August 2010, it was confirmed that the actress would make a one-off appearance as the ghost of Vera Duckworth. The episode was broadcast on 8 November 2010. Husband Jack died from incurable cancer and the scene was a reunion for the two characters.
The Guardian columnist Grace Dent spoke with sadness of the passing of Vera Duckworth: "Saddest news on Corrie this month was the passing of street legend Vera Duckworth, leaving her husband and soulmate Jack to wander the cobbles alone. The final era of Vera was actually quite painful to witness. Vera's storyline, spanning 33 years, had no real big bangs or final flourish. Instead, Vera sat quietly, trapped on her sofa, dreaming of a house move to glamorous Blackpool which we all knew would never come. She was still broke, still being conned by errant family members, still one of life's noisy malcontents, but not the formidable force she once was. Regardless, it still felt to me like she'd go on forever, until the undertakers carried her away over the cobbles in a box, while Jack watched from the doorstep in hang-dog faced bewilderment."
12.5 million viewers tuned in to see the departure of the long serving and popular character. Jim Shelley called Jack's death scene with the ghostly appearance of Vera, "one of the most moving scenes ever seen in soap".