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Elephant and Castle

The Elephant and Castle, commonly shortened to 'the Elephant' is a major road intersection in south London. The Elephant consists of two large roundabouts, and a shopping centre and a former office building (Alexander Fleming House - now a residential block), both widely derided as "ugly".

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre

The roundabouts direct traffic arriving from and heading to the south-east of England along the New Kent Road and then the Old Kent Road, and towards the south of England on the A23 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.

The Elephant is also home to Elephant and Castle station, London South Bank University and the Metropolitan Tabernacle.


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 21st March 1765. The name of the pub is often claimed to be a corruption of the Spanish Infanta de Castile, meaning the eldest daughter of a monarch, who had supposedly visited London via this area. This story, popular amongst the local population, is almost universally agreed to be false by historians. The name of the pub is believed to be taken from a local smithy of the same name whose cutlery products had (elephant) ivory handles. The 'castle' in their logo is in fact a howdah.

An elephant with a castle

In recent times the area has been depressed economically and has had a reputation for crime and unsafety, particularly on the pedestrian subways criss-crossing underneath the traffic roundabouts. However with the area's close proximity to the major areas of employment (the West End, the City) a certain amount of gentrification has taken place, prompting speculators to invest in the area under the expectation that this will continue.