Picadilly Circus, London (UK) » City Info » History

Piccadilly’s history dates back to the 15th century when Anthony Cotton surrendered his land to the King for the Royal Park. He kept to himself a part of the land which was passed on to his heirs. John Cotton, in 1618-19 sold this piece of land, which lay to the east side of Great Windmill Street, to John Golightly, who in turn sold it to the Robert Baker and family after whom the place got its name ‘Piccadilly’.

Initially, the area was named as Portugal in honour of Catherine of Braganza, queen consort of King Charles II of England. After the land was sold to Robert Baker, he opened a shop on the Strand where he sold piccadills which are stiff collars typically from the Victorian Era. As he became rich, he bought a large mansion to the west of London, which soon became Piccadilly Hall.

In the 1660s, Piccadilly and Mayfair started to develop as a residential area of the rich and the famous. Grand mansions and palaces began to be built on the northern side of Piccadilly, which included Clarendon House, Berkeley House and Sir John Denham's house. Most of these mansions were demolished or converted into government/organisational offices. With development taking place in and around the area, and the construction of the Ritz Hotel, the place is now popular for its theatres, expensive locations, restaurants and luxury shops. It’s one of the widest and straight streets in London.

Piccadilly Circus is the intersection point located in the borough of the City of Westminster, which connects Regent’s Street with Piccadilly. Formed in 1819, it’s not a circus with a literal meaning but a circle where different streets meet.

Since it conjoins many streets, it is always buzzing with traffic. The circle and surrounding area have undergone many renovations to accommodate additional pedestrians and allow an extra traffic inflow. Today the place is known for major attractions such as Shaftesbury Memorial, Criterion Theatre, London Pavilion, shopping stores and various lit up neon sign up boards that adorn the circle.