Piccadilly is a road in London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is completely within the City of Westminster and forms part of the A4 route, London's second most important western artery, to Avonmouth. The area of St. James's lies to the south of the eastern section of the street, while the western section is built up only on the northern side and overlooks Green Park. The area to the north is Mayfair.
Piccadilly is one of the widest and straightest streets in central London. It is the location of several notable London landmarks and buildings, including Fortnum & Mason, the Royal Academy, the Ritz Hotel, the RAF Club, Hatchards, the Embassy of Japan and the High Commission of Malta. Simpson's, once amongst the United Kingdom's leading clothing stores, opened on Piccadilly in the 1930s. The store closed in 1999 and the site is now the flagship shop of the booksellers Waterstone's.
Until the 17th century the street was known as Portugal Street. The name Piccadilly may have arisen from a tailor named Robert Baker, who owned a shop on the Strand, in the late 16th century and early 17th century. He amassed a large fortune by making and selling piccadills (also called picadils or pickadils—stiff collars with scalloped edges and a broad lace or perforated border), that were then in fashion. With his great fortune he purchased a large tract of what was then open country to the west of London, and in about 1612 he built a large house there. The mansion soon became known as Piccadilly Hall. After the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Piccadilly and the area to the north (Mayfair) began to be systematically developed as a fashionable residential locality. Some of the grandest mansions in London were built on the northern side of Piccadilly: Clarendon House (now the location of Albemarle Street), Berkeley House (later Devonshire House), and Sir John Denham's house (later Burlington House) were constructed in the 17th century. Several members of the Rothschild family had mansions at the western end of the street, and that part of it was colloquially referred to as Rothschild Row. By the 1920s most of these buildings had been demolished or were in institutional use. The enlargement of Park Lane and the formation of Hyde Park Corner as a major traffic gyratory system has truncated the western stretch of Piccadilly, with the result that Apsley House has become detached from it.
Today, Piccadilly is widely regarded as one of London's principal shopping streets, hosting several famous shops. The Ritz Hotel is located on the street, along with other luxury hotels and offices.
Many P.G. Wodehouse novels use the setting of Piccadilly as the playground of the rich, idle bachelor in the inter-war period of the 20th century. Notable instances of this are present in the characters of Bertie Wooster and his Drones Club companions in the Jeeves stories and the character of James Crocker in the story Piccadilly Jim.
In Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, the family mansion Marchmain House, which is supposedly located in a cul-de-sac off St James's, near Piccadilly, is demolished and replaced with luxury flats; although an incident in fiction, this is, in fact, representative of the period. In Granada TV's dramatization of the novel Bridgewater House in Cleveland Row, which like its prototype backs on to Green Park, was used as the exterior of Marchmain House.
In Arthur Machen's 1894 novella The Great God Pan, Helen Vaughan, the satanic villainess and offspring of Pan, lives off Piccadilly in the pseudonynmous Ashley Street.
In the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter's address in London is 110A Piccadilly. The number 110A was chosen in homage to Arthur Conan Doyle's use of 221B Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes.
In the 1881 comic opera Patience, the popular poetaster and fraud Bunthorne's means of publicising himself is to 'walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in his medieval hand'.
In Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, Ralph Touchett establishes Isabel Archer and Miss Henrietta Stackpole "at a quiet inn in a street that ran at right angles to Piccadilly" during their visit to London.
The British band Squeeze refers to the area in the song "Piccadilly" on their album East Side Story with the lyrics, "She meets me in piccadilly/A begging folk singer stands tall by the entrance/His song relays worlds of most good intentions/A fiver a ten p in his hat for collection."
The American band OneRepublic references Piccadilly in their song "Good Life" with the lyrics, "Woke up in London yesterday/Found myself in the city near Piccadilly."
The Piccadilly line on the London Underground takes its name from Piccadilly and part of the line travels under the street. Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, and Piccadilly Circus stations all have entrances either in or near Piccadilly.
Selected adjoining streets include:
- Albemarle Street
- Dover Street
- Hyde Park Corner
- Old Bond Street
- Piccadilly Circus
- Regent Street
- St James's Street
- Robert Baker of Piccadilly Hall and His Heirs by F.H.W. Sheppard (ISBN 0-902087-18-5)
|Look up Piccadilly in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- The Early History of Piccadilly — from the Survey of London
- An article from the International Herald Tribune about the closing of Simpsons, its history and place on Piccadilly