Lurking on a side street just off the Old Kent Road is a curious relic of two Cold Wars, one between mighty governments and one between a single man and the local council.

Soviet Tank in South London

A small plot of land is owned by Russell Gray, and allegedly, he wanted permission to build a home on it. But the council disagreed.

In a fit of pique, he submitted a second planning application for the installation of a small tank on the site. The council, understandably presuming this to be a storage tank of some sort agreed.

And ever since, a former Soviet era T34 military tank has been parked on the land.

I can’t prove the story, as the Southwark council website planning applications only go as far back as 2005, and frankly I wasn’t motivated to wander over to the HQ to trawl through the paper records. However, Southwark Council once told the Evening Standard that they can’t find any record of such a planning application being filed — which I put down to a mixture of lost paperwork and someone being very annoyed at the council.

I would have checked with the Land Registry, but they’ve deleted my account for some reason, and the system wouldn’t let me open a new account. Humpf!

Soviet Tank in South London

Legend has it that the tank turret points at Southwark Council head office, although as it is mobile and can be turned around, that seems to be more occasional whim than design. More accurately, the tank was used in the filming of Ian McKellen’s modern interpretation of Richard III, and more sadly was used during the 1968 put down of students in Czechoslovakia.

Today it is a popular target for graffiti artists and a symbol that a cold war is ongoing between one man and a council. The tank can be found by Mandela Way, much of which happens to be owned by The Queen, in the guise of the Duke of Lancaster.

Soviet Tank in South London

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8 comments on “A Soviet Tank in South London
  1. Philip says:

    I am told by my dad that one tank owner in south london used to keep his tanked parked outside a police station. Since it was taxed and insured, and he paid the parking fines, there wasn’t much they could do about it – let alone tow it!

  2. Lesley McFadyen says:

    I thought I remembered seeing a pink tank from the bus between East Dulwich and Brixton, possibly Effra Rd,over 20 years ago?

    • Rob says:

      I remember that one . It was usually parked in Acre Lane, he would sometimes drive it up to County Hall or the Houses of Parliament and it had a giant inflatable pig on it

  3. Gingle says:

    I had this on my List for a while and crossed it off last year (?). I made some of my friends traipse out there with me, and much to my surprise they were delighted with it. Well worth venturing into the slightly offputting surroundings.

  4. Mike Jordan says:

    I don’t know if it is still there but there was a complete tank at the far end of the alley up beside the old Angel Station off City Road – Torrens street.
    It can be seen on Google streetview

    • Ian japp says:

      Abbott SP gun .. outside Slimelight Club .. looks exactly like a tank .. NATO mobile artillery from 60s and early 70s .. has 105mm gun way too small AND light to stop Warsaw Pact ..

  5. John Mac says:

    Hi Mike, it is still there – I just checked 🙂

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