PICCADILLY CIRCUS is a road junction and public space of
West End in the
City of Westminster
City of Westminster , built in 1819 to connect Regent
Piccadilly . In this context, a circus, from the Latin
word meaning "circle", is a round open space at a street junction.
Piccadilly now links directly to the theatres on
Shaftesbury Avenue ,
as well as the Haymarket ,
Coventry Street (onwards to Leicester
Square ) and Glasshouse Street. The Circus is close to major shopping
and entertainment areas in the West End. Its status as a major traffic
junction has made
Piccadilly Circus a busy meeting place and a tourist
attraction in its own right. The Circus is particularly known for its
video display and neon signs mounted on the corner building on the
northern side, as well as the
Shaftesbury memorial fountain and
statue, which is popularly, though mistakenly, believed to be of Eros
. It is surrounded by several notable buildings, including the London
Criterion Theatre . Directly underneath the plaza is
Piccadilly Circus tube station , part of the
* 1 History
* 2 Location and sights
* 2.1 Illuminated signs
Shaftesbury Memorial and the statue of
* 2.5 Major shops
* 3 Underground station and the Bakerloo and
* 4 Demonstrations
* 5 Popular culture
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 7.1 Notes
* 7.2 Sources
* 8 External links
Piccadilly Circus in 1949
Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with
a view towards
Leicester Square via Coventry Street.
is on the left, and
Criterion Theatre on the right. Piccadilly
Circus in 1962 Signs in 1992 Picadilly Circus in 2016
Piccadilly Circus connects to
Piccadilly , a thoroughfare whose name
first appeared in 1626 as
Piccadilly Hall, named after a house
belonging to one Robert Baker, a tailor famous for selling piccadills
, or piccadillies, a term used for various kinds of collars . The
street was known as Portugal Street in 1692 in honour of Catherine of
Braganza , the queen consort of King Charles II but was known as
Piccadilly by 1743.
Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the
Regent Street , which was then being built under the
planning of John Nash on the site of a house and garden belonging to a
Lady Hutton. Around 1858 it was briefly known as Regent's Circus. The
circus lost its circular form in 1886 with the construction of
The junction has been a very busy traffic interchange since
construction, as it lies at the centre of
Theatreland and handles exit
traffic from Piccadilly, which
Charles Dickens, Jr.
Charles Dickens, Jr. described in 1879:
"Piccadilly, the great thoroughfare leading from the Haymarket and
Regent-street westward to Hyde Park-corner , is the nearest approach
to the Parisian boulevard of which
London can boast."
Piccadilly Circus tube station was opened 10 March 1906, on the
Bakerloo line, and on the
Piccadilly line in December of that year. In
1928, the station was extensively rebuilt to handle an increase in
traffic. The junction's first electric advertisements appeared in
1910, and, from 1923, electric billboards were set up on the façade
London Pavilion . Traffic lights were first installed on 3
World War II
World War II many servicemen's clubs in the West End served
American soldiers based in Britain. So many prostitutes roamed the
area approaching the soldiers that they received the nickname
Piccadilly Commandos", and both
Scotland Yard and the Foreign Office
discussed possible damage to Anglo-American relations.
At the start of the 1960s, it was determined that the Circus needed
to be redeveloped to allow for greater traffic flow. In 1962, Lord
Holford presented a plan which would have created a "double-decker"
Piccadilly Circus; the upper deck would have been an elevated
pedestrian concourse linking the buildings around the perimeter of the
Circus, with the lower deck being solely for traffic, most of the
ground-level pedestrian areas having been removed to allow for greater
vehicle flow. This concept was kept alive throughout the rest of the
1960s. A final scheme in 1972 proposed three octagonal towers (the
highest 240 feet (73 m) tall) to replace the Trocadero, the Criterion
and the "Monico" buildings. The plans were permanently rejected by
Sir Keith Joseph
Sir Keith Joseph and
Ernest Marples ; the key reason given was that
Holford's scheme only allowed for a 20% increase in traffic, and the
Government required 50%.
The Holford plan is referenced in the short-form documentary film
"Goodbye, Piccadilly", produced by the
Rank Organisation in 1967 as
part of their Look at Life series when it was still seriously expected
that Holford's recommendations would be acted upon.
has since escaped major redevelopment, apart from extensive
ground-level pedestrianisation around its south side in the 1980s.
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in
Piccadilly Circus was erected in
1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Anthony Ashley Cooper,
7th Earl of
Shaftesbury . During the
Second World War
Second World War , the statue
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was removed and was replaced by
advertising hoardings. It was returned in 1948. When the Circus
underwent reconstruction work in the late 1980s, the entire fountain
was moved from the centre of the junction at the beginning of
Shaftesbury Avenue to its present position at the southwestern corner.
LOCATION AND SIGHTS
Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by several major tourist attractions,
Criterion Theatre , London
Pavilion and several major retail stores. Numerous nightclubs,
restaurants and bars are located in the area and neighbouring
including the former Chinawhite club.
Panorama of Piccadilly
Circus in 2015 from the southern side in front of
Illuminated signs of
Piccadilly Circus at dawn, 2014 The
Ballet of Change:
Piccadilly Circus screening on the Coca-Cola
Piccadilly Circus was surrounded by illuminated advertising hoardings
on buildings, starting in 1908 with a Perrier sign, but only one
building now carries them, the one in the northwestern corner between
Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street. The site is unnamed (usually
referred to as "Monico" after the
Café Monico , which used to be on
the site); its addresses are 44/48 Regent Street, 1/6 Sherwood Street,
17/22 Denman Street and 1/17
Shaftesbury Avenue , and it has been
owned by property investor
Land Securities Group
Land Securities Group since the 1970s.
The earliest signs used incandescent light bulbs ; these were
replaced with neon lights and with moving signs (there was a large
Guinness clock at one time). The first Neon sign was for the British
Bovril . From December 1998, digital projectors were
used for the Coke sign, the square's first digital billboard, while
in the 2000s there was a gradual move to LED displays, which
completely replaced neon lamps by 2011. The number of signs has
reduced over the years as the rental costs have increased.
During 2017, the current six advertising screens will be combined
into one large ultra-high definition curved Daktronics display,
turning the signs off during renovation for the longest time since the
1940s. The current signs were switched off on 16 January 2017, with
the new screen expected to take their place in the autumn.
As of 2016, the site has six LED advertising screens above three
large retail units facing
Piccadilly Circus on the north side,
occupied by Boots , Gap and a mix of smaller retail, restaurant and
office premises fronting the other streets. A
Burger King located
Samsung advert, which had been a
Wimpy Bar until 1989,
closed in early 2008 and was converted into a
Coca-Cola has had a sign at
Piccadilly Circus since 1954. The
current placed sign dates from September 2003, when the previous
digital projector board and the site that had been occupied by
Nescafé was replaced with a state-of-the-art LED video display that
curves round with the building. Before Nescafé, a neon advertisement
for Foster\'s occupied the spot from 1987 until 1999, and from 1978 to
1987 it was used by
Philips Electronics . On 23 November 2007, the
first film was broadcast through the board. The screen also displays
information about line closures and delays on the
London Underground .
Paul Atherton 's film The Ballet of Change:
Piccadilly Circus was
allowed five minutes to show the first non-commercial film depicting
the history of
Piccadilly Circus and the lights. The former, for
several months in 2002, replacing the Nescafé sign, was a sign
featuring the quote "Imagine all the people living life in peace" by
John Lennon . This was paid for by his widow
Yoko Ono , who
spent an estimated £150,000 to display an advert at this location.
Hyundai Motors sign launched on 29 September 2011. It replaced a
Sanyo which had occupied the space since around early 1988
(slightly modified in 2004), the last to be run by traditional neon
lights rather than Hyundai's computerised LED screen. Earlier Sanyo
signs with older logos had occupied the position since 1978, although
these were only half the size of the current space.
* McDonald\'s added its sign in 1987, replacing one for
BASF . The
sign was changed from neon to LED in 2001. A bigger, brighter screen
was installed by Daktronics in 2008.
Samsung added its sign in November 1994, the space having been
previously occupied by Canon (1978–84) and
The sign was changed from neon to LED in summer 2005. The screen was
upgraded and improved in autumn 2011.
* One Piccadilly, the highest resolution of all the LED displays was
installed by Daktronics, in late 2013, underneath the
McDonald's signs. It allows other companies to advertise for both
short- and long-term leases, increasing the amount of advertising
space but using the same screen for multiple brands. Prior to this an
earlier, smaller LED screen called
Piccadilly Lite occupied the space
from 3 December 2007 to 2013. The space has also been occupied by JVC
(1978–84), Carlsberg (1984–2003) and Budweiser (2003–07).
* The Curve, a similar space to One Picadilly, was added in 2015,
replacing a space previously occupied by
Schweppes (1920–61), BP
Fujifilm (1978–86), Kodak
Burberry is currently using the
space as of December 2015.
* LG were added in February 2007 on the roof of Coventry House,
which diagonally faces
Piccadilly Circus. Their sign is a large LED
video advertising display for LGE, the British arm of the South Korean
electronics group. The new display also incorporates a scrolling
Sky News headlines. Before LG,
Vodafone had a neon sign
installed on that spot, which displayed both their logo and personal
messages that could be submitted on a special website and displayed at
a certain time and date.
On special occasions the lights are switched off, such as the deaths
Winston Churchill in 1965 and
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. On
21 June 2007, they were switched off for one hour as part of the
Other companies and brands that have had signs on the site were
Max Factor , Wrigley\'s Spearmint ,
Skol , Air
Gold Flake (as Will's
Gold Flake Cigarettes).
SHAFTESBURY MEMORIAL AND THE STATUE OF ANTEROS
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain Tourists sitting on
the steps of the
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
At the southeastern side of the Circus, moved after
World War II
World War II from
its original position in the centre, stands the
Fountain , erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic
works of Lord
Shaftesbury , a Victorian politician , philanthropist
and social reformer. The subject of the Memorial is the Greek god
Anteros and was given the name The Angel of Christian Charity but is
generally mistaken for his brother
Criterion Theatre , a Grade II* listed building , stands on the
south side of
Piccadilly Circus. Apart from the box office area, the
entire theatre, with nearly 600 seats, is underground and is reached
by descending a tiled stairway.
Columns are used to support both the
dress circle and the upper circle, restricting the views of many of
the seats inside.
The theatre was designed by
Thomas Verity and opened as a theatre on
21 March 1874, although original plans were for it to become a concert
hall. In 1883, it was forced to close to improve ventilation and to
replace gaslights with electric lights and was reopened the following
year. The theatre closed in 1989 and was extensively renovated,
reopening in October 1992.
On the northeastern side of
Piccadilly Circus, on the corner between
Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street, is the
London Pavilion . The
first building bearing the name was built in 1859 and was a music hall
. In 1885,
Shaftesbury Avenue was built through the former site of the
Pavilion, and a new
London Pavilion was constructed, which also served
as a music hall. In 1924 electric billboards were erected on the side
of the building. Facade of the
London Pavilion in 2002
In 1934, the building underwent significant structural alteration and
was converted into a cinema . In 1986, the building was rebuilt,
preserving the 1885 facade, and converted into a shopping arcade . In
2000, the building was connected to the neighbouring Trocadero Centre
, and signage on the building was altered in 2003 to read "London
Trocadero". The basement of the building connects with Piccadilly
Circus tube station .
Swan & Edgar department store on the west side of the
Regent Street was built in 1928–29 to
a design by
Reginald Blomfield . Since the closure of the department
store in the early 1980s, the building has been successively the
London store of music chains
Tower Records , Virgin Megastore
and Zavvi . The current occupier is clothing brand The Sting .
Lillywhites is a major retailer of sporting goods located on the
corner of the circus and Lower Regent Street, next to the Shaftesbury
fountain. It moved to its present site in 1925.
Lillywhites is popular
with tourists, and they regularly offer sale items, including
international football jerseys up to 90% off. Nearby Fortnum ">
Piccadilly Circus tube station Main article: Piccadilly
Circus tube station
Piccadilly Circus station on the
London Underground is located
Piccadilly Circus itself, with entrances at every
corner. It is one of the few stations which have no associated
buildings above ground and is fully underground. The below ground
concourse and subway entrances are Grade II listed .
The station is on the
Piccadilly line between
Green Park and
Leicester Square , and the Bakerloo line between Charing Cross and
Oxford Circus .
The Circus' status as a high-profile public space has made it the
destination for numerous political demonstrations, including the
February 15, 2003 anti-war protest and the "Carnival Against
Capitalism" protest against the
39th G8 summit
39th G8 summit in 2013.
Piccadilly Circus in popular culture Picadilly
Circus, 1969; From the portfolio Untitled (Five Overpainted Picadilly
The phrase it's like
Piccadilly Circus is commonly used in the UK to
refer to a place or situation which is extremely busy with people. It
has been said that a person who stays long enough at
will eventually bump into everyone they know. Probably because of this
connection, during World War II, "
Piccadilly Circus" was the code name
given to the Allies'
D-Day invasion fleet's assembly location in the
Piccadilly Circus has inspired artists and musicians. Piccadilly
Circus (1912) is the name and subject of a painting by British artist
Charles Ginner , part of the
Tate Britain collection. Sculptor Paul
McCarthy also has a 320-page two-volume edition of video stills by the
Bob Marley mentioned
Piccadilly Circus in
his song "Kinky Reggae", on the
Catch a Fire
Catch a Fire album from 1973.
L. S. Lowry
L. S. Lowry R.A painting '
Piccadilly Circus, London' (1960), part of
Charles Forte 's collection for almost three decades, sold for
£5,641,250 when auctioned for the first time at Christie's 20th
Century British border:solid #aaa 1px">
* Cambridge Circus,
Punto Obelisco (Obelisk Point, Buenos Aires)
Shibuya , noted public space and crossroads in
Times Square , noted road junction and public space in New York
Yonge-Dundas Square a major public square with commercial signage
* ^ "circus",
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition 1989
* ^ Rammell’s 1858 map of original Pneumatic Despatch Railway
routes and terminii (Credit: Royal Mail Group Ltd. 2013), 1858,
retrieved 13 April 2015
* ^ Tweedie, Neil (1 November 2005). "How our
had the GIs surrounded". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
* ^ Pevsner & Cherry 1973 , p. 756.
* ^ "The rebuilding of
Piccadilly Circus and the Regent Street
Quadrant". British History Online.
London County Council. Retrieved 25
* ^ "
Piccadilly Lights: A timeline". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25
* ^ "
Piccadilly shows sign of the times". BBC News. 16 December
* ^ "
Piccadilly Circus lights to be switched off for revamp". BBC
News. 8 December 2016.
* ^ Mark Sinclair (24 June 2011). "The making of a
sign, 1954". Creative Review. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
* ^ Peachey, Paul (5 March 2002). "Imagine: some peace in
Piccadilly Circus". The Independent. London. . Coca Cola, Diet Coke,
Coca Cola Zero, Fanta, Sprite and Vitamin Water have all been
advertised in the space.
* ^ Durrani, Arif (29 September 2011). "Hyundai replaces
Piccadilly Circus advertiser". Media Week. London.
* ^ Demetriou, Danielle (16 February 2011). "Red
Sanyo sign in
Piccadilly Circus to be switched off". The Telegraph. London.
* ^ BROOKINGS, S. D. (25 August 2009). "Interactive Display at
Piccadilly Circus launches McDonald\'s and Daktronics in the
Spotlight". Daktronics. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
* ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 December
2008. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
* ^ Monkey (11 March 2015). "
TDK ad at
Piccadilly Circus: lights go
out on 25 years of history". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077 . Retrieved
16 February 2016.
* ^ Jurrien, Ralf (14 February 2007). "LG giant LED screen in
Piccadilly Circus LetsGoMobile". LetsGoMobile. Retrieved 16 February
* ^ BBC NEWS England
London lights out for environment
They were also switched off as part of
Earth Hour from 8.30 pm til
9.30 pm on 28 March 2009.
* ^ Marshall, Prince (1972). Wheels of London. The Sunday Times
Magazine ISBN 0-7230-0068-9 . pp. 136–143. access-date= requires
url= (help )
* ^ Lloyd & Mitchinson (2006) The book of general ignorance
"Because of the bow and the nudity... everybody assumed it was Eros,
the Greek god of love"
* ^ Pevsner & Cherry 1973 , pp. 639–40.
* ^ "Things to do in London,
London Events - Spoonfed".
Historic England . "
Piccadilly Circus Underground Station
Booking Hall Concourse and Bronzework to Pavement Subway Entrances
National Heritage List for England
National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 24 January
* ^ Photograph: Andrew Parsons, PA. "West End congestion (15.02.03:
Stop the war protest). Marches from two central
London starting points
Piccadilly Circus.". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
* ^ "Riot police in
Soho as stop G8 protests start".
LBC . Archived
from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
* ^ The Editors of American Heritage (1962). D-Day, The Invasion of
Europe. New York, New York: American Heritage Publishing Co, Inc. p.
36. . . .the ten-mile (16 km) circle in the Channel nicknamed
Piccadilly Circus, where the troop convoys would meet . . .
* ^ Association, Press (2 October 2011). "LS Lowry painting set to
fetch £6m at auction" – via The Guardian.
* ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
* Dickens, Charles, Jr. (1993) . "
Piccadilly (online copy)".
Dickens\'s Dictionary of
London , 1888 (facsimile ed.). Devon: Old
House Books. ISBN 1-873590-04-0 . CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors
list (link )
* Harris, C. M. What's in a name? The origins of the names of all
stations in current use on the
London Underground and Docklands Light
rail with their opening dates. Midas Books and
fourth edition, 2001. ISBN 1-85414-241-0 .
* Lange, D. The Queen's London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record
of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis.
Cassell and Company, London, 1896.
* Mills, Anthony David Dictionary of
London Place Names. Oxford
University Press , 2001. ISBN 0-19-280106-6 .
* Pevsner, Nickolaus ; Cherry, Bridget (1973).
London Volume One:
The Cities of
London and Westminster. The Buildings of England (third
Penguin Books . ISBN 0-14-071012-4 .
Piccadilly Circus: From Controversy to Reconstruction. Greater
London Council, 1980. ISBN 0-7168-1145-6 .
ARTICLES AND WEBSITES
* Hadley, P. "
Piccadilly Circus, How a typical 1906
station was built", Underground News 412, April 1996.
* Jacob, S. "Review:
Piccadilly Circus", Icon Magazine, November
London lights out for environment", News. BBC.co.uk, 22 June 2007