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Remembering June Brown


Remembering June Brown

Remembering June Brown

Jane Brown, who appeared in thousands of episodes of EastEnders between 1985-2020 as iconic Albert Square resident Dot Cotton, died on Sunday at her home in Surrey, near London. She was 95.

Over the past few days many have paid tribute to the performer including the cast of EastEnders, notably on-screen son John Altman who was, across several stints, ‘Nasty Nick’ from 1985 to 2015.

In 2009, we featured June as an ATV Icon, and this is a revisitation of that piece in tribute.

Chris Clenshaw, Executive Producer EastEnders:

“When you join EastEnders, there are some characters both on and off screen that are just iconic and June Brown, OBE, MBE is at the top of that list. Her creation and portrayal of Dot Cotton made a huge impact in British television, she created iconic moments that not only entertained the nation but at times changed it a little for the better. I had the pleasure of working with June when I was the Story Producer and when you have the talent such as June Brown to work with, you always knew it was going to be magic. I speak for us all at EastEnders when I say that today is a very sad day as June Brown was a truly special and unforgettable woman. We send our deepest sympathies to June’s family.”

In 1969, Gentle To Nora for LWT.

ITV Sunday Night Theatre, 1969, LWT

June was born in Needham Market, Suffolk, on 16 February 1927, to Louisa Ann (née Butler) and Henry William Melton Brown. In 2011, when she was the subject of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are, she discovered that her great-great grandfather was the bare-knuckle fighter Isaac Bitton (1779-1839) who once went a staggering 74 rounds in the ring.

She joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS) at the age of 17 during World War II. She had the gruelling task of showing the horrifying newsreels that emerged from Bergen-Belsen. While in the Navy, she developed an interest in performing, and when the war ended, she won a place at the Old Vic Theatre school in London.

In 1950, June met and married fellow actor John Garley, but the marriage came to an abrupt end in 1957 when he tragically took his own life. She later married again to Dixon Of Dock Green star Robert Arnold and the couple had six children. They were together for 45 years until his death from Lewy Body Dementia in 2003.

June Brown with Violet Carson in a scene from Coronation Street. Granada Television.

June found steady work in the 1960’s and 1970’s appearing in shows such as Dixon of Dock GreenITV Television PlayhouseZ CarsThe Prince and the Pauper, and The Duchess of Duke Street.

Notably she had a part in Coronation Street as the mother to a child that Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) thought was musically talented. Mrs Parsons wasn’t so keen on her son taking to playing the harmonium at a professional level, however, Ena changed her mind and later they both went to see Tony perform in a concert.

Doctor Who fans will remember her turn as Lady Eleanor in ‘The Time Warrior’ from whom the third doctor – played by Jon Pertwee – sought to obtain the ingredients of a sleeping potion to use against one of his enemies.

There were also a number of appearances in the ITV Sunday Night Theatre strand including Gentle To Nora where she starred in the title role as a 43-year old woman who resorted to an extra-marital affair.

In LWT’s Oranges and Lemons, June played the mother of Brenda, an attractive East End girl who gave up a promising career at school and a chance at college when she left home at sixteen to see some life. Aged 20 she returned home to make a new, steady life for herself. Though her father was pleased to welcome her, her mother was not so forgiving.

Other credits included Churchill’s People, long-running comedy-drama Minder, police soap The Bill, and cult sci-fi series, Survivors. There were also roles in medical soaps General Hospital and Angels for ATV and the BBC respectively.

The actress joined EastEnders in 1985 after she was recommended by Leslie Grantham, who played Den Watts, for the role of hypochondriac chain smoker Dot. The primary function of the character was to spread gossip much to the ire of her neighbours – her job at the launderette allowed her to listen in on others’ conversations. However, there were big storylines too that explored issues such as euthanasia, cancer and homophobia.

A devout Christian, Dot was known for quoting passages from the bible at those in need of guidance or whom she considered her moral inferiors.

She was the much put upon mother of bad boy Nick Cotton, played by John Altman. When it came to her offspring, Dot was recklessly gullible despite him posing a danger to her life on multiple occasions. She also endured the emotional turmoil of her first husband Charlie’s (Christopher Hancock) long absences and extramarital affairs, including with her own sister. June felt it was a mistake when the character was killed off in a lorry accident in 1991.

A guarded Dot refused to entertain the idea of romance with another man for many years until 2001. It was during this time that she was slowly won over by Jim Branning. On paper, Jim was not the perfect match for Dot, as he had a fondness for gambling on horses and spent a majority of his time at the pub. Nevertheless, he treated her with more kindness than Charlie did. Eventually, the two of them got married on Valentines Day in 2002. This mainly comedic but frequently poignant collaboration lasted until 2011, at which point Bardon left the show because of complications in his stroke recovery.

Whilst on a break from Albert Square June starred in the comedy Ain’t Misbehavin, in 1997, and she played Nanny Slagg in the BBC’s production of Gormenghast in 2000.

June as Aunt Sadie in LWT’s Now and Then, 1983-84.

June’s theatre credits include An Inspector Calls, The Lion in Winter, A View from the Bridge, and numerous pantomimes including The Witches, in which she played alongside her sister. During her early career, she took on the roles of Hedda Gabler and Lady Macbeth.

Film roles included Brit horror flick Psychomania and the much loved Mr Bean spin-off movie Bean.

However, it was the role of long-suffering Dot that would come to define her career.

June was initially asked to appear in the soap for just a small handful of episodes but bosses were impressed by her ability to balance the comic and tragic facets of Dot and were keen for her to stay on. She did – for more than three decades.

June Brown as Dot Branning / Cotton in EastEnders, BBC

She first left the soap in 1993 amid concerns over how her character had developed and in protest at the firing of co-star Peter Dean. However, she was lured back to reprise the role in 1997. In 2003, the BBC, acknowledging the character’s popularity, broadcast a spin-off show about Dot’s early life.

In 2009, June was nominated for a Best Actress BAFTA for a unique episode of EastEnders in which she was the sole performer featured. The instalment, titled Pretty Baby, was written by EastEnders script supremo Tony Jordan and was aired on 31st January 2008. It saw Dot agonise over her decision to place her husband Jim in a care home following a stroke.

June Brown and John Altman as Dot and Nick, EastEnders

Soap Queens, June Brown as Dot and Barbara Windsor as Peggy in EastEnders

Dot’s distinctive look, sound, mannerisms and quirkiness all contributed to the character’s place in popular culture. She was spoofed in cartoon sketch series 2DTV and the ITV series Spitting Image. She has also been impersonated by Alistair McGowan in his Big Impression Show.

Her impact extends as far as the health industry where the term ‘Dot Cotton syndrome’ is used to “describe the elderly population who continue to smoke heavily without registering the health problems that are or will soon suffer from, seeing it as their only pleasure left in life.”

In 2008, Brown was awarded an MBE for her services to drama and charity, and became an OBE in 2021.

Gretchen Franklin as Ethel and June as Dorothy Cotton

Leslie Grantham as ‘Dirty’ Den Watts with June as Dot

Her BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in 2009 was only the second time the organisation had put forward a performer for their work on a soap. The first being over 20 years earlier when Jean Alexander was nominated for her work as Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street.


“We’re deeply saddened to hear of the death of June Brown, who played one of EastEnders’ longest-running and much-loved characters, Dot Cotton, and who was nominated for a BAFTA in 2009. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.

However things turned slightly sour towards the end of her time at BBC Elstree when she took to a podcast to announce she had left EastEnders, and was unlikely to ever return following ‘a lack of decent storylines’ despite being promised a ‘big plot’ for 2020.

The veteran performer told the DistinctNostalgia podcast that she had left her iconic role as Dot because a ‘big storyline’ had turned into a ‘wet fart’.

June Muriel Brown, 1927 – 2022

Despite the public criticism of the soap, the BBC said the door was always open for June to reprise her role, and that as far as they were aware, she was on an ‘as and when’ contract joining the storyline when a plot suited the actress. Despite the marred end of Dot, her iconic scenes across the decades will remain part of popular culture for a long time to come and with UKTV channel Drama currently repeating EastEnders there is plenty more of Dot to enjoy once more.

An EastEnders spokesperson:

“We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved June Brown, OBE, MBE sadly passed away last night. There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten. June created one of the most iconic characters in Dot Cotton, not just in soap but in British television, and having appeared in 2884 episodes, June’s remarkable performances created some of EastEnders finest moments.

“We send all our love and deepest sympathies to June’s family and friends. A very bright light has gone out at EastEnders today but we shall all be raising a sweet sherry in June’s memory. Rest in peace, our dearest June. You will never be forgotten.”

Originally published in 2009 as part of the ATV Icons section. Written in 2009 by Michael Keohan, updated in 2022 by Mike Watkins.

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