A somewhat neglected area located in the Borough of Southwark, just south-east of Borough, Elephant and Castle takes its rather odd name from a coaching inn which once stood on the site – the Elephant and Castle.
The area is more correctly known as Newington but the name Elephant and Castle was apparently adopted informally in the mid 18th century as the area rose in prominence thanks in part to the opening of Westminster Bridge.
The inn, which stood on the site of a former playhouse, was apparently rebuilt several times but there is now no sign of it – the current, rather ugly, Elephant and Castle pub which is said to stand a short distance from where the tavern once stood, was built in the 1960s.
The origins of the sign of the Elephant and Castle, meanwhile, apparently comes from the mid-15th century when members of the Cutler’s Company adopted the sign of the elephant as their symbol (perhaps representing the ivory they used in their trade). The Worshipful Company of Cutlers still has an elephant carrying a castle on its back in its coat-of-arms.
The area of Elephant and Castle, meanwhile, was known for its shopping and theatres before it was heavily bombed in the Blitz. It still features a rather grim shopping mall (pictured is the sign of the elephant and castle out front) which was said to have been the first covered shopping mall in Europe when it opened in the mid-1960s – it is apparently due for demolition as part of a larger regeneration project. The area has already seen some major new developments like the the residential tower known as Strata.
Other prominent buildings include the Metropolitan Tabernacle – standing opposite the shopping centre, this was founded by preacher Charles Hadden Spurgeon in the 19th century and rebuilt after World War II (interestingly, the site of the tabernacle is where three men, known as the Southwark Martyrs, were burnt at the stake for heresy in 1557 during a period of religious persecution in the reign of Queen Mary I).
Famous residents have included Charlie Chaplin – who lived in a workhouse in the area as a child – while other notable features include a large stainless box which stands at the centre of the area’s major road intersection, linking what is now New Kent Road and Kennington Park Road (via Newington Butts) with roads leading to Lambeth, Westminster, Waterloo and London Bridges among others (this is actually a memorial to scientist Michael Faraday, who was born in nearby Newington Butts). The area also boasts its own Tube station, Elephant & Castle.