‘Blind Charlie’   (Charles Bradford)

The name of Blind Charlie still lingers with many of the older residents of Tottenham. The following account of him is extracted from a sketch of his life, which was supposed to have been written by a Mr Ross, the schoolmaster of the Lancastrian School, and sold for Charlie’s benefit.

Charles Bradford was born in Tottenham in 1825. When almost 8 years old he lost the use of one eye through being struck with a stone being thrown by a playfellow. Then in 1850 he met with another accident, which rendered him totally blind. Led by his dog to the New River, he would creep along the margin of the stream, the upper part of his body bared, feeling beneath the water as far as his arm could reach. Sometime he caught a few eels and at other times rats ! The latter he would carry about with him to his bosom, or in his cap, until he met some gentlemen who were willing to buy them as sport for their dogs.

His success in catching crayfish appears almost incredible. He has sold to Mr Robert Simmonds (Fishmonger) of Southgate, as many as 355 dozen in five days. At this time he had no home but took possession of a kind of cave in a field at the back of Tottenham Terrace, which was formerly used for the purpose of draining the gravel pit. Often at night, wet and weary with his search for fishes, he has roused some cows from slumber in the open field and has laid down in her place because there had been kept dry and was somewhat warmed by the cows body.

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The cave which he calls his home is now large enough to hold a bed and a few cooking utensils, the chimney being constructed of some movable pipes. Some ruffians broke into his cave during his absence and stole a better suit of clothes, which had been given to him and which he reserved to wear at church. He had saved seven persons from drowning in the New River and River Lea and has taken upwards of twenty people home during dense fogs. He has also been very successful in curing dogs from distemper.

Charlie had a brother also blind. This brother was married at the Parish Church in 1851. The Wedding party consisted of four persons. The Bride and Bridegroom both totally blind, Charlie who acted as father also totally blind and a bridesmaid who was blind with one eye.

Rev W.J Hall in his ‘Notes on the Parish Church’ in 1861 says “It may be gratifying to know that the married couple (mentioned above) may be seen every Sunday in their church at Walworth and the brother (Charlie) twice every Sunday at the Tottenham Church, accompanied by his faithful guide – a small terrier – which rests quietly in her masters lap throughout the service.

From the ‘History of Tottenham’ by Fred Fisk 606 High Road Tottenham (Published 1913) – Page 169

Another reference to Blind Charlie states he caught fishes in the New River and River Lea and also a catcher of rats along the banks of the Moselle and other local rivers. It is assumed his path along the Moselle was to the New River at Wood Green.


We acknowledge the permission of Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham (Culture, Libraries & learning)  to reproduce the image of Blind Charlie


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