Some thought of it as a South London icon, others a bright pink eyesore: either way, the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre has officially been pulled down.
The 55-year-old shopping centre, along with the 100-year-old Coronet next door, was demolished in favour of a £1 billion development, its trademark bright pink walls turned to rubble.
The patch of real estate just south of the river was long overlooked by property developers, allowing independent businesses to call a Zone 1 shopping centre home until 2020.
A shiny new ‘town centre’ complete with 979 new homes and 175,000 square foot of new shops, cafes and restaurants will take its place.
We asked our followers on the My South London Facebook page to share their memories of the iconic local landmark.
“Gutted,” wrote Laura Mac Crábhagáin. “My childhood has just had another physical chunk destroyed. Back in the day there was so much life and vibrancy ‘up the Elephant’. Plus, post-pink, it was trackable by NASA.”
Marie Marlene Jacques said, “End of an era. I’ve only been in the shopping centre a few times. Iconic place with the pink elephant statue.”
The one saving grace of the centre’s demolition is that the iconic pink elephant was removed before work began. The beloved pink statue will be displayed elsewhere in the local area.
‘I always said hello to the elephant’
Samantha Thornton remembers greeting the infamous pink mascot every time she visited.
“[I remember] walking there from Guy’s hospital and always saying hello to the elephant, and eating pizza at the best pizza restaurant in town, Pizzeria Castella.”
Jacqui Stuart looked back on the days when the Elephant was a South London shopping hub.
“In the 70s, Elephant & Castle was the only place you could buy sarsaparilla, all West Indians at the time had this in their cupboards,” she commented.
“My mum would send my sister and me to buy, we lived in North London, we would look out for the elephant. This was an adventure for us.”
Others recalled working in and around the centre.
“So sad to see it’s now being pulled down, said Michelle Johnson. “I worked at Rileys snooker hall in 2001. I met some lovely people there, Ruby’s nightclub we used to go to after a night shift. Good memories.”
‘My sister asked if the Queen lived there’
Harking back three decades, Helena Ferris recalled working in the centre, which she enjoyed despite the colourful characters.
“I used to work in Boots there. I was the dispenser from 1990 to Dec 1995 when I left to have my baby,” she said.
“I remember working with a young lad called Danny and a couple of girls called Wendy and Inga. I used to chase the junky shoplifters away. Loved it there even though the journey was awful from where I lived in Croydon.”
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Tracy Angelo said, “When my sister was a little girl we drove passed & she asked if the Queen lived there.”
While the building might not have been fit for royalty, it was certainly a beloved South London icon.
What are your favourite memories of the shopping centre? Let us know in the comments here.