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Piccadilly Circus Review
The origins of the name "Piccadilly" relate to a humble 17th-century tailor from the Strand named Robert Baker who sold picadils—a stiff ruffled collar all the rage in courtly circles—and built a house with the proceeds. Snobs dubbed his new-money mansion Piccadilly Hall, and the name stuck.
Pride of place in the circus—a circular junction until the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue in 1886— belongs to London's favorite statue, Eros (actually, the 1893 work is a representation of Eros' brother Anteros, the Greek God of requited love). The creation of young sculptor Alfred Gilbert is a memorial to the selflessness of the philanthropic Earl of Shaftesbury (the god's bow and arrow are an allusion to the earl's name). Gilbert cast the statue in the then-novel medium of aluminum. Unfortunately, he spent most of his £8,000 fee ensuring the bronze fountain beneath was cast to his specifications. Already in debt, Gilbert eventually went bankrupt and fled to the continent (although, years later, he'd return and receive a knighthood). Beneath the modern bank of neon advertisements surrounding the circus are some of the most elegant Edwardian-era buildings in London.
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