Elephants around London

People all over the world love stories, invent stories, tell stories, and base their life on stories. There are many stories about a resourceful area in the South East of London, a mysterious union between an elephant and a castle, a living being and an inanimate object, the symbol of India and the symbol of the western nobility.

The story begins within a poor area, home of many ivory merchants, whose ‘symbol was the elephant with an ornamental seat … that looked like a castle’, as claimed in the website Elephant Facts (2003). The tale continues with a pub, within the same area, that took inspiration from the symbol of the elephant and called itself Elephant & Castle. The pub, since it was located in a busy area, became the meeting point of lots of traders and travellers that used it as a a place in which relax, eat and drink. Soon the whole area was named Elephant & Castle.

The end of this story consists in the transition of an area of ivory traders to an area in which is possible to develop, nowadays, communicative, artistic and design skills.

This can be possible because of the many resources Elephant & Castle is provided, as London College of CommunicationSouth Bank University, and an interesting radical bookshop/archive named 56a.


By googling ‘Elephant man’ you can find a curious story about an English gentleman, Joseph Merrick, whose face was characterised by severe deformities to be dubbed the Elephant Man.

These deformities led him to become famous all over London, being exhibited as a freakshow in the back of an empty shop in Whitechapel Road.

Since the shop was just in front of the Royal London Hospital, the man was an attraction for many medical students and doctors.

One day Merrick was noticed by Doc Frederick Treves who, after analysing him at the Royal London Hospital, helped him to increase his speech and social relationships. But in a few years his deformities continued to grow until he died of asphyxia at the age of 27.

In the second half of the 20th century, Merrick’s story inspired of several works as David Lynch’s 1980 film Elephant Man.


Both stories are simple glimpses of ordinary life that became extraordinary thanks to the resourcefulness, the dedication, the hassle, the shame, and the brutality, of people who made of London the centre of the absurd, innovation, and change.




Sciencemuseum.org.uk. (n.d.). Joseph Carey Merrick – the ‘Elephant Man’ (1862-90). [online] Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/josephmerrick [Accessed 16 May 2016].



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