EastEnders star June Brown: A life in pictures

June Brown as Dot Cotton in EastEnders
A true telly legend: June Brown as her most famous alter-ego, EastEnders' Dot Cotton. (Image credit: BBC)

Tributes have poured in for EastEnders star June Brown, who has died at the age of 95

The TV legend, who played Dot Branning, nee Cotton, passed away peacefully on Sunday at her home in Surrey. 

She made her first appearance on EastEnders on 4th July 1985, and stayed until 1993, before returning in 1997 and remaining a fixture until 2020.

We take a trip down memory lane to remember some of her many highlights from a career that spanned over six decades.

The Buried Man (1963)

The Buried Man June Brown Leonard Rossiter

The early days: June in ITV's The Buried Man with Leonard Rossiter. (Image credit: ITV)

Sporting a costume that wouldn’t look out of place in Walford’s Bridge Street launderette, one of June’s early TV roles was alongside Leonard Rossiter in ITV’s Play of the Week, The Buried Man. She played Madge, a woman who walks out on her husband Robert (Rossiter) when she can no longer cope with his mood swings.

Coronation Street (1970)

Coronation Street June Brown

Getting a mouthful: June with Weatherfield's Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) (Image credit: ITV)

Though June is synonymous with EastEnders, it was in Coronation Street that she made her soap debut. In 1970, she played Mrs Parsons, the mother of a harmonium player who incurred the wrath of Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) for refusing to support her son’s talent. 

Creator Tony Warren had earlier met June outside a theatre and asked for her autograph. She said: "You don't want my autograph, I'm nobody famous" to which Warren replied, "No, but you might be one day...”

Dr. Who (1973-74) 

Dr. Who June Brown

She's a lady: June as Lady Eleanor of Wessex in Dr. Who. (Image credit: BBC)

After a run of playing working-class characters, June was cast against type and played the well-to-do Lady Eleanor of Wessex in the Doctor Who story 'The Time Warrior' from 1973 to 1974.

Walford: The early days (1985)

EastEnders Dot Nick

Unhappy faaarmilies: June with on-screen son Nick (John Altman)  (Image credit: BBC)

June’s first episode of EastEnders aired on 4th July 1985, and it was thanks to former co-star, the late Leslie Grantham (Dirty Den) that she landed the part of Dot – he recommended her to the show’s producers. She was only meant to be in the soap for a few months, for the storyline in which her ne’er do well screen son, Nick, was accused of murder. But of course, she was an instant hit, and the rest is history.

Panto time! (1992)

Cinderella June Brown Stefan Dennis

She's behind you: June starred in Cinderella in 1992 with Neighbours star Stefan Dennis (Image credit: Alamy)

Though best known for her TV roles, June notched up plenty of appearances on the stage, and was classically trained at The Old Vic Theatre School in London's Lambeth. In fact, the actor Nigel Hawthorne described her as "one of the most beautiful creatures I've seen on stage" after seeing her as Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" at Birmingham Rep in 1958. Here she is in a promo shot for the 1992 / 93 panto Cinderella at Bournemouth's Pavilion Theatre. June played the Fairy Godmother, and Stefan Dennis (Neighbours' Paul Robinson) was Buttons.

Gormenghast (2000)

Gormenghast June brown

Timid yet devoted: June as Nanny Slagg in Gormenghast. (Image credit: BBC)

In a role that was a million miles away from Dot, June played Nanny Slagg, opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in BBC2’s fantasy series, Gormenghast. But it wasn’t without some persuading on the part of producer Estelle Daniel. "The description of Nanny Slagg was 'ancient, frail, and wizened.”’ June recalled. "I said 'I’m wrong for this part' and even gave her the names of other actresses I thought would be better suited."

Goodbye, Ethel (2000)

EastEnders Dot Ethel

Friends till the end: In a moving EastEnders episode, Dot helped terminally ill pal Ethel (Gretchen Franklin) to die peacefully at a time of her own choosing. (Image credit: BBC)

June has a wealth of heart-wrenching storylines from her time on EastEnders, and who could possibly forget the episode in which she helped her terminally ill best friend, Ethel, to die. Guilt-ridden at having 'killed' Ethel, Dot later confessed all to the police and, when they failed to believe her, she demanded retribution in another form and ended up in court for shoplifting. 

Margery and Gladys (2003)

Margery and Gladys June Brown Penelope Keith

Partners in crime: June with Margery and Gladys co-star Penelope Keith. (Image credit: ITV)

June took a break from EastEnders to film this one-off TV drama for ITV, in which she played Gladys Gladwell, the cleaner of recently widowed housewife Margery Heywood (Penelope Keith). A parody of the Hollywood blockbuster Thelma and Louise, it saw the two pensioners flee from their suburban town and embark on a road trip in Gladys’s wrecked motor, after believing they had killed a burglar.

Dear Jim (2008)

EastEnders Dot Branning

Special message: Dot records a message for ailing hubby Jim (John Bardon) in a memorable EastEnders episode in 2008. (Image credit: BBC)

June made history when, on 31st January, 2008, she became the first – and so far only – actress to carry an entire EastEnders episode. The monologue saw Dot record a message on a cassette recorder for her husband, Jim, who was in a care home after suffering a stroke. It was given extra poignancy due to the fact that the now late actor John Bardon, who played Jim, was recovering from a stroke at the time in real life. 

A royal appointment (2008)

June Brown receives MBE

A princess at the palace: June receives her MBE in 2008. (Image credit: Alamy)

June got the royal seal of approval in 2008 when she was awarded the MBE for services to drama and charity. But she later admitted that she'd considered writing a letter of apology to the Queen, after making a blunder. "She said something about enjoying EastEnders, and for some reason, I replied, ‘I didn’t think you’d see it because it clashes with your dinner,'" said June. "I didn’t even call her Ma’am or Your Majesty, so later I thought about writing to her to apologise."

Her Majesty clearly wasn't offended, because in the most recent 2022 New Year's Honours List, June was awarded an OBE.

BAFTA nod (2009)

BAFTAs 2009 June Brown

Awards night: June was nominated for a BAFTA in 2009. (Image credit: Getty)

June’s single-hander EastEnders episode in 2008 earned her a nomination for Best Actress in the BAFTA Television Awards the following year. She remains only the second soap actress to have been nominated in the category – the first being Jean Alexander (who played Corrie’s Hilda Ogden) in 1987. On the night, she lost out to Anna Maxwell Martin for her role in Poppy Shakespeare.

Alison Slade
Soaps Editor
Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine.  She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way. There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.