The Elephant

The Elephant was located in the ward of Southwark, south of the Thames and west of the London Bridge. It was part of a row of twelve licensed brothels or stewhouses along Bankside that reopened after Henry VII closed them for a season in 1506 (Stow 2:55). It is not located on the Agas map.
The Elephant is alternatively known as the Olyphaunt, the Oliphant, the Olyphante, and the Olyphant. Although the Elephant’s exact location is unknown within the row of Bankside stews, E.J. Burford looks to the Token Books for the parish of 1598 to suggest that it was located in between the Hart (a brothel) and the Horseshoe (an inn), and next to Elephant Alley (Burford 150-151). Much later in his 1720 additions to Stow’s Survey of London, John Strype describes Elephant Alley as a narrow dirty Passage into Maiden Lane, having only a Brewhouse in it (Strype). Brothels, inns, and brewhouses were often conflated in early modern London, due to the presence of disreputable people engaging in illicit activities, so it is possible that the brewhouse to which Strype refers in his Survey of London is indeed The Elephant, serving as a brothel, inn, brewhouse, or any combination of the three.
John Stow’s Survey of London makes no specific mention of the Elephant or any of its name variants, instead listing the Boares heade, the Crosse keyes, the Gunne, the Castle, the Crane, the Cardinals Hat, the Bel, the Swanne &c (Stow 2:55). It is possible that The Elephant was contained in the &c that Stow uses to refer to the unnamed brothels numbering as many as twelve.
Shakespeare mentions a lodging house called The Elephant in Twelfth Night in a conversation between Antonio and Sebastian: In the south suburbs at the Elephant, / Is best to lodge (Shakespeare 3.3.1508-1509). Twelfth Night is set in Illyria rather than London, but Shakespeare could be using a local establishment to generate a world that would be somewhat familiar to his audience watching the performance in the playhouses of Southwark. Although the lodging house in the Twelfth Night is not described as a brothel, Yu Jin Ko proposes that The Elephant in Illyria is similar to the Bankside brothel in more than just name. Ko comments on the arch insinuation in Antonio’s remark (Ko 71) when he gives Sebastian his purse should his eye light upon some toy (Shakespeare 3.4.48). Given that references to prostitution often used the language of commodities, it is possible that the toy to which Antonio refers is a prostitute.


Cite this page

MLA citation

Allison, Emily. The Elephant. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Allison, Emily. The Elephant. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Allison, E. 2022. The Elephant. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Allison, Emily
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - The Elephant
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#ALLI3"><surname>Allison</surname>, <forename>Emily</forename></name></author>. <title level="a">The Elephant</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>7.0</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2022-05-05">05 May 2022</date>, <ref target=""></ref>.</bibl>



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