Friday, 20 September 2013

Goodbye To A White Elephant!

That's it then. It has been announced that the Elephant & Castle shopping centre is going to be bulldozed.

I shall shed no tears for it, I always regarded it as a carbunkle.

Having said that, the small street market outside has a vibrance all of its own, and I am sure that many locals will miss that. But with the ancient & exciting East Street market just a few minutes walk away I think they will get over it.

The appalling Heygate Estate, which sat alongside the centre, was emptied a long time ago. It really was the ugliest of places, and I felt sorry for the people who had to live there. It was also the home of every type of social problem one could imagine, and quite a few that caught the rest of us by surprise.

The area actually has an interesting past. It was home to Newington Butts, where many years ago archers would practice. There is actually some controversey about this, as there is no definitive record of the area being used for this purpose, but references to it go back to the 18th century. I personally do not doubt that it is true.

If you are in the area, its worth a stroll around. Charlie Chaplin and Michael Faraday were born in the area, Michael Caine grew up there (although he was born at St Olaves in Rotherhithe). Until recently, Mad Frankie Fraser could often be seen strolling around the area. I understand he lives in a nursing home in nearby Peckham now.

Opposite the Imperial War Museum a blue plaque marks the former home of Captain Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. The Lambeth Walk is a mess now, its hard to imagine that it was once the centre of a bustling cockney community.

An interesting anecdote that I will share with you now.....

About 15 years ago I was coming out of St George's Cathedral, having been to a wedding there. Crossing the road, heading towards the IWM, out of the corner of my eye I saw a trolley bus bearing down on me. To say I leapt out of my skin is an understatement. I never moved so fast.

But there are no trolley buses in London any more.

A little while later, I learned something very interesting. St George's circus, where I was crossing the road, used to be the turning round point for trolley buses. I never knew that.

I have often wondered what I saw. Spooky......

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