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For other uses, see Piccadilly (disambiguation).

Piccadilly (/ˌpɪkəˈdɪlɪ/) is a road in the City of Westminster, London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east as part of the A4 route. 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.

At just under 1 mile (1.6 km) in length, 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.


Early history[edit]

Apsley House on an 1869 map. The neighbouring houses were demolished in the post-War period to allow Park Lane to be widened. The Wellington Arch has been moved since this time.

The street has been part of a main road for centuries, though there is no direct evidence that it was part of a Roman Road, unlike Oxford Street further north.[1] In the middle ages it was known as "the road to Reading" or "the way from Colnbrook".[2] During the Tudor period, relatively settled conditions made expansion beyond London's city walls a safer venture. Property speculation became a lucrative enterprise and developments grew so rapidly that the threat of disease and disorder prompted the Government to ban them. Owing to the momentum of this growth, these laws had little real effect.[3]

The land upon which Piccadilly sits, with the exception of 1 3/8 acres on the east side of what is now Great Windmill Street, was granted by Elizabeth I to William Dodington, a gentlemen of London, in 1559/60. A year or so later it was owned by a brewer, Thomas Wilson of St. Botolph-without-Aldgate. The small 1 3/8 acre plot belonged to Anthony Cotton in the reign of Henry VIII; John Cotton granted it to John Golightly in 1547 and his descendants sold it to a tailor called Robert Baker in c. 1611-12.[3]

Baker became financially successful 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.[4] Shortly after purchasing the land, he enclosed it (the parishoners had Lammas grazing rights) and erected several dwellings, including a residence and shop for himself; within two years, his house had become known as Pikadilly Hall.[3][5][6] He went on to purchase 22 more acres along Great Windmill Street thanks largely to money from his second marriage.[3][nb 1] A map published by Faithorne in 1658 describes the street as "the way from Knightsbridge to Piccadilly Hall".[7]

After Robert Baker's death in 1623 and the death of his eldest son Samuel shortly after, his widow and her father purchased the wardship of their surviving children; the death of their next eldest son, Robert, in 1630, allowed them to effectively control the estate.[3] Their only daughter died and her widower, Sir Henry Oxenden, retained an interest in the land. Several relatives claimed it,[nb 2] but after Mary Baker's death in c. 1665, the estate reverted to the Crown.[3] A great-nephew, John Baker, obtained possession of part of it, but squabbled over the lands with his cousin, James Baker; trying to play one another off, they paid or granted rights to Oxenden and a speculator, Colonel Thomas Panton, but the pair eventually lost out to them. By the 1670s, Panton was developing the lands and, despite the claims of some distantly related Bakers, he steadily built them up.[3]

Later 17th century[edit]

St James Church has stood on Piccadilly since 1684, and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

What is now Piccadilly was named Portugal Street in 1663 after Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II.[7] Its importance to traffic increased after an earlier road from Charing Cross to Hyde Park Corner was closed to allow the creation of Green Park in 1668.[1] After the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Charles II encouraged Portugal Street and the area to the north (Mayfair) to be systematically developed as a fashionable residential locality.[8] Some of the grandest mansions in London were built on the northern side of the street. Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon and close political advisor to the King, purchased land for a house; Clarendon House (now the location of Albemarle Street) was built in 1664,[9] but the earl purchased more land than required. He sold the surplus partly to Sir John Denham, who built what later became Burlington House. Denham chose the location because it was then on the outskirts of London surrounding fields. The house was first used to house the poor, before being reconstructed by the third Earl of Burlington in 1718.[10] Berkeley House was constructed around the same time as Clarendon House.[10] It was destroyed by a fire in 1733 and rebuilt as Devonshire House in 1737 by William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire, later being used as the main headquarters for the Whig party.[11]

The land to the south of Piccadilly was leased to trustees of the Earl of St Albans in 1661 for a thirty year term, subsequently extended to 1740. No 162 - 165 were granted freehold by the king to Sir Edward Villiers in 1674.[1] An inn known as the White Bear Inn had been established between what is now No. 221 Piccadilly and the parallel Jermyn Street since 1685. The inn was in active use throughout the 18th century, before being demolished in 1870 to make way for a restaurant.[1]

St James Church was first proposed in 1664, when residents wanted to become a separate parish from St Martin in the Fields. The proposal stalled at several Bill readings, and construction did not begin until 1676. The building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren at a cost of around £5,000. The church was consecrated in 1684, with the surrounding area becoming St James Parish.[12]

By 1680, most of the original residential properties along Portugal Street had been demolished or built over.[13] The name Piccadilly was applied to part of the street east of Swallow Street by 1673, and eventually became the de facto name for the entire length of Portugal Street.[7] A plan of the area around St James Parish in 1720 describes the road as "Portugal Street aka Piccadilly".[14] John Rocque's Map of London, published in 1746, refers to the entire street as Piccadilly.[7]

18th - 19th century[edit]

The view of Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner in 1810

Hugh Mason and William Fortnum started the Fortnum & Mason partnership on Piccadilly in 1705, selling recycled candles from Buckingham Palace.[15] By 1788, the store was selling poultry, potted meats, lobsters and prawns, savoury patties, Scotch eggs, and fresh and dried fruits.[16] The Old White Horse Cellar, at No. 155, was one of the most famous coaching inns in England at the time, but it was later destroyed.[16] The Bath Hotel emerged around 1790[17] and much later, in 1887, the Walsingham House was built.[18] Both the Bath and the Walsingham were purchased and demolished when the The Ritz Hotel opened at the site in 1906.[19]

Several members of the Rothschild family had mansions at the western end of the street. Nathan Mayer Rothschild moved his banking premises to No. 107 in 1825, and the construction of other large buildings, complete with ballrooms and marble staircases, led to the street being colloquially referred to as Rothschild Row.[20] Ferdinand James von Rothschild lived at No. 143 with his wife Evelina while Lionel de Rothschild lived at No. 148.[21]

The bookseller Hatchards has been based on Piccadilly since 1797, occupying the current premises at what is now No 187 in 1801.

In the late 18th century, Piccadilly was a favoured place for booksellers. In 1765, John Almon opened a shop in No. 178, which was frequented by Lord Temple and other whigs. John Stockdale opened a shop on No 181 in 1781. The business continued after his death in 1810, being run by his family, until 1835. The oldest surviving bookshop in Britain, Hatchards was started by John Hatchard at No. 173 in 1797, moving to the current location at No 189-90 (now No. 187) in 1801. Aldine Press moved to Piccadilly from Chancery Lane in 1842, and remained there until 1894.[1]

20th - 21st century[edit]

By the 1920s most of these buildings had been demolished or were in institutional use.[22] No. 144 was occupied by homeless squatters in 1968, by means of a law which allowed disused buildings to be used for emergency shelter for the homeless and those in need. The radical squatting movement that resulted foundered soon after due to the rise of drug dealers and Hell's Angels occupying the site. The building was evicted on 21 September 1969, but gave rise to licensed squatting organisations that could take over empty premises and use them for homeless shelter.[23]

The clothing store Simpson's was established at 203 - 206 Piccadilly by Alec Simpson in 1936, who provided factory-made men's clothing to wear. The building was designed by the architect Joseph Amberton in a style that mixed art deco and Bauhaus school design, with an influence from Louis Sullivan. Upon opening it claimed to be the largest menswear store in London. The store closed in January 1999 and is now the flagship shop of the booksellers Waterstone's.[24]

During the 20th century, Piccadilly became known as a place to acquire heroin. Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece recalled people queuing outside Boots on Piccadilly for heroin pills in the late 1940s.[25] By the 1960s, the street and surrounding area began to acquire notoriety as the centre of London's illegal drug trade, where heroin and cocaine could be purchased on the black market from unscrupulous chemists based on or near the street.[26] By 1982, up to 20 people could be seen queueing at a chemist dealing in illegal drugs on nearby Shaftesbury Avenue.[27]

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.


Piccadilly near Green Park station in 2009. The road is part of the A4, a major thoroughfare running through the West End of London.

Piccadilly is one of the major thoroughfares in the West End of London and has several major road junctions. To the east, Piccadilly Circus opened in 1819 to connect the street to Regent Street. It has since become one of the most recognised landmarks in London, particularly after a statue of Eros was constructed on the junction in 1893, and the erection of large electric billboards in 1923.[28] At the western end of Piccadilly is Hyde Park Corner, and the street has a major road junction with St James's Street, and other significant junctions with Albemarle Street, Bond Street and Dover Street.

The road forms part of the A4 which connects central London to Hammersmith, Earl's Court, Heathrow Airport and the M4 westward. In the late 1950s, the Ministry of Transport remodelled Hyde Park Corner at the western end of Piccadilly to form a major traffic gyratory system, including enlargement of Park Lane. It opened on 17 October 1962 at a cost of £5 million.[29][30]

London bus routes 9, 14, 19, 22, 38, C2, N9, N19, N22, N38 and N97 all run along Piccadilly. Part of the Piccadilly line on the London Underground travels under the street. Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, and Piccadilly Circus stations (which are all on the Piccadilly line) have entrances either in or near Piccadilly.

Notable locations[edit]

Several notable buildings, businesses and landmarks are located along Piccadilly. The following locations and are arranged in order starting from the East end of the road and proceeding West.



  1. ^ His second wife was Mary, daughter of Samuel Higgins, an apothecary.[3]
  2. ^ Edward Hobart, Robert's son-in-law, and a man claiming to be a great-nephew, John Baker, of Wellington, Somerset, or Payhembury, Devon.


  1. ^ a b c d e F. H. W. Sheppard, ed. (1960). "Piccadilly, South Side". Survey of London (London: London County Council). 29–30: 251–270. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Kingsford 1925, p. 97.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h F. H. W. Sheppard, ed. (1963). "The Early History of Piccadilly". Survey of London (London: London County Council). 31–32: 32–40. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Taggart, Caroline (13 June 2012). "The surprising reasons behind London's oldest place names". The Daily Telegraphy. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Kingsford 1925, p. 73.
  6. ^ Le Vay 2012, p. 112.
  7. ^ a b c d Kingsford 1925, p. 98.
  8. ^ Wheatley 1870, p. 2.
  9. ^ Wheatley 1870, p. 83.
  10. ^ a b Kingsford 1925, p. 104.
  11. ^ Walford, Edward (1878). "Mansions in Piccadilly" 4. Old and New London. pp. 273–290. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Building History". St James's Church, Piccadilly. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Kingsford 1925, p. 40.
  14. ^ Wheatley 1870, p. xiv.
  15. ^ Fullmann 2012, p. 61.
  16. ^ a b Binney 2006, p. 20.
  17. ^ "Lost". London, England: The Times. 19 December 1789. p. 1. Retrieved 26 June 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  18. ^ "Cheshire House 66A Eaton Square, and 52 Eaton Mews West, SWI". Country Life 196: 105. 2002. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Macqueen-Pope, Walter James (1972). Goodbye Piccadilly (2 ed.). Newton Abbot: David and Charles. p. 119. ISBN 0-7153-5544-9. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Bedoire 2004, pp. 129-30.
  21. ^ Morton 2014, p. 155.
  22. ^ Hibbert & Weinreb 2010, p. 687.
  23. ^ "Police storm squat in Piccadilly". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Gillian, Leslie (13 December 1998). "Design: Goodbye, Piccadilly...". The Indepdendent. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  25. ^ Duffy, Jonathan (25 January 2006). "When heroin was legal". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  26. ^ Burr 1983, p. 883.
  27. ^ Burr 1983, p. 885.
  28. ^ Piccadilly Circus. Encyclopedia Britannica. 5 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  29. ^ "Building the Hyde Park Corner Underpass". Museum of London. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  30. ^ "Hyde Park South Carriage Drive". Hansard. 13 November 1962. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  31. ^ "Location Map - Criterion Theatre". Criterion-Theatre.co.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2014. Foyer Entrance : 218-223 Piccadilly 


  • Robert Baker of Piccadilly Hall and His Heirs by F.H.W. Sheppard (ISBN 0-902087-18-5)
  • Bedoire, Fredric (2004). Tanner, Robert, ed. The Jewish Contribution to Modern Architecture, 1830-1930. KTAV Publishing House. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-0-881-25808-0. 
  • Binney, Marcus (2006). The Ritz Hotel, London. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-51279-1. 
  • Burr, Angela (24 September 1983). "Increased Sale Of Opiates On The Blackmarket In The Piccadilly Area" 287 (6396). British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition).  – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  • Fullmann, Joe (2012). Frommer's London Day By Day. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-119-99486-2. 
  • Hibbert, Christopher; Weinreb, Ben (2010). The London Encyclopedia. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 978-1-405-04924-5. 
  • Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge (1925). The Early History of Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Soho and their Neighbourhood. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-62654-6. 
  • Le Vay, Benedit (2012). Ben Le Vay's Eccentric London: A Practical Guide to a Curious City. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-841-62394-8. 
  • Morton, Frederic (2014). The Rothschilds: A Family Portrait. Diversion Books. ISBN 978-1-626-81394-6. 
  • Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (1870). Round about Piccadilly and Pall Mall: Or, A Ramble from the Haymarket to Hyde Park. Smith, Elder & Company. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′25″N 0°08′32″W / 51.50698°N 0.14235°W / 51.50698; -0.14235