Piccadilly Circus

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Piccadilly Circus
Open Happiness Piccadilly Circus Blue-Pink Hour 120917-1126-jikatu.jpg
Piccadilly Circus in 2012
Location
London, United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′36″N0°8′4″W / 51.51000°N 0.13444°W / 51.51000; -0.13444 Coordinates: 51°30′36″N0°8′4″W / 51.51000°N 0.13444°W / 51.51000; -0.13444
Roads at
junction
Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, The Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street
Construction
TypeRoad junction
Opened1819

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning "circle", is a round open space at a street junction. [1]

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

West End of London Area of Central London, England

The West End of London refers to a distinct region of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated.

City of Westminster City and borough in London

The City of Westminster is an Inner London borough that also holds city status. It occupies much of the central area of Greater London including most of the West End. Historically in Middlesex, it is to the west of the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary is the River Thames. The London borough was created with the 1965 establishment of Greater London. Upon its creation, it inherited the city status previously held by the smaller Metropolitan Borough of Westminster from 1900, which was first awarded to Westminster in 1540.

Contents

Piccadilly now links directly to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue, as well as the Haymarket, Coventry Street (onwards to Leicester Square) and Glasshouse Street. The Circus is close to major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End. Its status as a major traffic junction has made Piccadilly Circus a busy meeting place and a tourist attraction in its own right. The Circus is particularly known for its video display and neon signs mounted on the corner building on the northern side, as well as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue, which is popularly, though mistakenly, believed to be of Eros. It is surrounded by several notable buildings, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Directly underneath the plaza is Piccadilly Circus Underground station, part of the London Underground system.

Shaftesbury Avenue major street in the West End of London

Shaftesbury Avenue is a major street in the West End of London, named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. It runs north-easterly from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. From Piccadilly Circus to Cambridge Circus, it is in the City of Westminster, and from Cambridge Circus to New Oxford Street, it is in the London Borough of Camden.

Coventry Street London street, within the City of Westminster

Coventry Street is a short street in the West End of London, connecting Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. Part of the street is a section of the A4, a major road through London. It is named after the politician Henry Coventry, secretary of state to Charles II.

Leicester Square square in London, United Kingdom

Leicester Square is a pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England. It was laid out in 1670 and is named after the contemporary Leicester House, itself named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester.

History

Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with a view towards Leicester Square via Coventry Street. London Pavilion is on the left, and Criterion Theatre on the right. Piccadillycircus1896.gif
Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with a view towards Leicester Square via Coventry Street. London Pavilion is on the left, and Criterion Theatre on the right.
London's Piccadilly Circus in 1908 Piccadilly Circus 1908.jpg
London’s Piccadilly Circus in 1908
Piccadilly Circus in 1949 London , Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield.jpg
Piccadilly Circus in 1949
Piccadilly Circus in 1962 Piccadilly Circus in London 1962 Brighter.jpg
Piccadilly Circus in 1962
Signs in 1992 Piccadilly circus 1992 07.jpg
Signs in 1992
Piccadilly Circus in 1970 Photography by Victor Albert Grigas (1919-2017) Istanbul to London 3-70 March 1970 00387 (47702143251).jpg
Piccadilly Circus in 1970
Piccadilly Circus in 2016 Picadilly Circus in 2016.jpg
Piccadilly Circus in 2016

Piccadilly Circus connects to Piccadilly, a thoroughfare whose name first appeared in 1626 as Piccadilly Hall, named after a house belonging to one Robert Baker, a tailor famous for selling piccadills, or piccadillies, a term used for various kinds of collars. The street was known as Portugal Street in 1692 in honour of Catherine of Braganza, the queen consort of King Charles II but was known as Piccadilly by 1743. Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the junction with Regent Street, which was then being built under the planning of John Nash on the site of a house and garden belonging to a Lady Hutton. Around 1858 it was briefly known as Regent's Circus. [3] The circus lost its circular form in 1886 with the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue.

Piccadilly road in the City of Westminster, London, England

Piccadilly is a road in the City of Westminster, London to the south of Mayfair, between Hyde Park Corner in the west and Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is part of the A4 road that connects central London to Hammersmith, Earl's Court, Heathrow Airport and the M4 motorway westward. St James's is to the south of the eastern section, while the western section is built up only on the northern side. Piccadilly is just under 1 mile (1.6 km) in length, and is one of the widest and straightest streets in central London.

Collar (clothing) shaped neckwear that fastens around or frames the neck, either attached to a garment or as a separate accessory

In clothing, a collar is the part of a shirt, dress, coat or blouse that fastens around or frames the neck. Among clothing construction professionals, a collar is differentiated from other necklines such as revers and lapels, by being made from a separate piece of fabric, rather than a folded or cut part of the same piece of fabric used for the main body of the garment.

Catherine of Braganza Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland

Catherine of Braganza was queen consort of England, of Scotland and of Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II. She was the daughter of King John IV, who became the first king of Portugal from the House of Braganza in 1640 after overthrowing the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs over Portugal. Catherine served as regent of Portugal during the absence of her brother in 1701 and during 1704–1705, after her return to her homeland as a widow.

The junction has been a very busy traffic interchange since construction, as it lies at the centre of Theatreland and handles exit traffic from Piccadilly, which Charles Dickens Jr. described in 1879: "Piccadilly, the great thoroughfare leading from the Haymarket and Regent-street westward to Hyde Park-corner, is the nearest approach to the Parisian boulevard of which London can boast."

Charles Dickens Jr. son of Victorian-era novelist Charles Dickens

Charles Culliford Boz Dickens was the first child of the English novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine. A failed businessman, he became the editor of his father's magazine All the Year Round, and a successful writer of dictionaries. He is now most remembered for his two 1879 books Dickens's Dictionary of London and Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames.

Regent Street Shopping street in London

Regent Street is a major shopping street in the West End of London. It is named after George, the Prince Regent and was laid out under the direction of the architect John Nash and James Burton. It runs from Waterloo Place in St James's at the southern end, through Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, to All Souls Church. From there Langham Place and Portland Place continue the route to Regent's Park.

Hyde Park Corner place in London

Hyde Park Corner is an area in London, England, located around a major road junction at the southeastern corner of Hyde Park, that was designed by Decimus Burton. Six streets converge at the junction: Park Lane, Piccadilly (northeast), Constitution Hill (southeast), Grosvenor Place (south), Grosvenor Crescent (southwest) and Knightsbridge (west). Hyde Park Corner tube station, a London Underground station served by the Piccadilly line, is located at the junction, as are a number of notable monuments. Immediately to the north of the junction is Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington; several monuments to the Duke were erected in the vicinity, both in his lifetime and subsequently.

Piccadilly Circus station was opened on 10 March 1906, on the Bakerloo line, and on the Piccadilly line in December of that year. In 1928, the station was extensively rebuilt to handle an increase in traffic. The junction's first electric advertisements appeared in 1910, and, from 1923, electric billboards were set up on the façade of the London Pavilion. Traffic lights were first installed on 3 August 1926.

Piccadilly line London Underground line

The Piccadilly line is a London Underground line that runs between Cockfosters in suburban north London and Acton Town in the west, where it divides into two branches: one of these runs to Heathrow Airport and the other to Uxbridge in northwest London, with some services terminating at Rayners Lane.

London Pavilion building on Piccadilly Circus, London

The London Pavilion is a building on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street on the north-east side of Piccadilly Circus in London. It is currently a shopping arcade and part of the Trocadero Centre.

During World War II many servicemen's clubs in the West End served American soldiers based in Britain. So many prostitutes roamed the area approaching the soldiers that they received the nickname "Piccadilly Commandos", and both Scotland Yard and the Foreign Office discussed possible damage to Anglo-American relations. [4]

Scotland Yard Headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, London

Scotland Yard is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London.

At the start of the 1960s, it was determined that the Circus needed to be redeveloped to allow for greater traffic flow. In 1962, Lord Holford presented a plan which would have created a "double-decker" Piccadilly Circus; the upper deck would have been an elevated pedestrian concourse linking the buildings around the perimeter of the Circus, with the lower deck being solely for traffic, most of the ground-level pedestrian areas having been removed to allow for greater vehicle flow. This concept was kept alive throughout the rest of the 1960s. A final scheme in 1972 proposed three octagonal towers (the highest 240 feet (73 m) tall) to replace the Trocadero, the Criterion and the "Monico" buildings. [5] The plans were permanently rejected by Sir Keith Joseph and Ernest Marples; the key reason given was that Holford's scheme only allowed for a 20% increase in traffic, and the Government required 50%.

The Holford plan is referenced in the short-form documentary film "Goodbye, Piccadilly", produced by the Rank Organisation in 1967 as part of their Look at Life series when it was still seriously expected that Holford's recommendations would be acted upon. Piccadilly Circus has since escaped major redevelopment, apart from extensive ground-level pedestrianisation around its south side in the 1980s.

The Circus has been targeted by Irish republican terrorists multiple times. On 24 June 1939 an explosion occurred, though no injuries were caused. [6] On 25 November 1974 a bomb injured 16 people. [7] A 2 lb bomb exploded on 6 October 1992, injuring five people. [8]

The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus was erected in 1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. During the Second World War, the statue atop the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was removed and was replaced by advertising hoardings. It was returned in 1948. When the Circus underwent reconstruction work in the late 1980s, the entire fountain was moved from the centre of the junction at the beginning of Shaftesbury Avenue to its present position at the southwestern corner.

Location and sights

Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by several major tourist attractions, including the Shaftesbury Memorial, Criterion Theatre, London Pavilion and several major retail stores. Numerous nightclubs, restaurants and bars are located in the area and neighbouring Soho, including the former Chinawhite club.

Panorama of Piccadilly Circus in 2015 from the southern side in front of Lillywhites Piccadilly Circus Dawn BLS.jpg
Panorama of Piccadilly Circus in 2015 from the southern side in front of Lillywhites

Illuminated signs

Illuminated signs of Piccadilly Circus at dawn, 2014 MK17684 Piccadilly Circus.jpg
Illuminated signs of Piccadilly Circus at dawn, 2014
The Ballet of Change: Piccadilly Circus screening on the Coca-Cola Billboard, 2007 The Ballet of Change- Piccadilly Circus, London.jpg
The Ballet of Change: Piccadilly Circus screening on the Coca-Cola Billboard, 2007

Piccadilly Circus was surrounded by illuminated advertising hoardings on buildings, starting in 1908 with a Perrier sign, [9] but only one building now carries them, the one in the northwestern corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street. The site is unnamed (usually referred to as "Monico" after the Café Monico, which used to be on the site); its addresses are 44/48 Regent Street, 1/6 Sherwood Street, 17/22 Denman Street and 1/17 Shaftesbury Avenue, and it has been owned by property investor Land Securities Group since the 1970s.

The earliest signs used incandescent light bulbs; these were replaced with neon lights and with moving signs (there was a large Guinness clock at one time). The first Neon sign was for the British meat extract Bovril. [10] From December 1998, digital projectors were used for the Coke sign, the square's first digital billboard, [11] while in the 2000s there was a gradual move to LED displays, which completely replaced neon lamps by 2011. The number of signs has reduced over the years as the rental costs have increased, and in January 2017 the six remaining advertising screens were switched off as part of their combination into one large ultra-high definition curved Daktronics display, turning the signs off during renovation for the longest time since the 1940s. On 26 October 2017, the new screen was switched on for the first time. [12]

Until the 2017 refurbishment, the site had six LED advertising screens above three large retail units facing Piccadilly Circus on the north side, occupied by Boots, Gap and a mix of smaller retail, restaurant and office premises fronting the other streets. A Burger King located under the Samsung advert, which had been a Wimpy Bar until 1989, closed in early 2008 and was converted into a Barclays Bank.

On special occasions the lights are switched off, such as the deaths of Winston Churchill in 1965 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. On 21 June 2007, they were switched off for one hour as part of the Lights Out London campaign. [21]

Other companies and brands that have had signs on the site were Bovril, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Wrigley's Spearmint, Skol, Air India and Gold Flake (as Will's Gold Flake Cigarettes). [22]

Shaftesbury Memorial and the statue of Anteros

Tourists sitting on the steps of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain Statue of Eros.jpg
Tourists sitting on the steps of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain

At the southeastern side of the Circus, moved after World War II from its original position in the centre, stands the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian politician, philanthropist and social reformer. The subject of the Memorial is the Greek god Anteros and was given the name The Angel of Christian Charity but is generally mistaken for his brother Eros. [23]

Criterion Theatre

The Criterion Theatre, a Grade II* listed building, stands on the south side of Piccadilly Circus. Apart from the box office area, the entire theatre, with nearly 600 seats, is underground and is reached by descending a tiled stairway. Columns are used to support both the dress circle and the upper circle, restricting the views of many of the seats inside.

The theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and opened as a theatre on 21 March 1874, although original plans were for it to become a concert hall. In 1883, it was forced to close to improve ventilation and to replace gaslights with electric lights and was reopened the following year. The theatre closed in 1989 and was extensively renovated, reopening in October 1992.

London Pavilion

On the northeastern side of Piccadilly Circus, on the corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street, is the London Pavilion. The first building bearing the name was built in 1859 and was a music hall. In 1885, Shaftesbury Avenue was built through the former site of the Pavilion, and a new London Pavilion was constructed, which also served as a music hall. In 1924 electric billboards were erected on the side of the building.

Facade of the London Pavilion in 2002 London-pavilion-facade.jpg
Facade of the London Pavilion in 2002

In 1934, the building underwent significant structural alteration and was converted into a cinema. In 1986, the building was rebuilt, preserving the 1885 facade, and converted into a shopping arcade. In 2000, the building was connected to the neighbouring Trocadero Centre, and signage on the building was altered in 2003 to read "London Trocadero". The basement of the building connects with the Underground station.

Major shops

The former Swan & Edgar department store on the west side of the circus between Piccadilly and Regent Street was built in 1928–29 to a design by Reginald Blomfield. [24] Since the closure of the department store in the early 1980s, the building has been successively the flagship London store of music chains Tower Records, Virgin Megastore and Zavvi. The current occupier is clothing brand The Sting.

Lillywhites is a major retailer of sporting goods located on the corner of the circus and Lower Regent Street, next to the Shaftesbury fountain. It moved to its present site in 1925. Lillywhites is popular with tourists, and they regularly offer sale items, including international football jerseys up to 90% off. Nearby Fortnum & Mason is often considered to be part of the Piccadilly Circus shopping area and is known for its expansive food hall. [25]

Underground station and the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines

Inside Piccadilly Circus tube station Piccadillycircus tube station.jpg
Inside Piccadilly Circus tube station

The Piccadilly Circus station on the London Underground is located directly beneath Piccadilly Circus itself, with entrances at every corner. It is one of the few stations which have no associated buildings above ground and is fully underground. The below ground concourse and subway entrances are Grade II listed. [26]

The station is on the Piccadilly line between Green Park and Leicester Square, and the Bakerloo line between Charing Cross and Oxford Circus.

Demonstrations

The Circus' status as a high-profile public space has made it the destination for numerous political demonstrations, including the February 15, 2003 anti-war protest [27] and the "Carnival Against Capitalism" protest against the 39th G8 summit in 2013. [28]

The phrase it's like Piccadilly Circus is commonly used in the UK to refer to a place or situation which is extremely busy with people. It has been said that a person who stays long enough at Piccadilly Circus will eventually bump into everyone they know. Probably because of this connection, during World War II, "Piccadilly Circus" was the code name given to the Allies' D-Day invasion fleet's assembly location in the English Channel. [29]

Piccadilly Circus has inspired artists and musicians. Piccadilly Circus (1912) is the name and subject of a painting by British artist Charles Ginner, part of the Tate Britain collection. Sculptor Paul McCarthy also has a 320-page two-volume edition of video stills by the name of Piccadilly Circus. Bob Marley mentioned Piccadilly Circus in his song "Kinky Reggae", on the Catch a Fire album from 1973.

L. S. Lowry R.A painting Piccadilly Circus, London (1960), part of Lord Charles Forte's collection for almost three decades, [30] sold for £5,641,250 when auctioned for the first time at Christie's 20th Century British & Irish Art sale on 16 November 2011. [31] Contemporary British painter Carl Randall's painting 'Piccadilly Circus' (2017) is a large monochrome canvas depicting the area at night with crowds, the making of which involved painting over 70 portraits from life. [32] [33] [34]

See also

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References

Notes

  1. "circus", Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition 1989
  2. Tom (16 September 2015). "Great Photo of London's Piccadilly Circus in 1908". Cool Old Photos. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  3. Rammell’s 1858 map of original Pneumatic Despatch Railway routes and terminii (Credit: Royal Mail Group Ltd. 2013), 1858, retrieved 13 April 2015
  4. Tweedie, Neil (1 November 2005). "How our Piccadilly Commandos had the GIs surrounded". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  5. Pevsner & Cherry 1973, p. 756.
  6. "Toilet attendant saved London from IRA bomb". The Guardian . 4 February 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  7. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch74.htm#Nov
  8. "Two bombs bring chaos to London". The Independent . 8 October 1992. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  9. "The rebuilding of Piccadilly Circus and the Regent Street Quadrant". British History Online. London County Council. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  10. "Piccadilly Lights: A timeline". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  11. "Piccadilly shows sign of the times". BBC News. 16 December 1998.
  12. "Piccadilly Circus lights to be switched off for revamp". BBC News. 8 December 2016.
  13. Mark Sinclair (24 June 2011). "The making of a Coca-Cola neon sign, 1954". Creative Review. Archived from the original on 20 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  14. Peachey, Paul (5 March 2002). "Imagine: some peace in Piccadilly Circus". The Independent. London.. Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Coca Cola Zero, Fanta, Sprite and Vitamin Water have all been advertised in the space.
  15. Durrani, Arif (29 September 2011). "Hyundai replaces Sanyo as Piccadilly Circus advertiser". Media Week. London.
  16. Demetriou, Danielle (16 February 2011). "Red Sanyo sign in Piccadilly Circus to be switched off". The Telegraph. London.
  17. BROOKINGS, S. D. (25 August 2009). "Interactive Display at Piccadilly Circus launches McDonald's and Daktronics in the Spotlight". Daktronics. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2008.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. Monkey (11 March 2015). "TDK ad at Piccadilly Circus: lights go out on 25 years of history". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  20. Jurrien, Ralf (14 February 2007). "LG giant LED screen in Piccadilly Circus LetsGoMobile". LetsGoMobile. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  21. BBC NEWS | England | London | London lights out for environment They were also switched off as part of Earth Hour from 8.30 pm til 9.30 pm on 28 March 2009.
  22. Marshall, Prince (1972). Wheels of London. The Sunday Times Magazine ISBN   0-7230-0068-9. pp. 136–143.templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 27 (help)
  23. Lloyd & Mitchinson (2006) The book of general ignorance "Because of the bow and the nudity... everybody assumed it was Eros, the Greek god of love"
  24. Pevsner & Cherry 1973, pp. 639–40.
  25. "Things to do in London, London Events – Spoonfed". www.spoonfed.co.uk.
  26. Historic England. "Piccadilly Circus Underground Station Booking Hall Concourse and Bronzework to Pavement Subway Entrances (1226877)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  27. Photograph: Andrew Parsons, PA. "West End congestion (15.02.03: Stop the war protest). Marches from two central London starting points converge at Piccadilly Circus". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  28. "Riot police in Soho as stop G8 protests start". LBC. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  29. The Editors of American Heritage (1962). D-Day, The Invasion of Europe. New York, New York: American Heritage Publishing Co, Inc. p. 36. . . .the ten-mile (16 km) circle in the Channel nicknamed Piccadilly Circus, where the troop convoys would meet . . .
  30. Association, Press (2 October 2011). "LS Lowry painting set to fetch £6m at auction" via The Guardian.
  31. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  32. Carl Randall paints 70 people in Piccadilly Circus., Making a Mark, Art Blog, London, 2018
  33. Carl Randall – Piccadilly Circus painting video., Youtube, 2018
  34. Carl Randall – Piccadilly Circus painting., carlrandall.com, 2018

Sources

Books

Articles and websites