Created By: Elizabeth Brown
"It's like Piccadilly Circus in here", has muttered many a person when things have got a bit hectic. But how much do they really know about the busy central London area, which around half a million people pass through each day?
We bet you've been past the statue of Eros multiple times — perhaps you've even used it as a meeting point, or sat on the steps that surround it? We've got news for you: it's not actually Eros.
The statue's official name is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (although it's also known as The Angel of Christian Charity), and it was built in 1893 to commemorate philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury. It was intended to be the Greek god Anteros, but the bow in his hand put the public in mind of cupid, and it's therefore confused with the Greek god of love, Eros.
The statue was removed for the duration on the second world war and replaced by hoardings to keep it safe, before being returned to Piccadilly Circus in 1948. It was also covered by an inflatable snow globe in Winter 2013-2014 to protect it from drunken festive revellers.
Many a tourist has, no doubt, been disappointed to arrive at the world-famous Piccadilly Circus and not find a single circus act. In this context, Circus refers to the fact that it used to be a complete roundabout, or circle. When Shaftesbury Avenue was built in 1886, the junction ceased to be a complete circle, but the name stuck.
Piccadilly Circus is named after the neighbouring shopping street Piccadilly, home to Fortnum & Mason among others. That in turn was named after Piccadilly Hall, a house belonging to a tailor who specialised in a type of collar known as a piccadill.
Probably the most famous feature of Piccadilly Circus is its light-up advertising boards. The first sign to be illuminated was a Perrier advertisement in 1908, which used incandescent lightbulbs. Neon was first used for a Bovril sign in the 1940s. Every building in Piccadilly Circus used to have advertising signs, but now, those leased from the Crown Estate are forbidden to advertise.
The lights were switched off for the duration of the second world war, only being relit in 1949. Other than that, the only times the lights have gone out were for Churchill's funeral, Princess Diana's funeral and WWF Earth Hour.
This point of interest is part of the tour: London Shopping Tour