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Visiting the 1861 Metropolitan (Spurgeon's) Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle, London, England: By William W. Pocock

Updated on May 15, 2020
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle SE1
Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle SE1 | Source

A building identified with strong expression: in stone and verbally

[NB: Among the many notable buildings which are the subject of these hubpages, these may include religious buildings, described as churches, etc.; these descriptions centre on the buildings' architectural and historical interest. This visit occurred a number of years ago.]

Dating from 1861, at Elephant and Castle, London, SE1 is the Neoclassical-style Metropolitan Tabernacle, sometimes referred to as Spurgeon's Tabernacle. Its architect was William W. Pocock (1813-1899) (1), who, with his father William F. Pocock (1779-1849), also an architect, was closely identified with City of London livery companies.

The building's large pillared portico and pediment make it highly conspicuous at its Southwark site. Its prominent cornice matches the lines of the pediment. Originally Architect Pocock's design includes four towers which, however, were never built (see design photo, below). During World War Two the Tabernacle suffered bomb damage; in the 1950s the structure was extensively rebuilt. In recent years, the frontage of stonework at Tabernacle has undergone a program of cleaning.

At least superficially at the building I am reminded of William Wilkins's design for Downing College, Cambridge.

Over the century and a half of the Tabernacle's existence, some of the ministers at the Tabernacle have been long-serving. The complex today includes a well patronized bookroom and a school of theology.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle was the ministerial base of C. H. Spurgeon (1838-1892), whose published writings and hymns are still read and sung worldwide. It should be remembered that his voluminous writings were nearly all first presented orally, subsequently transcribed and printed. Indeed, C. H. Spurgeon, who was baptist in outlook, has often been known informally as the Prince of Preachers. It would be fair to say that the impact of his sermons depended less on his eloquence than upon his widely remarked ability to apply Scripture in an immediate and warm way to a large variety of audiences and readers. C. H. Spurgeon's original publisher was Passmore and Alabaster; over many years large portions of his writings have especially been reproduced in North America.

Interestingly, Architect Pocock, who was 25 years senior to the minister whose name came sometimes to be applied to one of the well known buildings for which he was responsible, outlived C. H. Spurgeon by several years, dying in 1899 at the age of 86.

May 13, 2020


(1) Other works by Architect Pocock include Carpenter's Hall, London; and indeed the architect himself became Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. He is also known for a treatise on Chertsey Abbey. (See also: ).

William W. Pocock's father, William F. Pocock (1779-1849) was also an architect, notably designing the Leathersellers' Company Hall, London, Hornsey Abbey and other works, and was the author of various architectural treatises. (See also:,_William_Fuller_(DNB00) )

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Original plans for the Metropolitan Tabernacle, with 4 towers
Original plans for the Metropolitan Tabernacle, with 4 towers | Source

Also worth seeing

At Elephant and Caslte itself may be seen: the 'Elephant and Castle' statue at the Underground Station of the same name, (a corruption of 'Infanta of Castille', the name of a licensed establishment popular with veterans of the Peninsular War); at 103 Borough Road is the Borough Gallery of art, housed at London South Bank University.

The Southbank Centre (distance from Elephant and Castle: 1.2 miles / 2 kilometres) is comprised by the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Room and the National Poetry Library.

Imperial War Museums, Lambeth Road, Southwark site (distance: 0.4 miles / 0.7 kilometres), a leading world historical resource on the history of warfare.

Southwark Cathedral (distance: 1 miles / 1.6 kilometres), Gothic and Gothic Revival structure dating from between the 11th and 19th centuries.

Tate Modern, Bankside (distance: 1.1 miles / 1.8 kilometres), Great Britain's national gallery of international modern art.

Central London has such huge numbers of visitor attractions that I will refer to only a small fraction of the principal ones; these include: Trafalgar Square; the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster; Westminster Abbey (where Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married); St. Paul's Cathedral; the Royal Albert Hall; and so many others.


How to get there

United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Underground and train services link Heathrow Airport with Central London. Elephant and Castle Underground Station is on the Bakerloo and Northern lines. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

Map location of the London Borough of Southwark, shown (in red) within Greater London.
Map location of the London Borough of Southwark, shown (in red) within Greater London. | Source

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