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The Song about “The Man who Broke the Bank”

By April 22, 2023No Comments

In 1891 Fred Gilbert wrote the music-hall classic, The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, based on the exploits of Charles Wells that year.  Music Hall performer Charles Coborn made the song famous and sang it many times during his long career on the stage.  There’s excellent footage on Youtube here:

Much earlier, Coborn’s theatrical debut had been at Sandgate, on the Kent coast near Folkestone.  In 1903 songwriter Fred Gilbert died of tuberculosis at Honeysuckle Cottage in Sandgate, a stone’s throw from where Coborn had launched his career.

Was this an extraordinary coincidence?  Or did Coborn perhaps learn of Gilbert’s ill health and recommend that he should move to Sandgate where the sea air might have helped to prolong his life?  I’ve often wondered; so far I’ve never found a definite answer despite all efforts to find an answer.  I’ve also not yet found where Gilbert was buried.  In doesn’t appear that he was laid to rest in the Sandgate / Folkestone area, and perhaps his remains lie in a cemetery in London – the city where he spent most of his life.

H.G. Wells, the famous author, also lived at Sandgate and raised money for Gilbert’s family.  There’s also a story involving H.G. Wells and Charles Wells of Monte Carlo fame in my book.


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