Those local to or familiar with Elephant & Castle will know that, since 1965, a statue which illustrates the area’s very name has stood as the entrance to the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.
Over the years though, the fibreglass sculpture constructed in the image of an older pub decoration of the same design has come to mean more than what it depicts. The Elephant & Castle statue has been iconised as a symbol of community and pride to the local area.
Elephant & Castle has been a major road junction in the capital since Roman times, hence it was in 1765, a coaching inn called the Elephant and Castle established itself to offer a welcome retreat for coach traffic coming in and out of the south of London.
It is possible there was some form of tavern even earlier, however. There is a reference to the ‘Elephant’ in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, which was written around 1601. ‘In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge’, wrote the playwright.
The first landlord may have chosen the name Elephant and Castle in homage to a group of medieval craftsmen who made swords and knives. Called the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, its crest, granted in 1622, shows an elephant carrying a castle.
The story goes that the elephant’s tusks symbolised the ivory handles and the high regard in which the cutlers’ implements were held, while the castle illustrated the sheer size of the elephant.
The coaching inn, which later became a pub, served this area of south London well, but was demolished in 1959 after suffering huge damage during the wars.
However, the name – and the popular drinking spot – lives on, and the Elephant & Castle pub continues to welcome customers at its current location on Newington Causeway.
The famous pink elephant has had a fresh lick of paint and will be welcomed to its new home at Castle Square this Saturday 26th June.
To celebrate the homecoming, the local area are throwing one heck of a party, with fresh food from local eateries, live entertainment and Elephantastic, a play written exclusively for the event by local playwright John Whelan.
Where is the Elephant and Castle statue?
The Elephant and Castle statue will soon be unveiled at its new home at Castle Square, a collection of well-loved retailers and food providers from the local area. It’s a suitable new home, given it’s a marker of the community and Elephant & Castle culture, and it will now sit in amongst some of the area’s best known independent businesses.
If you haven’t visited yet, we suggest you go along and explore. You’ll find Castle Square at 40 Elephant Road, bordering Elephant Park and only a five-minute walk from Elephant & Castle Station. And don’t forget to set your eyes on the statue before you leave – it really is a sight to behold.