Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Piccadilly Circus and Eros - London

Statue of Eros (or Angel of Christian Charity) in Piccadilly Circus, London

This photo of the Piccadilly Circus in London is part of one of the panoramic images found on the PanoramicEarth.com Tour of London. There are over 100 images taken from around London linked to an interactive map.

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‘It’s like Piccadilly Circus in here!’ Ever heard the phrase? Well, Piccadilly Circus is in the very heart of the West End of London. There are 8 lanes of traffic feeding into the poor circus which, having been installed in the time of horse and cart, is naturally struggling to cope. The area has a long history, going back to around 1620. The road from here, Piccadilly, connected to Pickadilly Hall, which house a merchant famous for is collars, or piccadills. In 1819 Regent Street was being built by John Nash and the meeting point of the two was called Piccadilly Circus.

Apart from the traffic the area is noted for several other things. First it is the name of the local underground station (opened 1906), which, with numerous access points around the square, sits directly beneath it disgorging visitors by the elevator load continuously. The square is surrounded by shops, theatres and arcades making it a very popular location. On the corner of Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue the buildings are plastered with enormous neon advertising continuously enthusing the delights of fast food and fizzy drinks. Thankfully this mode of advertising has not been permitted to spread beyond into the rest of London.

In the south, pedestrianised side of Piccadilly Circus stands a statue built in memorial to an Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was well known Christian with a keen concern for social justice. Among his achievements were the promotion of several acts forcing the improvement of working conditions, and the welfare and education of children (he formed the Ragged Schools which provided education for at least 300,000 children in London alone between 1840 and 1881.

Ironically Westminster decided to build, in honour of this Christian reformer, a statue to a Greek god of 'mature love' Anteros, brother of Eros. It was renamed the Angel of Christian Charity after some comment, but the name never caught on, and then became known as Eros, thus seeming to celebrate the surrounding entertainment and red light areas of the West End and Soho. The statue is one of the icons of London.

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The image here shows the statue and fountain of Eros. The famous advertising hoardings are off to the left. The road just to the right of the statue leads to Leicester Square. The full panoramic image can be found on the London tour by PanoramicEarth.com. An enlargement of this photo can be found on Flickr.

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