Monday, May 8, 2017

Elephant & Castle, Revisited


Almost six years ago, right after Dave and I moved to London, I visited the neighborhood known as Elephant & Castle, at the end of the Bakerloo tube line. According to my blog post from that time, I found a "downtrodden mall" and lots of elephants here and there.

I went back yesterday, as I took a photo walk from Vauxhall through Lambeth to London Bridge. The "downtrodden mall" is even more downtrodden these days, though quite colorful. This area has been slated for redevelopment for years, and the mall is going to be demolished, so whoever owns it is probably doing minimal upkeep. They're not trying to remove those weird white streaks along the outer walls, for example.


The best thing about the place is the big red elephant on a pedestal that stands outside the front door. Apparently this creature pre-existed the shopping center itself, which was built in 1965 as Europe's first indoor mall. The elephant came from an old pub, and photographic evidence suggests it was first installed inside.

When the shopping centre eventually comes down, it goes without saying that someone needs to save this elephant.


There are colorful elephants in the mall itself, along with some quirky little family businesses, a Tesco and a few other chains. Many of the shops are vacant. It's probably hard to rent space in a commercial building whose days are numbered.


I had brunch -- one of several possible variations on an English breakfast -- in a very colorful little cafe called the Sundial. (You can see me reflected in that mirrored column in the middle of the room.) I sat near two people, at two different tables, who were having extensive conversations with themselves. They were definitely not on the phone.

I loved this place.


I suspect the ol' Shopping Centre is more lively on a weekday, rather than a Sunday, but it nonetheless has a tired air. I'm glad I got a chance to visit before it vanishes for good.

11 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

You appear to be wearing a black cap. Very stylish. I doubt that the Elephant and Castle shopping centre is on the sightseeing "to do" list of many American tourists... oh, I forgot, you're not a tourist. When my daughter lived in Camberwell we drove through the Elephant and Castle area several times. There was a lot of constructional activity going on.

e said...

I love the elephant. I hope it is saved from the scrap heap. Looking around, I could see why that mall would have been all mod and popular fifty years ago before the western world became blighted with them. I've really never liked malls not growing up with them and I try not to go much.

Shooting Parrots said...

I have memories of the Elephant and Castle as I used to spend time at the Department of Health through work when they had offices there in the 1980s. I recall staying at a nearby hotel that was a converted doss house - ghastly place!

Ms. Moon said...

The malls certainly had their day but it really has passed, for the most part, hasn't it?
Love the elephant. I hope he gets saved.

John Gray said...

It just looks sad!

Red said...

Rather sad that a large fairly new building will be destroyed. We are a very wasteful society.

ellen abbott said...

there is an indoor mall near where we lived in the city that was quite successful at the time anchored by two department stores. then one closed but it wasn't really until a direct hit hurricane that damaged the other department store and they never reopened. they last time I was in there at least half the spaces were vacant. at one time they did a facelift and we etched I don't remember how many glass shades for the new modern light fixtures. so I expect if they put the elephant with the castle on the curb you'll be bringing it home.

Sharon Anck said...

Those photos at the mall remind me of my visit to a dying mall here. I remember when I entered the food court how sad and tired it looked with only a three or four vendors and none of them the usual mall chains. However, luckily (I think) I didn't run into any people having long conversations with themselves. I love that Elephant. Surely he will be rescued.

jenny_o said...

There is an air about a dying mall or store that is quite melancholy. Maybe it's the quietness, the lack of people that make it seem sad. Not that I like crowds - but it seems that a place built to attract people but with no people in it is like a ghost town.

I had to laugh at Ellen's comment about you bringing the elephant home!

The Bug said...

Of course you loved that place! I'm glad we have you to document it :)

37paddington said...

Malls are thriving in New Jersey. I agree that a dying mall is a sad thing indeed.