The history of Elephant & Castle dates to the Roman times where two roads intersected in the area and provided access to the Roman town of Londinium. The place we now call the Elephant & Castle started life as two prosperous villages, Walworth and Newington, set among market gardens, fields and open marshland. It’s also well documented that a pub, or tavern, was open in Elephant and Castle around this time operating as an inn, near the crossroads.
Between the 1890s and the 1940s, Elephant & Castle really began to come to life. The area was home to a diverse mix of people, living in everything from modest almshouses to traditional terraces. Known as the “Piccadilly of South London”, residents had top quality entertainment on their doorstep with numerous theatres opening and commerce boomed with grand new department stores opening. All within easy access to London with a host of transport options including the horse cart from 1829, the first overland rail in 1862, the London Underground’s Northern Line reaching the area in 1890 which was quickly followed by the electric tram in 1903 and motorbuses in 1904.
1940 & POST WAR DEVELOPMENT
Elephant & Castle, like much of London, suffered extensive war damage during the Second World War. In the years following, 50 acres were identified for redevelopment. High density, slab-block estates and a large gyratory road system replaced terraced streets and bombsites. This included the construction of an electricity substation names the Michael Faraday Memorial, in honour of the local scientist who pioneered research into electricity. In the early 1960s, the Elephant and Castle shopping centre was built, the first of its kind in Europe and became one of the defining aspects of the district. It was around this time, in 1965, when the London Borough of Southwark was formed from the three metropolitan boroughs of Southwark, Camberwell and Bermondsey.
In 2002 the Greater London Authority published the ‘London Plan’ which identified Elephant & Castle as a key area of growth for London. After a considered tender process, in 2007 Southwark Council selected Lendlease as its preferred master development partner with the first planning applications being submitted by Lendlease in 2012 and outline planning permission received for the Elephant Park Masterplan being received in 2013. Since then several developments have been completed including Trafalgar Place, One the Elephant (including the constructions of the Castle Centre), South Gardens, West Grove, Park Central West and Park Central East.
THE GROWTH OF ELEPHANT & CASTLE
Commerce boomed, with grand new department stores like Rabbit’s Shoes and Hurlock’s. Nearby, a huge Baptist church – the Metropolitan Tabernacle – was built for CH Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers”, while the Lock Hospital for Lepers was located near Lock Fields, the site of the Heygate Estate. Housing included the Drapers’ Almshouses in Cross Street, terraces of townhouses in New Kent Road and elegant mansions, some of which still exist in Marlborough Place. Best of all, the Elephant & Castle was easy to get to. 1829 had seen the arrival of the horse bus, along with the first overland rail link in 1862. In 1890, London Underground’s Northern Line reached the area and was quickly followed by electric trams in 1903, motorbuses in 1904 and the Baker Street and Waterloo (now Bakerloo) line in 1906. To find out more about the history of Elephant and Castle, there are places in the area you can visit. Check out Southwark Heritage Centre and Walworth Library.