Piccadilly was named after a 17th-century tailor who had a business selling ‘picadils’ – the big-frilled collars that you sometimes see on pictures at the National. With business booming, he splashed out on a mansion which became known as Piccadilly Hall.
The area is still famous for tailors today, but they have since moved north to Savile Row and Jermyn Street.
The most famous shop on Piccadilly is undoubtedly Fortnum & Mason. It was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason.
It started out as a simple grocery store, but immediately appealed to the upper classes due to the stock of high quality goods. It soon supplied the officers of the army, and by the 19th-century was a firm favourite of the Queen.
Burlington Arcade is one of the most famous arcades in London – run by ‘Beadles’ in top-hat and tails. They may look friendly, but beware of their draconian rules: they’ll have you for singing, whistling and chewing gum. (And for christ’s sake, please don’t run through with an open umbrella!)
Piccadilly Circus is one of London’s major thoroughfares. The bright lights were added in the early 20th-century, and have become a favourite photo call of tourists.
The Eros statue at the centre of Piccadilly Circus represents the Angel of Christian Charity and not the Greek god of Love, as most people think.
The Royal Academy of Arts occupies Burlington House – one of the few remaining Piccadilly mansions. It was built for the Earl of Burlington in 1768, and sold to the British Government in 1854. It was then leased back to the Royal Academy and became the country’s very first art school.
It is probably more famous these days for the Summer Exhibition, which has been held every year since 1769. Everyone is free to submit a picture, and the best get hung upon the walls.
St. James’s Piccadilly dates from 1684, and was the last London church to be designed by Christopher Wren. It was badly damaged during the Blitz, and renovated by Sir Albert Richardson.