Den Watts
Den Watts


Leslie Grantham


Dennis "Den" Watts II


Dirty Den




Landlord of the Queen Vic pub
Manager of the Strokes wine bar


High intelligence
Vast combatant skills


Building up and breaking off his relationship
Expanding his business ventures


Escape The Firm
Regain the Queen Vic pub
Prevent Sharon from discovering his crimes


Bludgeoned with a doorstop by Chrissie Watts


Mastermind with Dissonant Serenity

Oh, you could keep this performance up for a lifetime. Like on the Orient Express. Like in the bar, chatting up the barman. 'Oh, I've told my husband this terrible lie. Not a little white one, but a big black one'. Remember Ange? Because I do, because I was sitting four feet away from you lapping up every word. Six little months to live. Six tragic little months, and poor old Angie's gonna pop off. That has got to be the sickest joke you've ever played, and Den Watts fell for it. Well now the joke's on you. This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce. It also tells you to get yourself a solicitor pretty damn quick. Happy Christmas, Ange.
~ Dirty Den's most famous quote as he hands his first wife Angie divorce papers after uncovering her secret
You'll never get me out of the Vic!
~ Den's last words before getting murdered by his second wife: Chrissie

Den Watts, also known as Dirty Den, is a fictional character and recurring antagonist of the BBC British soap opera EastEnders.

He first served as one of the show's original protagonists throughout 1986-1989 before returning as the primary antagonist from 2003-2004 up towards February 2005.



Den Watts was introduced in the first episode in 1985 as the landlord of the Queen Vic pub, which he ran with his wife Angie. They also had an adoptive daughter called Sharon. Den and his two friends Ali Osman and Arthur later discovered the body of Reg Cox, an old man who had not been seen for days. As time went on, Den embarked on a feud with the notorious Nick Cotton - the culprit behind Reg's murder - and soon teamed up with local mobster Pete Beale against him as the pair grew outraged with Nick's activities and his harsh attitude towards his mother: Dot.

At somepoint, Den slept with Arthur's daughter and Sharon's best-friend, Michelle Fowler - even though he was already married - and she later gave birth to his daughter: Vicky. Although he wasn't allowed to see his daughter apart from holding her once, he still supported them financially in secret. This caused a long running feud with Michelle's mother Pauline

When Den planned to leave Angie, she made up a story that she had not long to live. Den decides to stay with her for support and tries to build back the relationship. During a trip on the Orient express Den overhears a drunken Angie admit to a barman - unaware of Den listening - that she wasn't really dying. Wanting revenge, he serves her divorce papers on Christmas Day. Den later becomes involved with a criminal gang known as "The Firm", and eventually gives up tenancy of the Vic in order to serve as manager of the Strokes wine bar, which is used by The Firm as a front for illegal gambling. Den soon became rivals with James Willmott-Brown as they campaigned against each other, and he later manipulates Firm errand boy Brad Williams to burn down James' bar upon learning that Willmott-Brown had raped Pete's wife: Kathy. This incident led to police attention, and Den was forced by The Firm to take the blame for the arson; he eventually complies when The Firm harbored an intent on killing him.

In Dickens Hill, Den struggles initially, as many inmates refuse to trust him. Homosexual inmate Queenie Price takes an instant dislike to Den and suspects him of being a "grass", leading to Queenie and his friends beating him up in his cell. Despite this, Den unveils Queenie as the true prison-snitch and gains respect, rising through the ranks to become "No.1" of his landing. On the outside, the Firm still feel that Den is a liability; fearing that he will tell the police about their dealings and decide that Den has to die.

They ambush and kidnap Den when he is being accompanied to trial on 23 February 1989 but Den escapes again and makes plans to leave the country. He contacts Michelle, requesting that they meet by a canal where they have held secret meetings in the past, so he can say goodbye to her and Vicki. Unaware that the Firm is following her, Michelle unwittingly brings them to Den and he is shot by a man who is hiding a gun in a bunch of daffodils. A splash is heard, indicating that Den has fallen into the canal. The police search for Den's body but don't find anything until Sharon finds Den's signet ring for sale on a market stall in May 1990 and requests that the canal be searched again, unaware that Den was not wearing it when he was shot. This time, a body is found, and Sharon identifies it as Den.


In the intervening years, Sharon and Vicki grow up, although not always living in Walford, and in early 2003 they discover that Den has a son he did not know of: Dennis Rickman, who joins them in Walford. Dennis was the product of Den's fling 30 years earlier with a woman called Paula Rickman.

It transpires that Dennis has involvement with the Firm, and after some digging he discovers that Den is not actually dead; after surviving the shooting in 1989, he fled to Spain with help from Jan and went under cover. Hearing this, Vicki traces Den and brings him back to Walford in September 2003. Sharon has mixed emotions: upset and anger, having assumed him dead for so many years. Den explains that the body found in the canal was that of Mr. Vinnicombe, a senior member of the Firm, who was murdered as punishment for Den's escape and dumped in the canal, his teeth having been bricked out to prevent dental identification. Vinnicombe's body had wrongly been identified as Den's and Jan had assisted in this cover-up by planting Den's signet ring by the canal. Den's grievances with the Firm are pardoned by its acting boss: Andy Hunter, who subsequently allows Den to remain in Walford - thus granting him the opportunity to assist Sharon in managing her nightclub.

Den gets embroiled in a feud with Sharon's former boyfriend, Phil Mitchell, after hearing Phil has hit her and had also arranged for Dennis to be beaten up by a gang. As revenge, he has sex with Phil's sister, Sam Mitchell, then dumps her promptly. He then promises another of Phil's former girlfriends, Lisa Fowler, that he will help her get back her daughter, who is in Phil's custody. After Phil plants drugs in the club and nearly gets it shut down, Den fakes a truce and talks Phil into accompanying him and Dennis on a warehouse robbery. During the robbery, Den takes the money and obstructs Phil's getaway, resulting in Phil getting caught by the police and remanded. Den then helps Lisa flee the country with Phil's daughter. The feud brings Dennis closer to his father. Having lost his wife, his daughter and his freedom, Phil manages to escape from prison several weeks later, confronting Den on Christmas Day; after an intense brawl in which Den hits Phil with a chair in order to stop him killing him, Den pays Phil off and he flees. Den spends the rest of Christmas happily with his family before leaving for Spain on Boxing Day to tie up some loose ends.

Family problems arise when Den returns three months later and discovers that Sharon and Dennis are in a romantic relationship; Den accuses it of being incest, despite Sharon and Dennis not being blood-related. During a tense meeting between the two in the Vic, Den taunts Dennis with the insinuation that someone had sexually abused him while he was in a children's home, successfully provoking Dennis into accidentally hitting Sharon whilst trying to attack him. A guilt-ridden Den later apologizes and explains his reasons for not wanting his son and daughter together, because he wants both of them in his life and he cannot have that if they are sleeping together. Den then tries to explain to Dennis that his feelings for Sharon are simply misguided due to the abuse he suffered as a child, which leaves Dennis confused and he decides to break up with Sharon in order to have a father-son relationship.

In 2004, it is revealed that Den had remarried whilst in Spain in 1999, and his estranged wife Chrissie arrives in Walford to collect some money from him. They then continue their romantic relationship and despite Sharon's heartache over Dennis, the Watts reform their close bond. Den plays a heroes role when a Fairground collapses in Walford and he saves numerous of the Residents. He also tells Ian Beale that Gary Hobbs baby - Bobby - is actually his and that he should be a father to him, with himself knowing how much of a strain his own absence had on Dennis' life. Ian accepts Bobby as his son and asks Den to be Godfather at the Christening.

Den, however, still cannot remain monogamous, and when Chrissie discovers that he has been sleeping with Kate Mitchell, she leaves Walford. Ian, who had been close to a relationship with Kate, finds out about the affair and punches him, though Den quickly shrugs this off and mocks him. Den's family are furious with him and Sharon and Vicki both go on an extended holiday when Den refuses to call Chrissie, as he is too proud to apologies despite missing her himself. In order to deal with this, Den starts becoming reckless by going on the pull with Dennis and trying to his refund his status as 'King of the Square'. He organizes a poker game and when it eventually ends with a one-on-one with Andy Hunter, he puts both his house and the club on the line, in an attempt to get both the bookies and the Vic. When Andy narrowly beats him, he reveals he's not going to take what Den put on the table, as he only owns half the club and has a family which needs a roof over their heads, he does, however, shame him for what he’s become.

In order to get one over Andy, Den attempts a scam in the bookies and recruits Pat who's one of Andy's employees. The scam is initially a success, with Den winning thousands from fraudulent betting slips, and he celebrates in the Vic. Andy soon finds out, however, after Pat confesses and when Den insults her in the Vic, Andy humiliates him by revealing to packed pub and the returning Sharon that Den had put everything on the line in the poker game and lost. Den, stubborn as ever, refuses to apologies to Pat despite insistence from Sharon and leaves the pub. Thoroughly angry and depressed, the next day Den is rude to customers in the club and nearly gets into a fight with one of his own bouncers before Dennis sends him home. Whilst having a drink with Dennis girlfriend, Zoe Slater, he tries to kiss her just as Dennis enters. Dennis berates his father to the extent that Den punches him before swiftly leaving into to the night to consider his actions. After saving Dot Branning from a few youths, the two of them have a heart-to-heart in the launderette in which Den discovers she has cancer and that she hasn't told her husband. They both agree to speak to their loved ones, and Dot tells Jim about her illness whilst Den finally calls Chrissie to meet up, after apologizing to Dennis and Zoe. Den tells Chrissie how sorry he is but when she tells him she's too hurt, Den jumps in her cab and goes to the airport where he returns to Spain in order to get some time away.

Den returns two months later and claims that he's a changed man. He apologizes to Ian and Pat, before catching up with Dot who has overcome her illness. Chrissie eventually reunites with him but promises that if he ever cheats again, she'd kill him. When Den finds out that Vicki's older boyfriend, Tommy Grant, tried to cheat on her, he beats him up and forces him to leave for Thailand. To rebuild his family, Den attempts to regain the Vic from the Mitchells just before Christmas 2004; he blackmails their lawyer Marcus Christie into convincing Sam that Phil, who is still on the run, needs immediate money. Sam sells the Vic to Den at a vastly reduced price and he reinstates his family at the pub in time for Christmas, after kicking the Moon family out on Christmas Eve. With him now owning two of Walford’s most thriving businesses and his family together, all seemed perfect for Den.

Things go awry when Den discovers that Sharon and Dennis have resumed their affair and are planning on departing to the U.S. unless he can accept them both as a couple. In order to split them up, Den persuades Zoe to lie that she is pregnant with Dennis's baby. Den’s plan completely backfires when Sharon decides to leave instead of Dennis and Zoe, as she was unwilling to allow Dennis to leave his unborn child. While trying to persuade Sharon to stay, he tells her that he does not have half the feelings for Vicki that he does for her, not realizing that Vicki was behind him and overheard everything. Vicki then decides to leave with Sharon and Den is devastated at having lost both his daughters at Christmas, ironically because of his own lies and deceit.

In apparent retribution towards Dennis for inadvertently being the cause of Sharon's departure, Den manipulates Zoe into having sex with him so she can get pregnant and pretend that Dennis is the father; he is pleased when Dennis walks in on them, resulting in his relationship with Zoe ending for good. By the time 2005 has commenced, Den is one of the few residents to grow uninterested with Andy's criminal reign - at one point, the two men had a conflict over multiple games of poker - and he later befriends his rival: newcomer gang lord, Johnny Allen. Nearly a month later, Chrissie returns and Dennis informs her of Den's affair with Zoe before leaving to find Sharon. After slowly realizing the truth about Dennis' words, Chrissie intends to get revenge on Den and recruits Zoe in her campaign - secretly instructing her to abort his baby. She also recruits Sam in an addition to seeking ownership of the Vic. Eventually, just twenty years since the show first begun, Den is confronted by his wife alongside Zoe and Sam. Den criticizes them all for their weaknesses and refuses to sign over the Vic, even when Chrissie threatens to reveal Den's true character to the rest of the Square. Boasting about his nefarious activities, Den emulates his crimes before stating that “There isn’t one single person round here who I give a toss about”. Sharon then emerges from the shadows - Chrissie had lured her back from America with the pretense that Den was seriously ill. This is revealed to be Chrissie's true trap and Sharon then disowns Den before leaving. In a rage, Den violently throws Chrissie against a fruit machine and is only stopped by Zoe, who hits him over the head with an iron doorstop, presumably killing him. Minutes later, however, whilst Zoe and Sam are out of the room, Den stirs and grabs Chrissie's ankle, telling her "You'll never get me out of the Vic!". In response, Chrissie strikes her villainous husband on the head with the same stool - finally killing Den, for good this time.

Sam secretly witnesses the fatal blow, but Chrissie continues to allow Zoe to think it is she who has killed Den. The three women bury Den in the Vic cellar and concrete it over. Arguments between the women occur, and Sam and Chrissie become embroiled in a conflict to regain ownership of the Vic, with Sam, blackmailing Chrissie. Sharon and Dennis return in June to confront Den. but are surprised when Chrissie tells them he left with another woman after signing over the Vic to her. A drunken Sam digs up Den's body on the day of Sharon and Dennis' wedding in the hope that Chrissie will be imprisoned, but Chrissie subsequently frames Sam for Den's murder. By November 2005, the truth is revealed, and Chrissie is imprisoned after pleading guilty. Den is finally given a proper burial in his 'original' grave next to Angie, and Dennis visits the grave and tearfully mourns the father he never had.

In November 2015, it was revealed that Den was friends with Sharon's father Gavin Sullivan, who gave him and Angie a newly born Sharon in return for a dodgy deal, as Gavin didn't see himself as a father knew that Den and Angie wanted to have children. He also told Den to say 'Hello Princess' to Sharon as his way of greeting her.


Despite his death, Den still influenced lives on the square. Zoe and Sam were forced to flee the country to avoid being imprisoned for their roles in the murder, with Sam being detained upon her return in 2008. Sharon discovered she was pregnant on Christmas Day 2005, which was considered a miracle considering that she had been initially told she couldn't have children. However, tragedy struck at New Years Eve when Dennis is murdered on Johnny's orders in revenge for attacking him as well as uncovering his role in Andy's murder: Johnny had ironically killed Andy on the day Den was murdered. Sharon left Walford shortly after and Johnny wouldn't get his comeuppance until months later when he was arrested, before suffering a heart attack in October 2006 whilst in prison. Sharon returned in 2012 with her son: Dennis Jr., meaning that Den would have been a Grandfather.

In 2015, it is revealed that Den was once in a gang which included Phil's father Eric Mitchell and his two friends: Henry Hubbard and Ted Hills. Amongst the crew was Eric's best-friend: Gavin Sullivan, who turned out to be Sharon's biological father after it was discovered that Den and Gavin were both involved in a job that led to the pair having a dead; Den would adopt Sharon in exchange for Gavin being part of a criminal job that The Firm was authorizing.


  • Den Watts was introduced as one of 21 original characters in EastEnders, appearing in the very first episode on the 21st February 1985. Leslie Grantham was cast as the role, although there was controversy when it was revealed he killed a taxi driver in West Germany 20 years prior, in which he served a 10 year sentence. Nonetheless he continued in the role for 4 years and the character proved popular with viewers.
  • Grantham quit the role in 1988, and filmed a set of episodes over a few months which aired over the next year. Den exited the show in February 1989 in which he was shot by a gunman working for a crime organization known as "The Firm". This episode was originally to be Den Watt's death, although a scene which showed his body in a canal was cut out as producers hoped for a possible return in future. A year later a body was found and identified and buried as Den.
  • Since his departure Grantham got numerous offers for a return throughout the 1990s, but he turned them down when not satisfied with the storylines. But in 2003 he accepted a return as Den Watts, 14 years since his departure.
  • In 2004 Leslie Grantham was axed from the show after a webcam scandal. Den was killed off for good in an episode that aired in February 2005 to mark the show's 20th Anniversary. It was also 16 years since Den's original apparent demise. Despite reports that he was axed, an autobiography by Grantham claimed that Den's murder was planned since his 2003 return and that he was contracted for 18 months so his exit would tie with the show's anniversary.
  • In the Doctor Who episode Army of Ghosts which aired in 2006, EastEnders could be seen on TV which showed Peggy Mitchell telling the "ghost" of Den Watts to get out of her pub. Rose Tyler's mother Jackie briefly mentions the plotline, saying it started when Peggy heard a noise in the cellar, a reference to how Den Watts was buried in the cellar after his murder. However, later in the episode that the ghosts were in fact Cybermen.
    • Leslie Grantham actually appeared in Doctor Who in the 1984 story Resurrection of the Daleks as Kiston.
  • Den's well known greeting to Sharon: 'Hello princess', was used again in EastEnders in an episode broadcast on 30 October 2015 by Gavin Sullivan when revealing to Sharon that he was her father.
  • The Christmas episode in 1986 in which he divorced Angie achieved the highest single program audience in the U.K of 30.5 million. That meant that around 54 % of the U.K population at that time watched the episode live.