London Sights



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 the statue of Eros (although even most Londoners don't know that the 1893 work is a representation of Eros's 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. The other instantly recognisable feature of Piccadilly Circus is the enormous bank of illuminated advertising hoardings on the north side; if you're passing at night, frame them behind the Tube entrance sign on the corner of Regent St. for an unforgettable photo.

Updated: 02-27-2014

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