Incredible photos show the transformation of Piccadilly Circus over a century, from 1920 to 2022


With its dazzling lights, iconic advertisements and famous buildings, it’s no wonder Piccadilly Circus has long been the focal point of London’s glitzy entertainment district.

The bustling junction has been attracting tourists like moths since it opened in 1819, serving as a rather grand link between Regent Street and the Piccadilly thoroughfare heading west towards Green Park.

The area takes its name from Piccadilly Hall, which in turn was named after the wares of a local Elizabethan tailor, Robert Baker, who sold stiff lace collars there called “pickadills”, according to Discover Britain.

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Meanwhile, the famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in the center of Piccadilly Circus, which has become the iconic focal point of so many famous photos, was named after the much-loved Victorian philanthropist, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.

But arguably the most famous and eye-catching part of Piccadilly Circus – the giant fluorescent billboards surrounding the fountain – have been a fixture of the site since 1908, when Perrier Drinks built the site’s first ever light bulb-lit advertisement. in order to attract attention. passengers exiting the new metro station.

The notice board was a success, and from 1923 more and more giant electric notice boards were installed on the facade of the London Pavilion and other surrounding buildings.

Looking at photographs of Piccadilly Circus over the decades, it’s fascinating to see how the advertisements change in style and content (subject to the trends of the times), but some features of the site never change at all.

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The famous London Pavilion music hall, for example, opened in 1885 and was the first building erected at the Piccadilly Circus end of the new Shaftesbury Avenue. Although the building has changed use over the decades, its famous facade still dominates the north side of Piccadilly Circus today.

Over the years, Piccadilly Circus has served as the backdrop for some of London’s most iconic moments, such as crowds gathering to celebrate VE Day in 1945, the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and revelers walking out for the EURO 2020 football final, postponed to summer 2021 due to Covid-19.

We’ve collected photographs of Piccadilly Circus across the decades from the 1920s to the present day, to see a fascinating century of change in London’s iconic location.

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