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Piccadilly Circus at 200 years: Fascinating pictures of life in the famous London spot over the decades

From Mirrorpix

Piccadilly Circus is 200 years old in 2019


These days, Piccadilly Circus is famous all over the world for its neon signs, bustle of people and the Eros fountain located in the middle of the road junction. The legendary spot was first founded 200 years ago, in 1819. When Shaftesbury Avenue was built in 1886, the junction ceased to be a complete circle.


When Piccadilly was first founded, horses - not cars - dominated the streets


Piccadilly Circus was created to act as a hinge in Regent Street, ensuring the grand processional route created by John Nash in the 1820s - from Regents Park to the Prince of Wales’ palatial residence Carlton House - had a suitable sweeping majesty.


Neon was first used for a Bovril sign in the 1940s


Probably the most famous feature of Piccadilly Circus is its light-up advertising boards. The first sign to be illuminated was a Perrier advertisement in 1908, which used incandescent lightbulbs. Neon was first used for a Bovril sign in the 1940s, as seen here.


VE Day celebrations at the end of the Second World War


At the end of World War II, huge crowds gathered around Piccadilly Circus during the celebrations with servicemen and women waving their nation's flags.


VE Day celebrations in 1945


The area has always been a hub of activity. Hence the saying, 'it's like Piccadilly Circus,' meaning a place has lots of comings and goings.


Cars in Piccadilly in 1945


Where does the word 'Piccadilly' come from? In 1612 a man named Robert Baker built a mansion house near what is now Piccadilly Circus. He got wealthy selling Picadils, stiff collars worn by gentlemen in court. Locals derisively called his mansion Picadil Hall - and the name stuck.


Cars in Piccadilly in 1945


Just five years later and Piccadilly remains largely unchanged, though the cars and advert displays were becoming increasingly more modern.


People 'drinking' from the fountain in 1950


The fountain's basin was not as large as Alfred Gilbert’s designs, resulting in passers-by being drenched when the fountain was fully turned on! Gilbert was apparently so enraged by this altered and now rather embarrassingly impractical design, that he refused to turn up for the unveiling,


Piccadilly Circus in 1952


Heard of the Seven Noses of Soho? It's rumoured that anyone who tracks down all of the sculpted hooters will have infinite wealth. One of them is mounted to a wall somewhere in Piccadilly Circus. Where? Not telling!


The statue of Eros covered in frozen icicles, February 1956.


Before the cups were stolen, it was possible to drink from the fountain, with the Duchess of Westminster doing so at its unveiling in 1893. Perhaps not in this weather! It was the first London statue to be cast in aluminium.


Commuters at Piccadilly Circus Station, July 1962


Grade II-listed Piccadilly Circus tube station (right under Piccadilly Circus itself) is one of the only stations to exist completely underground. When it was built in 1906, a surface level ticket office existed, but when the station was revamped in the 1920s, it was demolished.


Queues outside the cinema at London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus


The first ever James Bond film 'Dr. No' was screened at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, in October 1962.


Piccadilly Circus at night, November 1963


The famous lights were switched off during WW2, and since then the Advertising Association had the electric sign displays switched off until 8pm as a tribute to John F Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1963, for the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965, then again for Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.


Muhammad Ali, who was still Cassius Clay back then, snapped here in 1963


Piccadilly has always attracted tourists - even famous ones!


Premieres of The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night and Help! both took place here in 1964 and 1965


In 2002, Yoko Ono once spent an estimated £150k to show the lyrics from her late husband John Lennon’s song Imagine in Piccadilly Circus. ‘Imagine all the people living life in peace’ were the words displayed simply in black on a white background for three months.


The iconic location was a backdrop for fashion shoots


A unisex and menswear fashion show right at the end of the so-called Swinging Sixties, in 1969.

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U.S. Daily News: Piccadilly Circus at 200 years: Fascinating pictures of life in the famous London spot over the decades
Piccadilly Circus at 200 years: Fascinating pictures of life in the famous London spot over the decades
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