Elephant and Castle

From Academic Kids

Elephant & Castle
OS Grid Reference:Template:Gbmappingsmall
County:Greater London
Region:Greater London
Ceremonial County:Greater London
Traditional County:Surrey
Post Office and Telephone
Post town:LONDON
Postcode:SE1, SE11, SE17
Dialling Code:020

The Elephant and Castle, commonly shortened to 'the Elephant' is a major road intersection in inner south London, and is also used as a name for the surrounding district. The Elephant consists of two fairly large roundabouts connected by a short road called Elephant and Castle, part of the A3. Adjacent to the northern roundabout are a shopping centre (Elephant Shopping Centre, with an office block called Hannibal House on top) and a former office building (Alexander Fleming House - now a residential block called Metro Central Heights), both widely derided as "ugly". "Elephant and Castle" has largely replaced the original name of the area — Newington.

The roundabouts direct traffic arriving from and heading to the south-east of England along the A2 - called here the New Kent Road and then the Old Kent Road - and towards the south of England on the A3 as well as splitting traffic into the City of London and the West End. The 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 a large silver box. Although there is no sign explaining it, it is intended as a memorial to Michael Faraday who was born nearby. Also, actors Charlie Chaplin and Michael Caine were born and grew up in the area. (Note: the Michael Caine article indicates differently - please verify)

The Elephant is also home to Elephant & Castle station, Skipton House (housing the Department of Health), London South Bank University, London College of Communication, the Ministry of Sound nightclub and the Metropolitan Tabernacle.


Missing image
An elephant and a castle

The name of the area derives from a pub of the same name in the area. The earliest surviving record of the name is in the Court Leet Book of the Manor of Walworth. The court had met at "Elephant and Castle, Newington" on 21 March 1765. Apocryphally, the name of the pub is a corruption of the Spanish Infanta de Castile, meaning the eldest daughter of a monarch, who had supposedly visited London via this area. A more likely explanation is that the land belonged to the Cutlers' Company, who had an elephant and a castle on their coat of arms. The elephant referred to the ivory used to make handles for expensive cutlery.

In recent times, the area has been depressed economically and has had a reputation for crime, particularly on the pedestrian subways criss-crossing underneath the traffic roundabouts. However with the area's close proximity to the major areas of employment, including the West End and the City, a certain amount of gentrification has taken place.

Regeneration project

Missing image
Elephant and Castle from above, looking North. The low building on the right is the shopping centre

The area is now subject to a masterplanned redevelopment budgeted at 1.5 billion. A Development Framework was approved by Southwark Council in 2004. It covers an area of 170 acres (688,000 m²) and envisages restoring the Elephant and Castle to the role as a major urban hub for inner South London which is occupied before World War II. Planned features include:

  • 800,000 square feet (75,000 m²) of retail space (this is far larger than the existing shopping centre)
  • 5,300 new and replacement homes
  • five new open spaces
  • an integrated public transport hub and two tram routes
  • a new City academy

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

The current timetable, which like any large development project may be subject to delays, is as follows:

The current shopping centre, scheduled for demolition in 2010
The current shopping centre, scheduled for demolition in 2010
  • 2005 Selection of commercial development partner.
  • 2006 First residential projects commence.
  • 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.
  • 2010 Demolition of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
  • 2010-2014 Construction of the Civic Square and start of development on the Heygate footprint.
  • 2014 Completion.

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