The Elephant in the Room

Well, not really a room, more a district and a city. Let me explain.

When I visited Coventry last week I was surprised and intrigued to find representations of elephants.

A Line of Balancing Elephants

I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London. I’m used to references to elephants hereabouts. We have a magnificent one with a howdah on his back that adorns the delapidated shopping centre; there’s Elephant Cars based in Elephant Road; the Electric Elephant Café here in Walworth, offices in Hannibal House; Elefest, once our annual beano celebrating all things Elephant connected. But I was unaware of any pachyderm associations with Coventry, usually a city more renowned for its connections with Lady Godiva’s naked horse riding event. However, elephants there definitely were.

 

An Elephant in the Wall

There were even elephants and castles. Now the London Elephant and Castle takes its name from a pub, possibly on the site of a cutler’s. The sign of an an elephant with a howdah or castle on its back dates to centuries BC, but from mediaeval times the Cutlers’ Company in the City has used it as their symbol. Had this been Sheffield, famous for stainless steel and cutlery manufacture it would have made more sense.

The nice women in the tourist information centre at the twoer of the ruined cathedral enlightened me. Coventry is said to be built on the elphant’s back, and apparently there was once a castle here. OK, fair enough. But at the Council House things got more complicated.

The Council House

Look closely at the coat of arms and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll zoom in and crop that picture to help you.

Detail

Yes, not just an elephant and castle with three wonderful flags flying, but a cat on the top. a very big cat when you think about its proportions compared to the elephant. This bore further investigation. I went into the Council House and asked a member of staff. Her eyes widened. She had no idea, but helpfully oiked out a leaflet and we uncovered the truth:

The crest, or wild cat, is generally considered to symbolise watchfulness. The golden elephant, on its back a gold castle with three domed turrets, symbolises strength.

So there you have it. The figures above in the building are Lady Godiva and her husband Earl Leofric. But I am not going to zoom in to let you see more clearly if she is clothed or not. You can have this picture instead. See if you can spot some more elephants. I promise you they are there.

Full Glory

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6 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room

    • Did you not know? However, I see that my vropped picture didn’t post. Indeed I had all sorts of problems putting up this post as WordPress kept freezing. I think it’s sorted now. 🙂

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