One of his most famous images is "The Last of England", a portrait of a pair of stricken immigrants as they sail away on the ship that will take them from England forever. It was inpired by the departure of the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, who had left for Australia. The painting is structured with Brown's characteristic linear energy, and emphasis on apparently grotesque and banal details, such as the cabbages hanging from the ship's side.
Brown's most important painting was Work (1865), which he showed at a special exhibition. It attempted to depict the totality of the mid-Victorian social experience in a single image, depicting 'navvies' digging up a road, and disrupting the old social hierarchies as they did so. The image erupts into proliferating details from the dynamic centre of the action, as the workers tear a hole in the road - and, symbolically, in the social fabric. Each character represents a particular social class and role in the modern urban environment that is sweeping aside the tranquil village-life of the past.
Brown's major achievement after Work was the cycle of twelve paintings depicting the history of Manchester, England in Manchester Town Hall. These present a partly ironic and satirical view of Mancunian history.
He was the grandfather of novelist Ford Madox Ford.