Friday, September 29, 2006
The Elephant & Castle
It may be an urban legend, but I have often heard an amusing account of the origin of the name for the large junction just down the road from St George's Cathedral, Southwark. It is called the Elephant and Castle, and if you look carefully enough, just before you hit the congestion charging zone, you may well see an emblem of an elephant supporting a castle tower.
If you happen to be reading this blog with a minimum knowledge of London geography you will have an idea of where the Elephant and Castle is situated. In fact, it sometimes feels as if all signposts south of the river want to direct you to it. However, if you've not been to London you may be suffering from a misapprehension. You may think the Elephant and Castle sounds like a nice place to visit: near a Catholic Cathedral, just down the road from the Imperial War Museum, not far from the London Eye... Please don't take the fact that it's mentioned here as a sign that it's worth a visit. It's not. It's a large road junction - well, two large road junctions actually. Pollution seems high and crime feels even higher and, oh yes, the buildings are pink!
So why mention the Elephant and Castle on this blog? Well because according to the urban legend, this is where the Infanta de Castilla lived when she was married to Henry VIII (boo!). Now your average 'sowf londoner' couldn't quite get his tongue round 'Infanta de Castilla' and so the place became known as the 'Elephant & Castle'. Simple really!
Why mention it on this blog? Well I could say that it is important for anyone applying to Southwark to have undergone a processs of inculturisation, and the be well-versed in local history and geography. I could say that. But I won't. The real reason is that I've just come back from holiday in Spain. While I was there I visited the rather magnificent Bishop's Palace in Alcala de Henares (see top photo). Round the corner was a square tower carrying this plaque which recalls the fact that Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, was born there. These days it is no longer used as the birthing chamber of Spanish infantas. Now it's a religious bookshop and I was there because the priest I was with needed to pick up some more hosts. Which just goes to prove that "If you've got a blog always take a camera"!