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For the North American restaurant, see Elephant and Castle Pub and Restaurant.

The Elephant and Castle is a major road intersection in inner south Londonmarker, Englandmarker, and is also used as a name for the surrounding district. The Elephant, as it is known for short, consists of two large roundabouts connected by a short road called Elephant and Castle, part of the A3. Adjacent to the northern roundabout is the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, with an office block called Hannibal Housemarker on top, and a large residential block called Metro Central Heightsmarker to the north. The 43-storey Stratamarker residential block lies just south of the shopping centre. "Elephant and Castle" has largely replaced the original name of the area — Newingtonmarker.

The roundabouts direct traffic arriving from and heading to the south-east of Englandmarker along the A2 — called here the New Kent Roadmarker and then the Old Kent Roadmarker — and towards the south of England on the A3 as well as splitting traffic into the West Endmarker and the City of Londonmarker via St George's Roadmarker, London Roadmarker and Newington Causewaymarker from the northern roundabout. Newington Buttsmarker and Walworth Road adjoin the southern roundabout. The two roundabouts form part of the London Inner Ring Road and as such form part of the boundary of the London congestion charge zone.

In the middle of the northern roundabout is the Michael Faraday Memorialmarker, a large stainless steel box built in honour of Michael Faraday, who was born nearby. His name does not appear on the structure, but there is an inscription in the ground nearby. The structure also contains an electrical substation for the Northern Line of the London Underground.

Famous former residents include Charlie Chaplin and Michael Caine, who were born and grew up locally. Electronic musician Aphex Twin lives in a converted bank in the area.

The Elephant is also home to two linked London Undergroundmarker stations (Northern and Bakerloo lines) as well as a National Railmarker station served both by South-East Trains (Kentish Town to Sevenoaks via Catford) and by First Capital Connect (Thameslink suburban loop to Sutton and Wimbledon). Other local buildings include Skipton Housemarker (housing the Department of Health), a large part of the London South Bank Universitymarker campus, the London College of Communication, the Ministry of Soundmarker nightclub, and the Metropolitan Tabernaclemarker. The Cuming Museummarker is nearby.


Elephant & Castle statue.

Known previously as Newington (Newington Butts and Newington Causeway are two of the principal roads of the area), it was in the mediaeval period simply a part of rural Surreymarker, of the manor of Walworthmarker. 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; a 'church' is also mentioned. However, the parish was called 'St Mary, Newington'. That church occupied the site of the current leisure centre, next to the Tabernacle, being 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. However, this was not as long-lived as its predecessor and was completely replaced in 1790, to a design of Francis Hurlbatt. Within another hundred years this too was to be demolished, but it was decided that the successor should be relocated elsewhere within the parish; a site was chosen in Kennington Park Road. The new church was ready in 1876. That building was destroyed in 1940 by enemy action. The remains of the tower and an arch were incorporated into the modern design of 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 southend is 'Churchyard Row'.

Other institutions were created here. 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 removed to Wandsworth. The Drapers livery company created 'Walters' Almshouses' on a site now near the south roundabout in 1640, giving the tower block opposite its name 'Draper House'. The almshouses were relocated to Brandon Street in the 1960s as part of the major redevelopments here.

Most recently, the Elephant and Castle is featured on the cover of The High Llamas' "Beet Maize & Corn" album (2003).


The name of the area supposedly derives from a vision that someone had on London Bridge when they saw an elephant with a castle on its back in the clouds. A pamphlet was written and distributed around London which saw the story become folklore and later a pub of the same name occupied the junction on which the Faraday memorial is now situated. A copy of the pamphlet exists in the British Library , while the earliest surviving record of the pub's name is in the Court Leet Book of the Manor of Walworthmarker. The royal court had met at "Elephant and Castle, Newington" on 21 March 1765. Previously the site was occupied by a blacksmith and cutler - the Worshipful Company of Cutlers' heraldry features an elephant with a castle on its back. 'Newington' is one of the most common place names in England (see Newington Greenmarker and Stoke Newingtonmarker in north London), and from 1750 the area became more important and so the informal name, from the pub at this junction, was adopted. That pub site was rebuilt in 1816 and 1898, although the present Elephant & Castle pub, at the junction of New Kent Roadmarker and Newington Causeway, offering budget accommodation on its upper floors, was part of the 1960s comprehensive redevelopment.

A common yet probably incorrect assertion is that the name of the area comes from a corruption of "la Infanta de Castile" referring to any of a number of Spanish princesses connected to English history including Eleanor of Castile, Catherine of Aragon, and Maria, daughter of Philip III of Spain. However, there is no trace of the informal name before the reference of 1765. If the pub had had a different name, then because of its prominence on the principal routes, the area likely would have been called by that name. (compare 'Angel' at Islingtonmarker, or Bricklayers Armsmarker a short distance along New Kent Road from Elephant and Castle). The image of the Elephant and Castle is an ancient one in English history, having been known to be a part of the coat of arms of the city of Coventrymarker as early as the 13th century, and also appearing on English coinage such as the guinea.

Rise to metropolitan prominence

The area became increasingly important after the creation of Westminster Bridgemarker in 1750 and the improvements in London Bridgemarker in the same period. These required 'by-pass' roads to connect 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 Kenningtonmarker and Old Kent Roads to facilitate this traffic. In 1769 the new Blackfriars Bridge was connected to this system at what is now the junction called 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.

The major development of the 1960s consisted of post-war reconstruction to a larger metropolitan plan, much of it replacing properties destroyed by enemy bombing in World War II, and gave us some of the previously mentioned structures. Alexander Fleming House (1959), originally a group of government office blocks and now a residential complex known as Metro Central Heightsmarker, is a prime example of the work of the Hungarian modernist architect Ernő Goldfinger.

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 Endmarker and the Citymarker, 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.The area now is a popular place for Colombians in london as many popular colombian meeting places including "La Bodeguita" and "Distriandina" are located around the elephant and castle area. The Evening Standard critic Fay Maschler recently praised the Dragon Castle as one of London's best Chinese food outlets with "Authentic and invigorating Cantonese cooking" and the Harden's guide featured The Lobster Pot in its top ten. The Brasserie and Wine Bar Toulouse Lautrec has also been opened as a new venture by the owners of the Lobster Pot.

Regeneration project

The area is now subject to a masterplanned redevelopment budgeted at £1.5 billion. A Development Framework was approved by Southwark Councilmarker in 2004. It covers an area of 170 acres (688,000 m²) and envisages restoring the Elephant and Castle to the role of major urban hub for inner South Londonmarker which it occupied before World War II. Planned features include:
  • 800,000 square feet (75,000 m²) of retail space (far larger than the existing shopping centre)
  • 5,300 new and replacement homes
  • five new open spaces
  • an integrated public transport hub
  • a new Academy
  • a new library.

Elephant and Castle was to have been served by the Cross-River Tram scheme, which under Boris Johnson has now been cancelled.

There will be major changes to the road intersection designed to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Walworth Road is to be expanded to the north through the site of the present shopping centre, which will be demolished. This will create a pedestrianised boulevard to what is now the northern roundabout. Two skyscrapers will flank the boulevard and the roundabout will be turned into a public square. A substantial amount of post-World War II social housing which is deemed to have failed will be demolished, including the Heygate Estatemarker. This will be replaced with new housing developments consisting of a mix of social and private-sector housing. 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 buildingsmarker.

The timetable originally announced was as follows, but is already behind schedule:
The shopping centre, scheduled for demolition in 2012
  • 2005 Selection of commercial development partner (this finally happened in 2007).
  • 2006 First residential projects commence
  • 2006 Removal of roundabouts and subways (now postponed indefinitely).
  • 2005–2010 Development of the southernmost section of the regeneration area including the Walworth Road extension, the Heygate Boulevard and St Mary's Churchyard.
  • 2006–2011 Phased demolition of the Heygate Estate and relocation of tenants to new social housing in and around Elephant & Castle (now postponed to 2012).
  • 2010 Demolition of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre (now postponed to 2012).
  • 2010–2014 Construction of the Civic Square and start of development on the Heygate footprint.
  • 2014 Completion.

At an international climate change summit in South Koreamarker in May 2009, the Elephant and Castle regeneration scheme was named among 16 worldwide projects which will release less carbon dioxide than they use. At the summit former US President Bill Clinton praised the scheme as a global example for sustainable growth.


  • Houston Calls' song "Elephant & Castle"


  1. Blanchard (1844), p.272.
  2. World Wide Words: Elephant and Castle
  4. BBC on Clinton and the Elephant
  • Elephant and Castle is a song composed by Claudio Quartarone.

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