Stompie: The Bermondsey T-34 Soviet Tank

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

For a moment of levity today, we thought we’d introduce you to one of our area’s slightly more unusual attractions. You won’t find this on many tourist “must-see” lists, but if you’re out for a stroll in SE1 it’s worth a quick glance, if nothing else than for the sheer absurdity of it. Yes, we’re talking about Stompie. The story goes that in the mid-90’s local businessman Russell Gray was repeatedly denied planning permissions to develop a vacant lot he owned on Mandela Way. We work with a lot of developers, so are not strangers to tales of frustration and sometimes even outrage after failed planning attempts. Usually these tales either end in re-submitting with a successful outcome, or walking away with one more council-induced chip on their shoulder. This particular developer wasn’t satisfied with either of these options. Cue Stompie.

A T-34 Military Tank said to have been used by the Czech military in the late 60s, it was decommissioned and turned into a cinema prop before being purchased by Mr. Gray as a gift to his son.  Of course, not many people in central London would have a facility to store a military grade tank. Fortunately for Mr. Gray, he had just the place for it. Stompie landed on Mandela Way in 1995, and has been a fixture there ever since. We were surprised to learn how long this feature had lasted. It seems obvious that the Council wouldn’t approve a Tank over a residential development. That’s our favourite part….the council did in fact approve the structure of a “tank”. It is thought that the application to install a tank on the property was understood to be a “septic tank”.  With it’s turret facing the council offices, Stompie has stood for almost 25 years as a great big middle finger to the powers that rejected one man’s planning proposal. Though surely not everyone is a fan of the aesthetic value of Stompie, there is something to be appreciated in the creativity of the scheme.  Stompie regularly gets re-painted, sometimes by graffiti artists, sometimes with messages of protest, and sometimes probably just for the hell of it. The plot of land that hosts Stompie has been turned into a community allotment. The garden was lovingly redeveloped in 2018, fully embracing the Tank as an important Bermondsey icon. Stop by and see what look Stompie is looking like these days. 

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