West End of London
The West End of London (more commonly referred to as simply the West End) is an area of Central London containing many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues (including the commercial West End theatres).
The use of the term 'West End' began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross. For strategic planning, the area is identified as one of two international centres in the London Plan.
While the City of London or the Square Mile is the main business and financial district in London, the West End is the main commercial and entertainment centre of the city. It is the largest central business district in the United Kingdom comparable to Midtown Manhattan in New York City, the Shibuya district in Tokyo or the 8th arrondissement in Paris. It currently ranks as the most expensive location in the world in which to rent office space, beating Tokyo in December 2013.
Lying to the west of the historic Roman and Mediaeval City of London, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City. It was also close to the royal seat of power at Westminster, and is largely contained within the City of Westminster (one of the 32 London boroughs).
Developed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was originally built as a series of palaces, expensive town houses, fashionable shops and places of entertainment. The areas closest to the City around Holborn, Seven Dials, and Covent Garden historically contained poorer communities that were cleared and redeveloped in the 19th century.
The name "West End" is a flexible term with different meanings in different contexts. It may refer to the entertainment district around Leicester Square and Covent Garden; to the shopping district centred on Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street; or, less commonly, to the whole of that part of central London (itself an area with no generally agreed boundaries) which lies to the west of the City of London.
Ward of the City of Westminster
One of the local government wards within the City of Westminster is called 'West End'. This covers a far more narrow definition of Mayfair, Soho, and parts of Fitzrovia and Marylebone. However, in the United Kingdom, ward boundaries are generally familiar only to people involved in local politics and administration, and this ward carries little weight as an 'official' definition of the West End, and is not intended to do so.
Taking a fairly broad definition of the West End, the area contains the main concentrations of most of London's metropolitan activities apart from financial services, which are concentrated primarily in the City of London. There are major concentrations of the following buildings and activities in the West End:
- Art galleries and museums
- Company headquarters outside the financial services sector (although London's many hedge funds are based mainly in the West End)
- Educational institutions
- Government buildings (mainly around Whitehall)
- Institutes, learned societies and think tanks
- Legal institutions
- Media establishments
- Places of entertainment: theatres; cinemas; nightclubs; bars and restaurants
The annual New Year's Day Parade takes place on the streets of the West End.
Using the broadest definition, these are the inner districts of the West End, which were all developed by about 1815:
- Covent Garden
- Seven Dials
- St James's
The districts to the south, north and west of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were developed between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the late 19th century, in some cases based on existing villages. The more fashionable of them were generally regarded as being in the West End at that time, but the extension of the term to these areas west of Park Lane is less common nowadays. The last two listed especially are fringe cases:
- Knightsbridge (listed as a distinct 'international centre' in the London Plan)
- South Kensington
- Notting Hill
- Holland Park
- Albemarle Street
- Baker Street
- Bond Street
- Carnaby Street
- Charing Cross Road
- Denmark Street
- Gower Street
- Great Marlborough Street
- Great Portland Street
- Harley Street
- High Holborn
- King's Road
- Old Compton Street
- Oxford Street
- Park Lane
- Regent Street
- Shaftesbury Avenue
- The Strand
- Tottenham Court Road
- Wardour Street
Notable squares and circuses
The West End is laid out with many notable public squares and circuses, the latter being the original name for roundabouts in London.
- Berkeley Square
- Cambridge Circus
- Grosvenor Square
- Hyde Park Corner
- Leicester Square
- Manchester Square
- Marble Arch
- Oxford Circus
- Piccadilly Circus
- Russell Square
- Soho Square
- St Giles Circus
- Trafalgar Square
London Underground Stations in the West End:
- Mills, A., Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names, (2001)
- Greater London Authority, The London Plan: The Sub Regions
- CBRE, "",
- Robert O. Bucholz and Joseph P. Ward: London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012, p. 333
- "Charing Cross Library." City of Westminster. Retrieved on 21 January 2009.
- "Westminster Chinese Library[dead link]." City of Westminster. Retrieved on 21 January 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West End of London.|
- London's West End Theatres Information and archive material on London's historic West End Theatres.