Pearl Ladderbanks (née Hartbourne) is an upfront and somewhat bawdy person, but is always genuine and loyal. She has the attitude that what you see is what you get, and will always speak out if she thinks something needs saying. Underlying her fun approach to life, Pearl is quite vulnerable and somewhat nostalgic. She hates posh people and snootiness and has a passionate and somewhat daring character.
Flamboyant pensioner Pearl Ladderbanks made quite an impression in Emmerdale when she first arrived. Loud and bawdy, Pearl immediately caught Len Reynolds and Jarvis Skelton's attention and was branded a trollop by prim Edna Birch. Pearl soon set her cap at Len but he took a while to see she was the woman for him. Eventually they got together and Len proposed in church one day. She accepted and the couple settled down together. It looked like they were heading for a happy-ever-after but Len and Pearl's relationship was tested to its limit by Pearl's terrible secret. Her son Frank Bernard Hartbourne, who she claimed was a financial advisor, was released from prison in 2004 after completing a sentence for rape. Len was horrified when he found out and nearly ended things with Pearl but realised the awful pain she had suffered and agreed to stand by her.
Frank stayed with Len and Pearl in Emmerdale but his arrival was announced in the local paper and the villagers turned against Pearl and Len, leaving only vicar Ashley Thomas and Edna standing by them. Frank was beaten up by Scott Windsor and Syd Woolfe after a misunderstanding involving Scott's sister, Donna. Frank realised his presence was harming his mother and moved to Leeds. Devastated at being treated so shabbily, the couple decided also decided to move away but were persuaded to stay and rebuild their lives.
When she started work at Eric Pollard’s factory, Pearl soon made friends with fellow seamstresses Del Dingle and Val Lambert. She was delighted when her grandson Owen – son of her son Frank – visited. Owen and his mother live in Hong Kong and put Pearl in a difficult position when he asked where his father was buried. Pearl told Owen the truth about his father and Owen admitted that he already knew, having found the details on the internet. He merely wanted someone in his family to tell him the truth. Consequently, Pearl and Owen became close and she planned to visit him in Hong Kong, going on an economy drive to save up.
Having started using the Internet for email, Pearl found a get rich quick scheme and invested. For ages, she was convinced the money was going to start flowing in and was horrified to discover that she had been ripped off - it was a scam. Unfortunately her friends had invested too and Pearl felt obliged to pay them herself, borrowing money from Eric but was soon in debt. When Len found out, he was horrified but helped pay it off, thinking the matter resolved. However, he didn’t know Eric was blackmailing Pearl over an early payment penalty clause in the contract she had signed. Horrified by the mess she had created, Pearl secretly left the village, leaving her engagement ring and a letter for Len.
Eventually Pearl was found working in Leeds under a false name - Irene. After her picture appeared in the paper, her boss confronted her and he tried convincing her to ring home. She did, but only after she bumped into Daz Eden, bruised and running away from his mum and her boyfriend. They agreed to return to Emmerdale together and were welcomed by their family and friends. Over time, the villagers grew to trust Pearl again and she reconciled with Len.
Pearl needed a job so Edna helped her get the housekeeper's job at Home Farm and became a key witness when Tom King was murdered. She, like most of the villagers, was at Home Farm that night. Pearl overheard Kelly Windsor and Jimmy King discussing his alibi so Pearl realised Kelly was lying when she said she had been with Jimmy when Tom died. Pearl knew because she saw Kelly alone at the time. After confronting her, Jimmy intimidated and blackmailed Pearl to keep her quiet. Unfortunately for them, she quit and went to the police.
Pearl naively thought Eric was her friend, helping her after Len died and returned the favour by making cakes for him. Jasmine told Pearl the truth after she found out from Eric's son, David, who she was dating at the time. Pearl and her friends Edna, Terry Woods's father, Duke and Alan Turner were livid, calling Eric a bully and a coward.
When Douglas, Laurel Thomas's father, was grieving after the death of his grandson, Daniel, in February 2008, Pearl supported him. Edna and Betty were concerned about her intentions and Edna advised Pearl not to visit Doug after Daniel's memorial service. Pearl realised what Edna was implying and furiously told her she had a filthy mind.
Pearl wanted some company as she was lonely so Edna's sister Lily Butterfield moved in with her. They became good friends and started a syndicate with Betty and Edna, entering competitions. Pearl won tickets for a Baltic cruise but couldn't decide who to take with her so Betty and Lily started buttering her up. They were horrified when she started dating Joe Jacobs, an old friend of Sandy Thomas, Ashley's father.
Betty and Lily convinced her he only cared about the cruise ticket but he explained that he'd spent most of his career at sea, and had no desire to go on the water again. Pearl eventually took Lily but she was so controlling that Joe dropped a suitcase on her foot, meaning she had to miss the cruise, due to her injuries. Betty wasn't interested, so Pearl, realising Joe had feelings for her, gave him the ticket. Pearl returned alone and initially wouldn't talk about Joe but eventually confessed that he had been thrown off the ship for "lewd behaviour".
Lily also worked at Eric's factory and some of the factory girls clubbed together to buy a raffle ticket from Rodney Blackstock. When they didn't hear anything, they assumed they hadn't won until Gennie Walker saw an article in the paper about an unclaimed prize. Pearl called the hotline and discovered they'd won a car which they planned to sell and split the money. Lily intended to give her share to her son, Peter, who was in financial trouble but was persuaded to give him the ticket. Lily convinced everyone Pearl had got the number wrong and because of that, she'd thrown the ticket away. Pearl was mortified but Val was suspicious after seeing an article in the local paper about the winner of the unclaimed prize. After some digging, she guessed that Lily had given the ticket to Peter and Lily confessed when Edna confronted her. Lily promised to repay the money that her friends should have had.
She joined the church choir in November 2008, and in December, was there to help Lily and Edna through Lily's brain operation. In early 2009, Natasha Wylde announced plans to open a shop with natural foods. Betty and Pearl were very competitive over their jam recipes but Pearl won. To her annoyance, when the shop opened in July, another woman's face was on the front of the jars. Natasha calmed her by giving her vouchers, telling her that she also wanted to respect her privacy.
The arrival of Vanessa Woodfield in December 2012 annoys Pearl, as Vanessa is constantly trying to force her into leaving her job because of her age. The feud only escalates when it is discovered that Rhona Goskirk has been taking drugs supplied by Vanessa. The funeral of Alan in October 2013 deeply upsets Pearl and she for a few days is too upset to go out. However, she is present at the reopening of The Woolpack, which was damaged in Cameron Murray's siege.
In April 2016, Pearl made Jimmy cut her garden bush. She stole his clothes, house keys, phone and wallet. Jimmi got an apron to wear and was butt-naked. Jimmy was taking away the garden trimmings away, there outside the café, he bumped into Dr. Bailey and his wife Angie where they have a little chat. Then Jimmy walked through to the office at Sharma & Sharma because he had to have a serious talk with owners Priya and Jai Sharma. Jimmy asked Jai if he could borrow a jacket but Jai refused.
In September 2016, Pearl babysat Marlon Dingle's young daughter April, who tricked Pearl into thinking they were baking cupcakes. So when Pearl went to get the baking uncials out of the cupboard, April locked her in while she went to see Carly Hope. Later that day April's father came home from work, who found Pearl stuck in the cupboard. When Carly realized there was nobody with April, She rushed back with April to find Pearl running out the house.
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