Thursday, October 8, 2009

So what is a Piccadilly Anyway?

Piccadilly does not sound like the most English of words. So how did it come to be the centre of London? Truth be told, it really isn't an English word, but that is all part of the tale I am about to tell.

The history of this very busy street/circus all goes back to a tailor in the 17th century. Yes, we owe it to fashion. Robert Baker was a tailor living on Portugal Street, as it was then called, who specialized in making lace collars known as picadills or picadillies, which were all the rage. His mansion, which he bought with the massive wealth he acquired from selling these frills, was known as Pickadilly Hall. By 1743 the name stuck and Piccadilly came to be.

It also came to be the street where all the rich aristocrats came to build their rich London mansions. Its fashionable genesis also continued into a fashionable tradition, Piccadilly soon grew into a hub for shopping. If we went on the Underground and came up in 18th century we would see and hear much of the same traffic, only with carriages and less smog emissions. The sound of the numerous vehicles was deafening to country ears and frightening for any tourists (especially if trying to cross the street).

By 1811 the Prince of Wales put his interest into something other than mistresses and upsetting his parents. He commissioned John Nash, to come up with a new street that imposed some logic to the medieval street plans. Call it urban development! The result was Regent Street and in 1819 enough of it was built for it to be connected to Piccadilly. But how? The result was Piccadilly Circus. Now the traffic of Piccadilly had more tributaries to disperse, although it never did seem to decrease. That remains true to this day. Although little remains of the Georgian and Regency architecture, one thing from the 18th century does remain: the traffic.


  1. Fascinating! Now I want to know more about the original collars!

  2. Have you ever seen the musical "Star" with Julie Andrews? There is a great number performed with much moxy called "Piccadilly." Here is the link:

  3. Thanks Heather! I had no idea that was how the street came to be named.

  4. Glad you all enjoyed!
    @Paul- No I wasn't aware of this, thanks for the link! It teaches the valuable lesson of never interrupting a diva during a performance -no matter how bad.

  5. My dear Duchess, I have granted you with an award.

    Hope it is up to your fine standards.

    Please indulge me with the kindness of your visit to my blog to know more about it.