When people think of London, Piccadilly Circus is usually one of the first places that pop into their minds. For visitors, Piccadilly is a destination and an area not to miss. For Londoners, it’s an area to avoid especially during tourist season.
The name ‘Piccadilly’ originates from a seventeenth-century frilled collar named a piccadil. Roger Baker, a tailor who became rich making piccadils lived in the area. The word ‘Circus’ refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated. However, it’s not a roundabout anymore. In fact, the configuration of the roads and pedestrian crossings has changed numerous times just over the last few years.
Derived from the Latin word meaning “circle”, a circus is a round open space at a street junction. Piccadilly Circus refers to a road junction and public space at London’s West End located in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 for connecting Regent Street with Piccadilly. Providing a convenient direct link to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue and to Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly is an important area in the heart of London. Piccadilly Circus offers close proximity to the various major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End. It is a major tourist attraction as well as a busy meeting point. The Circus is famous throughout the world in respect of the various video displays and neon signs that are mounted on the corner building on the northern side. The other important features of the circus include the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue which some believe is that of Eros. Several notable buildings surround it such as the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Piccadilly Circus tube station is located directly under the plaza.
Some interesting facts about Piccadilly Circus ::
Open Air Circus: The south side of Piccadilly Circus was pedestrianised in the 1990s and ever since then, the area has had the feel of an open-air circus where you can find many dancers and gymnasts. Although ‘circus’ is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘ring’ or ‘circular line’, Piccadilly Circus has assumed the 18th century meaning of ‘buildings arranged in a circular line’.
Coca-Cola Sign: The bright Coca-Cola sign was set up in 1955 making it the longest existing sign in Piccadilly Circus. However, products were for the first time advertised in neon lights at this place in 1908. The promotional pioneers for these projects were Bovril and Perrier. During World War II, these lights were switched off and not even the power of corporate could stop this from happening. The switching off has also occurred on two other occasions, first for the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 and also for Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.
Statue of Eros: Although the statue is named after Eros, it is not so. Actually, it represents Anteros, the god of selfless and mature love and not his twin brother Eros, the god of frivolous and romantic love. Moreover, it was the first London statue that was cast in aluminium.
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain: The name of the centrepiece is Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, named after the great Victorian philanthropist Anthony Ashley Cooper who was the 7thEarl of Shaftesbury. The financing of the project was done by public subscription, indicating his charitable work.
Drinking from the Fountain: You can drink water from the fountain just as the Duchess of Westminster had done at its unveiling in 1893. At that time the basins were not as large as the designs of Alfred Gilbert and as such when the fountain was fully turned on, there used to be too much water leading to drenching of passers-by. Gilbert did not turn up at the unveiling because he was upset that his design was altered.
Tube Station: The Piccadilly Circus Tube station on the Bakerloo Line was opened on 10 March 1906 and on the Piccadilly line in December of that year. To handle an increase in traffic, the station was extensively rebuilt in 1928. The electric advertisements on the junction first appeared in 1910 and traffic lights were first installed on 3 August 1926.
Portugal Street: The world-famous Piccadilly was originally named Portugal Street, in honour of Catherine of Braganza who was the queen consort of King Charles II, in 1692. However, in 1743, it was named Piccadilly. Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the junction with Regent Street, which was being made as per the designs of John Nash, at the site of a house and garden that belonged to a certain Lady Hutton. The area was briefly known as Regent’s Circus around 1858 and in 1886 the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue led to the loss of the circular form of the circus.
This video is my first attempt at using the Ricoh Theta S 360 Camera. The sky is dark and cloudy – and I didn’t really know what I was doing with the camera.
For the complete 360 experience, head over to my YouTube Channel. At YouTube, you can use your cursor to move the video left, right, up and down for a full 360-degree view.