POSTCARDS FROM OLD LONDON

WHO IS CHARLIE BROWN?

by

DAVE HILL

When you mention Charlie Brown, most people immediately think of the Schultz cartoon character and the Peanuts gang. A few may even think of The Coasters. However long before Mr. Schultz drew his first character, the name Charlie Brown meant to many in the East End of London the landlord of a public house in Limehouse, which was officially known as The Railway Tavern. Mr. Brown was its landlord from 1893 until his death in 1932 at the age of 73. As The Railway Tavern was close to the docks, it was popular with sailors and dockworkers who took to referring to the establishment as Charlie Brown’s. With time, the name stuck!

Mr. Brown was an interesting man as illustrated by his hobby, which was collecting treasures. These treasures were gathered from his clientele in exchange for drinks whenever they were short of money. He also added to his treasure trove by buying additional objet d’art from respectable antique dealers. His treasures were displayed in the pub and became both a big draw and a talking point by the public.

When Mr. Brown died, his treasures were divided between his daughter and son. His daughter took over the license of the pub upon her father’s death and became its landlady for a number of years. Incidentally Mr. Brown’s son ran a public house situated on the opposite side of the road to The Railway Tavern and which he also called Charlie Brown.

By 1932, the traditionally huge Victorian funerals of old had declined. However, in contrast with the current fashion, Mr. Brown’s funeral was large in attracting 6,000 people to Bow Cemetery. This number was only recently equaled with the funeral of Ronnie Kray, one of the infamous brothers that helped terrorize the East End during the 1960s.

When the Docklands Light Railway was built in 1989 the pubic house, and that of Mr. Brown’s son, were demolished. Whatever happened to the Charlie Brown’s treasures and their exact whereabouts are mysteries and so it would seem that this little bit of history was now lost and forgotten. However, interestingly enough, with the rebuilding of the area, a roundabout was found to be necessary at the junction of the North Circular Road and the M11, which is now always referred to in the radio traffic reports as Charlie Brown’s! It would seem Charlie Brown lives on, albeit in another incarnation.

The two postcards shown here were probably produced by a local photographer and not by a national publisher and were perhaps on sale at the pub.

2 thoughts on “CHARLIE BROWN’S

  1. brian (other)

    The charlie brown at the M11 used to be a small roundabout at the end of Woodford avenue on the A12. There was a large pub there called Charlie Browns. The pub sign was a model of a fairground horse roundabout. Hence the name I believe.

    Reply
  2. Andy

    The pub in Woodford was actually named the Roundabout Tavern. The landlord was Charlie Brown, the son of the landlord of the Railway Tavern, hence the name of the current roundabout. Some of his collection of from the original Railway Curios were on display here.

    Reply

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