Sara Coward dead: The Archers legend Caroline Sterling dies aged 69
The actress, who starred on the radio soap for almost 40 years, had been receiving palliative care after being diagnosed with terminal cancer last year.
The star had hoped to keep her illness as private as possible but was forced to tell bosses at the BBC to continue playing Caroline.
Speaking about her character earlier this year, she said she hoped that she would not be killed off after her death.
"I don’t know what they’re going to do with the character, but I do hope they don’t write her out," she told Radio Times.
"I'd like them to find someone else to play her. In fact I know the very person; Michael Cochrane's [real-life] wife Belinda Carroll would be perfect."
Sara starred on The Archers for almost 40 years
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Sara also starred in Casualty and Lovejoy
Following the news of her death, the editor of The Archers, Huw Kennair-Jones paid tribute to the star.
"Everyone in The Archers family is very sad today. Sara was a gifted actress with a unique voice," he said.
"Even when she was navigating the tribulations of Caroline Sterling's love life, Sara's deft wit and clever characterisation meant Caroline was never solely defined by her relationships but always as full rounded, intriguing woman of substance.
"We will all miss her both professionally and personally."
As well as starring in The Archers for almost four decades, Sara also appeared in Crown Court, Casualty and Lovejoy.
She also spent eight years working for the Samaritans charity in Stratford-upon-Avin and launched her Smile Campaign to "make the world a better place" from her hospice bed last year.