Since the 17th Century, Piccadilly, the starting point of the Great West Road that extends from London to the far west of the country, has been one of the most famous thoroughfares in London. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, it was developed as a fashionable residential area, with several of the capital’s grandest aristocratic mansions – Londonderry, Bath, Berkeley, Egremont, York and Devonshire – being built along its northern side.
Throughout the years, the area’s high-society reputation has continued to grow as some of London’s most famous luxury businesses and arts organisations have moved in. An obvious public gathering place, it has featured in almost every coronation, jubilee and state funeral in the city’s history.
Situated at the eastern end of the street, the iconic Piccadilly Circus, with its illuminated advertising hoardings and bronze statue of Eros, is one of the city’s most recognisable and well-known landmarks.
In 1897, Devonshire House, one of the largest of Piccadilly’s opulent ducal houses, was the location of a large fancy dress ball celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The guests, including Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and The Princess of Wales, were dressed as historical portraits come to life. The many portrait photographs taken at the ball serve to illustrate countless books documenting the social history of the late Victorian era. Although the building was demolished in 1920, its gates still stand as the entrance to Green Park and the building fronting Piccadilly, now offices, is known as Devonshire House.