Elephant and Castle
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|Elephant and Castle|
Elephant and Castle shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SE1, SE11, SE17|
|London Assembly||Lambeth and Southwark|
The Elephant consists of major traffic junctions connected by a short road called Elephant and Castle, part of the A3. Between these junctions, on the eastern side, is the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, with Hannibal House office block on top. To the north of this, bounded by Newington Causeway and New Kent Road is the large Metro Central Heights residential block. The 43-storey Strata residential block lies just south of the shopping centre on Walworth Road.
Traffic runs to and from the south-east of England along the A2 (New Kent Road and Old Kent Road), the south of England on the A3, to the West End via St George's Road, and to the City of London via London Road and Newington Causeway at the northern junction. Newington Butts and Walworth Road adjoin the southern junction. The whole junction forms part of the London Inner Ring Road and part of the boundary of the London congestion charge zone.
In the middle of the northern junction island is the Michael Faraday Memorial, a large stainless steel box built in honour of Michael Faraday, who was born nearby. It contains an electrical substation for the Northern Line of the London Underground.
The Elephant has two linked London Underground stations, on the Northern and Bakerloo lines, and a National Rail station served by Southeast Trains (Kentish Town to Sevenoaks via Catford) and First Capital Connect (Thameslink suburban loop to Sutton and Wimbledon). Local buildings include Skipton House Department of Health); Perronet House, an award-winning residential block owned by Southwark Council; a large part of the London South Bank University campus; the London College of Communication; the Ministry of Sound nightclub; and the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The Cuming Museum is nearby.
Known previously as Newington (Newington Butts and Newington Causeway are two of the principal roads of the area), in the medieval period it was part of rural Surrey, in the manor of Walworth. This is listed in the Domesday Book as belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury; the income from its rents and tithes supplied the monks at Christ Church Canterbury with their clothing, and a 'church' is mentioned. The parish was called St Mary, Newington, which church occupied the site of the leisure centre, next to the Tabernacle, and was first recorded by name in 1222.
In May 1557, William Morant, Stephen Gratwick and a man named King, known as the Southwark Martyrs, were burnt at the stake in St George's Field on the site of the present Tabernacle during the Marian Persecutions.
St Mary's Church was rebuilt in 1720 and completely replaced in 1790, to a design of Francis Hurlbatt. Within another hundred years this too was to be demolished, with its replacement on Kennington Park Road ready in 1876. It was destroyed in 1940 by enemy action. The remains of the tower and an arch were incorporated into its replacement of 1958. The open space at the leisure centre is still known as St Mary's Churchyard, and the narrow pedestrian walk at its south end is Churchyard Row.
There is record of a 'hospital' before the Reformation. In 1601 the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers erected St Peter's Hospital, i.e. almshouses, on the site of the present London College of Communication. This expanded and survived until 1850, when it was removed to Wandsworth. The Drapers' livery company created Walters' Almshouses on a site now at the southern junction island in 1640, giving the tower block opposite the name Draper House. The almshouses were relocated to Brandon Street in the 1960s as part of the major redevelopment.
In the 19th century the nationally famed Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon built his Metropolitan Tabernacle here. It was bombed in the blitz but rebuilt and is still flourishing today.
During the late 19th century there was a cemetery existed in the vicinity, but it was built over during London's rapid expansion.
The Elephant was the centre of the target zone for the German air raids on London on 10 May 1941 and suffered "raging fires".
The Elephant is featured on the cover of The High Llamas' "Beet Maize & Corn" album (2003) in a painting by Jeremy Glogan.
The Elephant is the location of the London College of Communication, formerly the London College of Printing, an internationally renowned dedicated college. The present structure was constructed during the redevelopment of the area in the early 1960s.
The name "Elephant and Castle" is derived from a coaching inn. The earliest surviving record of this name relating to the area is in the Court Leet Book of the Manor of Walworth, which met at "Elephant and Castle, Newington" on 21 March 1765. Previously the site was occupied by a blacksmith and cutler – the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers features an elephant with a castle (possibly meant to be a howdah) on its back, which in turn was used because of the use of elephant ivory in handles.
Shakespeare mentions the Elephant Lodgings in "Twelfth Night". In Act 3 Scene 3 Antonio says "In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge." Although the play is set in Illyria in the Balkans, Shakespeare often used local London references. The theatres were all in Southwark, so it may be this is an advert for a local hostelry.
'Newington' is one of the most common place names in England (see Newington Green and Stoke Newington in north London), and from 1750 the area became more important and the informal name, from the pub at this junction, was adopted. Compare 'Angel' at Islington, or Bricklayers Arms, a short distance along New Kent Road.
The inn site was rebuilt in 1816 and again in 1898, and the present Elephant & Castle pub, at the junction of New Kent Road and Newington Causeway, was part of the 1960s comprehensive redevelopment.
La Infanta de Castilla
A common error is that "Elephant and Castle" is a corruption of "La Infanta de Castilla", seemingly referring to a series of Spanish princesses such as Eleanor of Castile and María, the daughter of Philip III of Spain. However, Eleanor of Castile was not an infanta (the term only appeared in English about 1600). María has a strong British connection because she was once controversially engaged to Charles I, but she had no connection with Castile. "Infanta de Castilla" therefore seems to be a conflation of two Iberian royals separated by 300 years.
Rise to metropolitan prominence
The area became increasingly important after the building of Westminster Bridge in 1751 and the improvements to London Bridge in the same period. These required 'by-pass' roads across the south side approaches to each other and also to the main routes to the south and southeast coasts. These road improvements - Great Dover Street, Westminster Bridge, New Kent Road, St George's Road and Borough Road - connect to the older Kennington and Old Kent Roads to facilitate this traffic. In 1769 the new Blackfriars Bridge was connected to this system at what is now St George's Circus and Blackfriars Road (originally Great Surrey Road) and to the Elephant junction with the new London Road.
As a result of these improvements, the area became a built-up part of the metropolis during the late Georgian and Victorian periods. The railway arrived here in 1863 and the first deep-level tube line, now part of the Northern Line's City Branch, in 1890. The Bakerloo Line terminus was created in 1904. Both the middle-class and working-class populations increased, the first settling on the major roads, the latter on the streets behind these. However, the area declined socially at the Walworth side.
Shopping and entertainment
The area became the location for a thriving shopping area, known as "the Piccadilly of South London", with its own department store (William Tarn and Co) and many smaller outlets. Also featured were a shoe factory, a branch of Burton and a renowned hatter.
In 1930, the Trocadero, a monumental neo-gothic picture house seating over 3000 and fitted with the biggest Wurlitzer organ in Europe, was built at the northern corner of the New Kent Road (a plaque commemorating the building was unveiled in 2008 by Denis Norden, who had worked there in his youth). This was replaced in 1966 by a smaller cinema (the Odeon, known for a time after closure as an Odeon in 1982 as the Coronet, not to be confused with the Coronet below) which was demolished in 1988.
In 1932, another cinema opened across the street, the Coronet. It is now mostly used as a night-club and concert venue. At the time it seated over 2000 people, and was an art-deco conversion of the Elephant and Castle theatre, opened in 1879 on the site of the short-lived Theatre Royal (built in 1872 and burnt down six years later). It was reconstructed in 1882 and again in 1902.
The major development of the 1960s consisted of post-war reconstruction to a larger metropolitan plan, much of it replacing properties destroyed by bombing in World War II. Alexander Fleming House (1959), originally a group of government office blocks and now Metro Central Heights residential complex, is a prime example of the work of the Hungarian modernist architect Ernő Goldfinger.
One monument to cinema still remains just off the Elephant, the Cinema Museum, volunteer-run with screenings of classic cinema and a vast collection of cinema memorabilia, in the old workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent time as a child.
The shopping centre, designed by Boissenvain & Osmond for the Willets Group, was opened in March 1965. It was the first covered shopping mall in Europe with 120 shops on three levels and a two-storey underground car-park. In the sales brochure (1963), Willets claimed it to be the “largest and most ambitious shopping venture ever to be embarked upon in London. In design planning and vision it represents an entirely new approach to retailing, setting standards for the sixties that will revolutionise shopping concepts throughout Britain.” When it opened, budget restrictions meant that the proportions and finishes of the building had had to be scaled down and only 29 out of a possible 120 shops were trading.
In recent times the area has had a reputation for successful ethnic diversity and centrality. The area's proximity to major areas of employment, including Westminster, the West End and the City, has meant that a certain amount of gentrification has taken place - this can be seen in an increase in high-quality restaurants in the area. There are many popular Colombian meeting places including "La Bodeguita" and "Distriandina". Local restaurants such as the Chinese Dragon Castle have been praised by critics[by whom?], and The Lobster Pot has featured in the Harden's guide top ten.
The area is now subject to a master-planned redevelopment budgeted at £1.5 billion. A Development Framework was approved by Southwark Council in 2004. It covers 170 acres (688,000 m²) and envisages restoring the Elephant to the role of major urban hub for inner South London that it occupied before World War II.
A substantial amount of post-World War II social housing that is deemed to have failed will be demolished, including the Heygate Estate, replaced with developments consisting of a mix of social and private-sector housing. This portion of the site is being developed by Lend Lease . There have also been moves to protect the last of the architecturally important tenement blocks nearby through the creation of a conservation area covering the Pullens buildings.
Some local residents are maintaining the Southwark Notes website that takes a critical look at the regeneration.  The Elephant Amenity Network is a local group promoting a 'Charter for Community Inclusion and a Better Quality of Life for All' and campaigning for 'a regeneration that benefits local people'. 
London's growing Latin American population, which has largely resided at the Elephant since the 1980s, are also taking part in the regeneration project. Plans are being made to build new shops and homes to transform it into a "Latin American corridor".
The Elephant was to have been served by the Cross-River Tram, which was cancelled in 2008 due to budgetary constraints.
- Blanchard, Amos (1844). Book of Martyrs: Or, A History of the Lives, Sufferings and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive and Protestant Martyrs from the Introduction of Christianity to the Latest Periods of Pagan, Popish, Protestant, and Infidel Persecutions. Compiled from Foxe's Book of Martyrs and other Authentic Sources. N. G. Ellis.
- Timbs, John (1931). The Romance of London vol I.
- Blanchard (1844), p.272.
- Mortimer, Gavin. The Bombing of London on May 10, 1941. The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2005. p. 18, 251.
- World Wide Words: Elephant and Castle
- London SE1 website team London SE1 community website. "Lib Dems promise ‘Latin American corridor’ from Elephant to Stockwell [26 April 2010]". London-se1.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- London SE1 website team London SE1 community website. "Latin Americans must take full part in Elephant & Castle regeneration says London Assembly chair [21 April 2009]". London-se1.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- Map of Elephant and Castle and surrounding districts
- Flickr photo pool
- Elephant and Castle regeneration masterplan
- A Short History of the Elephant and Castle and Its Name
- What is the origin of Elephant and Castle?
- The Story of the Elephant and Castle name
- The History of Elephant and Castle
- Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre - PostWarBuildings.com
- Elephant and Castle Roundabout "Making a Space a Place"
- Time Out article about the Shopping centre, September 2006
- Save the Elephant Shopping Centre
- Multiplex unveils Elephant skyscraper plan - London-SE1, 5 December 2005
- Clinton praises redevelopment of Elephant and Castle - BBC News, 19 May 2009
- Elephant and Castle - blitzandblight.com
- Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre on The Retail Database