The pachyderm and the dog-lover……..

Today we have reached the point on the London Road famous for both the concrete elephant and Kate Ward, better known as Camberley Kate.    Unfortunately I have no photo of Kate personally,  and her home, near to The Lamb, has been demolished, but this remaining house in the area is very similar in scale and age and the lady herself can be found on the BBC’s website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/surrey/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8211000/8211876.stm

First of all Kate, who was not Camberley born, but orphaned at the age of 10 and was brought up by a strict aunt in Middlesborough.  She may have come to the town to work at the RMC but by 1943 she was settled enough to buy her first house and adopt her first dog.  By the 1960s the number had grown to 30 and they were housed in the rear ground-floor room of her small house.  After Lord Snowdon filmed her walking the dogs on Barossa Common in October 1968 she was propelled into realms of celebrity,  even being interviewed by an American television journalist for NBC Evening News in November 1973.  She died, aged 84, in Kingclear Residential home, in 1979.

The concrete elephant, however, was born in Camberley – in a firm originally called Bates Concrete Manufacturing Co when it started in Yorktown in the early 1930s.  By the time it was bought by one of the UK’s largest construction companies, Trollope & Colls, in 1947, the company had also passed through the hands of,  I believe, the Eastwoods Group (who were makers of bricks and concrete).

In the November 1963 Lord Mayor’s Show, the Trollope & Colls float featured our local landmark, complete with a howdah on his back and a concrete pipe held in his trunk.  He was designed by the Surrey artist Barbara Jones who had produced work for both the 1947 Britian Can Make It exhibition and the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a film of the actual show, but this 1969 British Pathe film gives you some idea of the amount of time and money spent on the floats.  http://www.britishpathe.com/video/special-lord-mayors-show

By June 1964 the elephant had returned to Camberley and found a permanent home outside the works although I believe that he was moved one more time when the site was re-developed.  Since then he has had some attention from graffiti artists and even been given spots and festive Christmas antlers.  Most recently he was given a smart coat of new paint thanks to the attentions of local historian Ken Clarke and others.

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