SOME dedicated detective work has pinpointed the spot in Poole where a grateful Charlie Chaplin helped set up an off-licence for the man who launched his career.

The legendary showman Fred Karno – who also set Stan Laurel on the path to Hollywood fame – spent his later life in Poole and ran Lilliput Wine Stores.

Poole genealogist Roy Stockdill wrote to the Echo earlier this year to ask whether anyone could help identify where exactly the shop stood.

He heard back from Poole historian and former town clerk Ian Andrews, who had already researched Karno’s life and had a copy of a 1939 street directory. It established that Karno was then living above a ladies’ hairdresser at 294 Sandbanks Road. His off-licence at number 296 is now the estate agency EweMove.

Mr Stockdill, a professional genealogist and former Fleet Street journalist, is pleased to see the mystery solved.

“I said in my letter to the Echo it was a shot in the dark. I was quite surprised,” he said.

“I’d met Ian Andrews before at Dorset Family History Society but I didn’t realise he was an expert.”

Mr Stockdill, of Marina Drive, Lilliput, became interested in Karno when he found him on a ship’s passenger list in his real name of Frederick Westcott, along with around a dozen of actors en route from Southampton to Montreal in 1910. He was about to tour North America with the troupe that became known as Fred Karno’s Army.

Two of the actors were Charles Chaplin and Stanley Jefferson, the real name of Stan Laurel.

Karno was said to have invented the custard pie in the face gag, while the name Fred Karno’s Army passed into the language as a phrase for any shambolic outfit.

Devon-born Karno at one stage had 30 troupes travelling in Africa, the US and South America. Laurel and Hardy’s producer Hal Roach described him as a genius.

But Karno was unfaithful to his first wife, Edith, and six of their eight children died, with Edith blaming the shabby lodgings where they often stayed when on tour.

At the height of his fame during World War I, he spent a fortune building a hotel and entertainments centre on an island in the Thames. But the rise of cinema caused music halls to decline and Karno was made bankrupt in 1926.

Within three weeks of Edith’s death in 1927, Karno married his long-term mistress Marie Moore, at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone.

Some of his old friends and employees in the Music Hall Variety Fund clubbed together to raise some money – including Chaplin, by then one of the most famous people in the world, who put in £1,000 to enable him to buy a part-share in the off-licence.

It is unclear how long he had the off-licence, but by September 1939, he and Marie had moved to 24 Wharfdale Road, Parkstone, where he died in September 1941, aged 75.

Chaplin sent a wreath to his funeral at Bournemouth Crematorium.

Karno left only £42 in his will, although Marie had an estate of some £4,500 when she died in November 1944.