Charlie Chaplin may have secretly been from the Black Country, a radio documentary will reveal this week.
According to a letter found hidden in his desk drawer, the great cinema comic was born in a gypsy caravan in Smethwick.
The single sheet letter, handwritten in black ballpoint on both sides, was discovered by the Little Tramp’s daughter Victoria.
It was from a man called Jack Hill, of Tamworth, who called Chaplin “a liar” for claiming he was born in London in his autobiography.
Jack wrote: “If you would like to know, you were born in a caravan. It was a good one; it belonged to the gypsy queen who was my auntie.
“You were born on the Black Patch in Smethwick. So was I, two-and-a-half year later.
“Your mum did move again with her dad’s circus and later settled down in London but whereabouts I do not know.”
The letter will be discussed in a Radio 4 documentary called The Chaplin Archive.
According to film expert Matthew Sweet, who made the programme, Chaplin received many crank letters which he usually destroyed.
Chaplin’s son Michael, who is interviewed for the programme, believes the fact his father kept the letter under lock and key proved there must be some truth to its contents.
“It must have meant something to my father. After all, the details are very specific. And my father locked the letter away and never showed it to us,” he said. “It was the one drawer he kept locked.”
Black Patch is now a park in Smethwick. But a book, written by Ted Rudge in 2003, states in the late 19th century it was a camping site for tent and caravan dwellers.
There has always been mystery surrounding Chaplin’s birth as biographers have never been able to find a birth certificate.
The first official record of where the young Chaplin lived was the 1892 census which had the toddler with his mother Hannah in Barlow Street, Walworth.
Hannah was a singer and actress who separated from her husband, Charles, when Charlie was three.
Michael said there was talk in the family of Romany blood on one side and divisions between relatives.
The Chaplin Archive begins on Radio 4, on Monday, February 21, at 11am. More details at the programme's web page