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

The history of Piccadilly dates back to the 15th century when Anthony Cotton surrendered his piece of lands to the King for the Royal Park, but 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, very typical of the Victorian Era. As he became rich, he bought a large mansion to the west of London which soon came to be known as Piccadilly Hall.

In the 1660s at the reigning moment of the English monarchy, 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 some of the famous ones such as Clarendon House, Berkeley House and Sir John Denham's house. Most of these mansions were later on demolished or converted for government/organizational use. With development taking place in and around the area, and the construction of Ritz Hotel, the place is popular for its theatres, expensive locations, restaurants and some shops. It’s one of the widest and straight streets in London making it popular with tourists.

Piccadilly Circus is the intersection point located in the borough of City of Westminster which connects the famous shopping area of Regent’s Street with Piccadilly. Formed in 1819, it’s not actually a circus with a literal meaning, but a circle where different streets meet together. Today it’s no more a circle after it was directly connected with the Shaftesbury Avenue in 1866.

As it conjoins many streets, it is always buzzing with traffic with it being the centre point of Theatreland. The circle and surrounding area have gone through many renovations over the years, to accommodate additional pedestrians and allow extra inflow of traffic. 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.