Anne Reid was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, the daughter of Colin Norman Reid (1896-1979) and Annie Eliza Weetman/Reid (1896-c.1980). She lived with her parents and three older brothers in Redcar where she attended John Emmerson Batty primary school and the White House School. From the age of 11 she attended Penrhos College, a boarding school in North Wales, when her father was posted abroad as a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph: she visited her parents occasionally in India,Tehran and Beirut in the school holidays. Upon leaving school she moved to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She then became a stage manager and worked in repertory theatre.
After several small roles in the classic 1950s British TV shows 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' and 'Hancock's Half Hour' she found fame as Ken Barlow's wife Valerie in the UK TV show 'Coronation Street' she remained with the show for a decade before leaving to give birth and bring up her son. Her character was accidentally electrocuted while trying to plug in a hairdryer.
She continued in steady work and in the late 1980's became one of the regulars used by 'Victoria Wood' in her TV shows. This bore fruit in the role of Jean in the hit sitcom 'dinnerladies' (1998 - 2000).
Her most critically acclaimed role came in 2003 when she took the lead in the film 'The Mother' about a woman who has an affair with her daughter's partner. The role of May saw her earn a BAFTA film nomination for Best Actress.