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Charlie Chaplin mural in town centre evokes memories of Hollywood movie star's family link to Bishop's Stortford

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It's the talk of the town on social media – but the Charlie Chaplin artwork which appeared beside WHSmith has reminded people of a family link to Bishop's Stortford many may not have been aware of.

The mostly black and white mural of the legendary silent film star, depicted with Jackie Coogan, the young co-star from his hugely successful 1921 movie The Kid, appeared on a wall in an alleyway off South Street overnight – with both characters wearing blue Covid masks.

It sparked much admiration and debate among residents, with some asking whether it was the work of famous street artist Banksy. The mystery talented artist remains unknown.

The Charlie Chaplin street art by WHSmith in Stortford's high street (43339057)
The Charlie Chaplin street art by WHSmith in Stortford's high street (43339057)

Some felt it appropriate as four of the grandchildren of the four-time married Hollywood icon went to St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Great Hadham Road after their mother Bernadette moved to Stortford from Switzerland.

The children's father was Chaplin's son Eugene, the star's fifth of eight kids with his fourth wife, Oona O'Neill, whom he married when he was 53 and she was 17.

Eugene – the grandson of American playwright, 1936 Nobel Prize for literature winner and four-time Pulitzer Prize for drama winner Eugene O'Neill – married Bernadette McCready. The family lived in Chaplin's house in Vevey, Switzerland, which attracted celebrity visitors. Michael Jackson is reported to have regularly landed his helicopter in the garden while David Bowie and Brian May worked with Eugene, a recording engineer.

The Charlie Chaplin street art by WHSmith in Stortford's high street (43339063)
The Charlie Chaplin street art by WHSmith in Stortford's high street (43339063)

Laura, Kevin, Spencer and Shannon Chaplin moved to Stortford with their mother, leaving eldest sibling Kiera – now a 38-year-old model and actress – to stay with her father in Switzerland to finish her schooling.

Sarah Fagan told the Independent that she was at St Joseph's when the Chaplin grandchildren were there and she said her brother and sister "both had a Chaplin in their class throughout school".

The link to Michael Jackson emerged again after Sarah said the Chaplin children spent time during the summer holidays at the singer's Neverland theme park and they showed classmates pictures of them with him.

Sarah added that although she did not know them personally, her brother used to go to their house to play after school. She said that they lived in a "big house not far from Bishop's Stortford Golf Club".

* Do you have any memories to share of the Chaplin family in Stortford? Do you know who the mystery artist is? Please email newsdesk@stortfordindie.co.uk.

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