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Did you know Charlie Chaplin

His films are enjoyed around the world, but Charlie Chaplin was born in Walworth, inside the Elephant & Castle postcode

Arts and culture
  • 21 June 2021

His name is known around the world and his face is instantly recognisable – but did you know that Charlie Chaplin, master of the silent-film era, hailed from south London and spent much of his childhood in and around the Elephant & Castle postcode?


Despite reportedly having no birth certificate, Chaplin is widely-believed to have been born in East Street, Walworth, on 16 April 1889. It’s fair to say the actor, comedian, filmmaker and composer was destined for a life on the stage because talent ran in his family; his father, Charles, was a vocalist and actor, while his mother, Hannah, was an actress and singer.

 

The budding star fell on hard times at an early age, however, after his father died and his mother became unwell and was unable to support Charlie and his older brother, Sydney. The family sought refuge in the former Lambeth Workhouse, a Victorian institution in Kennington. Today, it is home to The Cinema Museum, which has artefacts and memorabilia telling the story of cinema from the 1890s onwards. 

 

Chaplin later moved out of the Elephant & Castle postcode and lived with his brother in a flat in nearby Brixton, where an English Heritage blue plaque is now displayed – a reminder of the star’s London roots. 

 

In his early career, Chaplin performed with clog-dancing troupe The Eight Lancashire Lads. This was followed by other stage work, including his acting debut in a production of Sherlock Holmes, before he got his big break with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe in 1908. 

 

Chaplin left England for the US, where his film career – which boasts an incredible 82 titles – was born. As well as starring in his movies, Chaplin was regarded as a pioneer behind the camera, often producing and directing his films.

 

It is believed Chaplin’s experience of living at the Lambeth Workhouse had a lasting effect on his life and helped him to create some of the characters for which he is best known, including his screen persona in the 1915 film The Tramp. This unassuming character – with his bowler hat, neat moustache and walking cane – became his most memorable work, appealing to fans across the globe.

 

 

If you are interested in more famous people who lived in Elephant & Castle, check out: