Charlie Brown’s Pub

IT is a familiar landmark to East Enders driving back from Essex, and anyone taking the M11 up to Stansted will have passed over it. But where did the Charlie Brown’s roundabout, one of London’s busiest intersections, get its unusual name?
The roundabout was
certainly not christened after the hero of the Peanuts
cartoon, but after a larger-than-life Limehouse man, who was just as famous in the 19th century as Snoopy’s master was 100 years later. Yet how did the bland and featureless junction come to be connected with one of the East End’s most colourful characters?
The story begins in the 1890s when Charlie Brown, a former boxer, took over the ownership of the Railway Tavern.
The Limehouse pub stood on the corner of Garford Street and the East India Dock Road and it was a popular watering hole for the sailors and dockers who made up most of Limehouse’s
population at the time.
Even among his noisy and outspoken clientele – many of whom were colourful characters with tales to tell – Charlie managed to stand out.
In fact, he was such a loud and extrovert landlord that he managed to stamp his
personality on the pub itself.
As Charlie’s reputation grew, so did the contents of the pub. Sailors would return from their travels with mementoes from every corner of the globe and bring them back to a delighted guv’nor, who would hang them on the wall of the tavern.

And as the collection grew, its fame spread throughout the capital. People would make the trip down to infamous Limehouse, which in the early 1900s was synonymous with Chinatown, white slaving and opium dens, just to view his map of the world.
In June 1932 Charlie Brown died and the ‘uncrowned king of Limehouse’ was laid in state in the pub that had been his palace.
His funeral procession was fit for a king too as 16,000
people went to Bow Cemetery to say goodbye to Charlie.
Charlie Brown’s legacy was a lucrative one, and both his children ran pubs. His
daughter Esther kept the
existing hostelry, while Charlie Brown Jr was the landlord of the Blue Posts, directly
opposite the Railway Hotel.
Both of them erected signs saying that their pubs were the genuine Charlie Brown’s.
In 1938 Charlie Jr gave up on the East End to move to leafier Woodford, taking the name with him of course. The new Charlie Brown’s lay at the end of the Southend to London road which was to become the A127.
But in 1972 the road that had given the pub its reason for being also became the cause of its demise, when the road
intersection was extended and the pub was demolished.
Young Charlie had salvaged many of the famous
mementoes from his dad’s pub, and legend has it they passed on to the Greyhound pub in Harlow, though there is no trace of them today.
By a weird coincidence, it was transport that created and destroyed the original Charlie Brown’s too. The Railway Hotel had been built to serve the old London and Blackwall Railway in the 1800s.
Despite the rebirth of the line, when the Docklands Light Railway was built in 1989,
the Railway Tavern stood
in the way of the Commercial Road extension and so was demolished.
Today, all that remains of the world-famous character, three pubs and a confusion of names is a traffic blackspot on the fringes of London.

About John Rennie

Writing about East London history. Sub at Daily Express. Teaching journalism at City University London. One presented a TV show called the Unsellables and the BT Walletwatcher blog. West Ham fan. Native of Basildon
This entry was posted in East End eccentrics, East End pubs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Charlie Brown’s Pub

  1. Selwyn Rose says:

    How very interesting! As an ex-London cabbie of many decades ago and with a sister and brother still living within a mile of Charlie Brown’s I have often been intrigued with the name and its source especially in recent years when (as is the case right now), I have returned to my “roots” for family visits and I drive through it daily on my visits to both of them.
    Now at last I have the full story – Thank you!!

  2. Antony owen says:

    I stayed at Charlie Browns for a few months in 1987. I came down from Cheshire to work on the isle of dogs. We were constructing a waste plant that filled refuse into containers for shipping down tbe Thames. It was owned then by an Irish man and his wife. He was a man not to be crossed and I frequently saw the baseball bat come out from behind the bar and people thrown out or else! I was 25 at the time and frightened to death but hung on for 5 months as I was earning big money. It was boom time then in the 80’s and as soon as id saved enough to get married I scampered!
    Happy days

  3. John Rennie says:

    Thanks for that. Nothing like a firm guvnor … he probably wouldn’t get away with it now!
    John Rennie

  4. Tony hazel says:

    We were regulars in CB’s. the Irishman was called Pat. He had a very flexible attitude to opening hours and we spent far too much time, and money, in there. I have good, if somewhat blurry memories of that pub.

  5. Peter Eaton says:

    I am the great grandson of Charlie Brown.
    My grandmother was Ethel, Charlie’s daughter
    After his death in 1932 my grandparents Tom and Ethel Chandler continued to run the Railway Tavern.
    In 1934 my Grandfather so the story goes lost his licence for harbouring prostitutes, as he wasn’t prepared to pay off the local constabulary the customary backhander. He was an honest sole was my grandfather !
    In 1936 he took the tenancy of the Fox and Hounds Forest Gate and ran it until 1955 when he died.
    My mother Esther, Tom and Ethel’s daughter continued to run the pub until her retirement in 1988 having worked with her father as a barmaid since the war.
    As for the curios many of the larger pieces were sold and the rest distributed amongst the now extended family.

  6. preston says:

    Hi. My wife’s parents George REYNOLDS and Gladys PATTEN worked and lived at the Blue Posts pub run by Charlie Brown (jnr). At the time my wife’s parents were involved the pub was run by Mr Mrs BUSBY. As far as I can gather my wife’s parents lived there from 1937 until 1940 when they married at the nearby Poplar register office and later moved to Dartford. George REYNOLDS was born and lived on the Isle of Dogs whilst Gladys was born and raised in Paddington.
    I am looking for any photos of the Blue Posts or the Buccaneer as it was renamed after the war.
    I have a photo of my wife’s father playing cards in an open back yard which we believe was the rear of the Blue Pots. You would be welcome to a copy.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards.. Peter Preston.

  7. Ting says:

    Hi Peter, my name is Ting. I am a student at MFA Fine Art at Goldsmiths College. I am doing a research of the old chinatown – Limehouse, and I am very interested in the story of Charlie Brown. I am so surprise and happy to see your comment here, as I am just wondering who should I talk to to take the research further. I am wondering is it possible to have an interview with you? In person would be ideal, but if not, I would also be happy to do it over emails. Hope I am not disturbing. My email is, please drop me an email if you see this. Thank you so so so much! Best, Ting

  8. Kath Parish says:

    Hello, I too have been researching The Railway Tavern. But my interest goes back to 1841 when my husbands great great grandfather was the licensee.
    His name was Thomas Parish.
    Does any one know about the construction of the original building or if there are any images of it?


  9. Charles Brown says:

    I would be fascinated to know about the earlier licensees of the Railway Tavern. Like Peter I am also a great grandson of Charlie Brown and wasn’t aware that it had such a long history. I would be surprised if it was the original building. However, there are pictures online and some in the London Museum extension in Docklands.

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