14 June 2017

Charlie Chaplin celebrated with blue plaque on Brixton Road

Chaplin's blue plaque was unveiled at his former Glenshaw Mansions flat by fellow comedian Paul Merton
Charlie Chaplin's plaque with a cane and top hat resting beside it.

Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest stars of early cinema, has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque at his former London home on Brixton Road in Kennington.

Chaplin's tramp character remains one of the most iconic in the history of cinema.

The plaque was unveiled by comedian Paul Merton outside the top-floor flat of Glenshaw Mansions, a home he shared with his older brother Sydney between 1908 and 1910. One of his few surviving London addresses, Chaplin fondly remembered this flat in his 1964 autobiography calling it his 'cherished haven'.

Actor Charlie Chaplin receives an English Heritage blue plaque in 2017.

© Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Speaking of the new plaque Merton said:

'I'm proud to be associated with the foremost comic artist of the first half of the 20th century. This unveiling will remind us of the humble origins from which he sprung.'

Greg Dyke, English Heritage blue plaque panel member said:

'London was where Charlie Chaplin grew up and first made people laugh. We are delighted to honour one of cinema's greatest stars and the modest building he once called home.'

Charlie Chaplin's blue plaque.

Humble beginings

Chaplin and his brother moved into this four-storey mansion block and spent just £40 on furnishings. This included a couch, two armchairs, a fretwork Moorish screen lit by a yellow bulb and a tasteful female nude portrait.

Chaplin described the design as 'a combination of a Moorish cigarette shop and a French whore-house. But we loved it'. He left for America in 1910, leaving a note for Sydney because he disliked goodbyes.

Chaplin's 'cherished haven'

Although Chaplin found widespread fame and fortune in America, his comedic roots began in the music hall and vaudeville scene of his home city.

Chaplin's tramp costume - too tight jacket, voluminous trousers and oversized shoes - reflect the ill-fitting clothes that he wore during his poverty-stricken childhood. It's said that the tramp was based on a local character from Kennington.

Today, Glenshaw Mansions - a block that dates from the turn of the twentieth century - survives much as Chaplin must have known it, despite the bomb that fell just behind it during the Second World War. The building itself was referred to in his novella, Footlights (first published in 2014).

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Find out more about Charlie Chaplin by visiting our blue plaques page. 

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