History of Andover’s The Elephant Inn

Following on from last week’s article on New Street, which included a mention of The Elephant Inn, this photograph by Charles Wardell shows it about to be demolished.

The inn sign that was sited between the two first floor windows can be seen on the pavement.

Between the lamp post and the building stands the inn sign of The Merrie Monk, a new hostelry that was built behind The Elephant at the entrance to the Corunna Main estate, popularly christened ‘Spanish-Town’ owing to its collective roads being named after Spanish towns and cities.

The actual junction of New Street with Corunna Main was not a new one and was an adjunct of Vigo Road in the 20th century, simply veering round in a dog-leg out to the main Vigo Road we know today.

Plainly, this arrangement was confusing and so this part was re-named St John’s Road in the mid-1930s, though all the houses still retained their old Vigo Road numbering (57-83) until at least the 1950s when they were changed to start at 1.

Today, all but one of the Vigo Road houses to the west of the junction with St John’s Road have been demolished but the historic quirk in the numbering still exists whereby No 55, on one side of St John’s Road is followed by No 85 on the other.

The name St John’s Road was a nod to the historic St John’s House of medieval New Street, first mentioned in 1247.

Principally it seems to have provided a resting place for pilgrims travelling the Harroway on their way to visit the tomb of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury.

Its site is thought to have been in the area of the present-day Northern Avenue Retail Park.

The row of thatched cottages that stood on this side of the inn was demolished in the 1930s but never replaced with houses.

The site became both a playing field for the New Street schools and a suitable space on which to build kitchens and a dining hall, the latter doubling up as a school hall when not required at lunch-time.

The back of the field also supported a line of air-raid shelters that still existed long after the war ended, and indeed were still in place until demolition of the primary school about 1967.

As to the Elephant Inn itself, Bert Earney, when he published his third edition of ‘Inns of Andover’, wrote with a nice play on words that ‘he never went into one of them – that one was The Elephant.’

On the day when he went to make some enquiries, it was closed ‘because burglars had broken in the night before and stolen all the beer’.

He added that ‘not long afterwards the pub was pulled down’.

Clearly, the date of demolition is the same date as this photograph but it must post-date the opening of The Merrie Monk next door which was December 1960.

It is likely that the rather archaic Elephant Inn was empty for a little while before that and The Merrie Monk was intended to replace it.

Despite there being four pubs in New Street at that time, the brand-new estate warranted brand-new premises to match.

Today’s New Street is vastly de-populated from that of former times and one by one each hostelry has closed.

The building that was The Bishop’s Blaize still stands but the others – The Pelican, The Blacksmith’s Arms and even The Merrie Monk have all sadly now gone.

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