Monday, May 19, 2008

Margate's Mechanical Elephant

I'm indebted to Philip Page, proprietor of the splendid Bling Bling Bling jewellery and piercing emporium on Margate's lower high street, for his excellent research in finding this clip.

If you've ever wondered why there's a pub on Margate front called The Mechanical Elephant, it's because Margate used to boast a, er, mechanical elephant. Here it is in its full, petrol-propelled pachydermic glory on a 50s Pathè newsreel (complete with clipped tone commentary), trundling up and down the prom:



Astonishingly Britain used to lead the world in the production of mechanical elephants. This one was later sold to the late, great, dearly-departed Peter Sellers as part of his eccentric collection of automobilia.

The location appears to be the Rendezvous car park area, where the Ike and Tina Turner Centre is planned. Perhaps fittingly, many cynics have already described the proposed art gallery in elephantine terms, by the expedient of merely substituting the adjective 'white' for 'mechanical'.

Update: Talking of the Turnip, I see TC director Victoria Pomery recently gave an in-depth interview about the whole debacle to Building Design. Click here to read on.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

For anyone who recalls true British motor engineering at its best if you look closely at the footage you can see it's already dripping oil!

Ian J said...

Eek! that caused a flash back!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the road from the Clock Tower to High Street nicknamed Elephant Hill?

Tony Beachcomber said...

Yes annon 6:30, opposite Boots on the corner once stood the Elephant pub. One of many pubs that disappeared years ago that cannot be blamed on the smoking ban.

Anonymous said...

27 mph! imagine trying that today... great clip and full marks to Mr Page for hunting down that clip.

Anonymous said...

What would health and safety have to say these days eh? It would be a non starter.

Michael Child said...

Not to be confused with the elephant and castle which is an English corruption of enfant de Castile

Margate Architecture said...

Woop! Woop! Thanks Mr Rich and thanks Mr Bling for posting something marvelous fromm Margate's past. I've always said they should bring back more of Margate's marvellous heritage. Brilliant find.

Anonymous said...

Please bring it back as soon as possible it looks great fun . what with the Ramsgate midgets I think we could have a success on our hands in Thanet's revival.
At 27miles per hour even our most experienced arsonists would have a problem torching it, although I am sure they would rise to the challenge. I noticed it did not have tusks had they already been pinched ?

Anonymous said...

Reading the update of the interview with Victoria Pomery about the Turner was interesting.
You do not have to read between the lines very hard to see that she thinks the councillors both local and county are a bunch of morons, and that the new design is mediocre, and has nothing to do with its location. I loved the line about the pitched roof, why not say it has windows and buildings in Margate have windows so it is heavily influenced by the architecture of Margate.
Any interesting iconic building usually has a difficult birth, think of the Dell a Warr Pavillion in Bexhill or the Sydney Opera House both were derided at the time but are now vital to the image of both places. The new design is dull but I guess it can be turned into a Primark with the minimum of effort

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Grifta said...

Im not sure of the relevance, or any at all, but the city of Margate in New Jersey also have an elephant. I was wondering if there was any connection at all? I have emailed their city library for help, but dont know if anyone here has any info on any links between the two Margates. Link is

http://www.margatelibrary.org/margatehistory.asp

cheers