A common folk yarn is that the name of The Elephant and Castle comes from an Infanta di Castille, a Spanish princess, who arrived to marry an English king, and who rested on the south of the Thames before venturing over to meet her intended.
This particular establishment remains one of the most attractive urban pubs in Yorkshire – however it got its name – with an unspoiled late Victorian frontage of polished terracotta tiles. Inside, little has changed, the place is a warren of snugs and bars, with bed-and-breakfast – handy for anyone stranded late at night on Wakefield Westgate station, just across the road.
And, if you want a pint of John Smiths, Timothy Taylor’s or Black Sheep (two of which went down rather nicely the other afternoon) as you wait for a train, you couldn’t be in a better place. There are bar snacks, a good-sized pool table, and lots of period details survive – like the original brass elephant heads that hold up the bar rail (burnished to a gleam) and the ornate Victorian Britannia tables, which must have been here since day one, since they carry the name of the maker, Lund and Reynolds, Bar Fitters, Keighley. Putting your pint on these wonderful lumps of cast iron furniture is a solid assurance that it will be safe – unlike the rickety plywood in more modern places.
It just adds to the Elephant’s confidence, which seems to be saying, “Look, we’ve been here for well over a century, and we’re going to be here for another – and more.” Regulars mix with passing punters.
Outside seating (for dedicated smokers) seems too close to the main road, but then a few whiffs of exhaust with the nicotine can’t do much more harm, can they? Better stay inside, ciggie-free, and relish the olde-worlde-ness of it all. Let time slip by – inside a living relic of an almost-vanished age.
The Elephant and Castle, 109 Westgate, Wakefield WF1 1EW. 0871 951 1000.