The former Elephant and Castle Pub, Vauxhall

On 27.7.16. Adrian Prockter* posted on his Know Your London website:

“…The pub name has been used for at least 15 hostelries in Inner London and also in other parts of England.

The ancient pub that used to stand at the very large traffic interchange in Southwark was removed many years ago…

Just ‘down the road’ so to speak, at Vauxhall Cross was another pub with the same name. The premises closed as a pub some years back and are now in use…as a coffee shop. The Victorian building remains and on top are actually two very similar signs. The pub at Vauxhall was first mentioned in the 1780s when it was described as being beside the Vauxhall Turnpike Gate. (Lillywhite n6265 p173).

What has always fascinated Londoners is how the name arose – particularly in the case of the pub at Southwark. If we knew the definitive answer to that question we would be getting somewhere. People have puzzled over the origins of the name for centuries and, along the way, some very odd derivations have emerged. Putting aside some of the more bizarre ideas, there are basically three derivations that should be mentioned…

…3) It should be pointed out that the actual derivation for ‘elephant and castle’ is not known for certain but this third theory is considered to be the most likely. By about 1760 the property that became a pub in Southwark was in use as a smithy. Around that date it became an inn taking the sign of the Elephant and Castle. The name is generally accepted to be derived from the sign of the Cutlers’ Company who held property nearby. The first appearance of the sign is believed to have been in the 1770s. In 1622 the Cutlers’ crest, of the elephant’s head, was superseded by that of the elephant and castle. If you are wondering why the cutlers would adopt an elephant’s head for their sign the answer is simple – it was the elephant tusks that were used to make ivory handles for knives.

The name ‘elephant and castle’ was probably the everyday interpretation of the castle-like howdah that were to be seen on the backs of elephants…”

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