Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D

Road in/near Soho, existing between 1886 and now

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Road · Soho · W1D ·
December
23
2010

Shaftesbury Avenue is a major street in the West End of London, named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.

Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus in 1949
Credit: Chalmers Butterfield
Shaftesbury Avenue runs in a north-easterly direction from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. From Piccadilly Circus to Cambridge Circus it is in the City of Westminster, and from Cambridge Circus to New Oxford Street it is in the London Borough of Camden.

Shaftesbury Avenue was built between 1877 and 1886 by the architect George Vulliamy and the engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette to provide a north-south traffic artery through the crowded districts of St. Giles and Soho. It was also part of a slum clearance measure, to push impoverished workers out of the city centre; although the street’s construction was stalled by legislation requiring rehousing some of these displaced residents, overcrowding persisted. Charles Booth’s Poverty Map shows the neighbourhood makeup shortly after Shaftesbury Avenue opened.

It is generally considered the heart of London’s West End theatre district, with the Lyric, Apollo, Gielgud and Queen’s theatres clustered together on the west side of the road between Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross Road. At the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road there is also the large Palace Theatre. Finally, the north-eastern end of the road has another large theatre, the Shaftesbury Theatre.

The former Saville Theatre is on Shaftesbury Avenue; this became a cinema in 1970, first known as ABC1 and ABC2, and since 2001 as Odeon Covent Garden. Another cinema, the Soho Curzon, is located about halfway along the street.

Between 1899 and 1902, no. 67 Shaftesbury Avenue was the location of the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture, which is the first commercial Asian martial arts training school in the Western world.

Shaftesbury Avenue is also a boundary of London’s Chinatown. The number of Chinese businesses on the street has been on the increase.

In the evening, street artists gather on the pavement outside the HQ of ICE - International Currency Exchange and Raphaels Bank (previously the home of Natwest) at the Piccadilly Circus end of Shaftesbury Avenue, and produce portraits for the tourists.


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Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus in 1949
Chalmers Butterfield


 

Soho

Soho is a world-famous area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London.

The name "Soho" first appears in the 17th century. Most authorities believe that the name derives from a former hunting cry. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, used "soho" as a rallying call for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, half a century after the name was first used for this area of London. The Soho name has been imitated by other entertainment and restaurant districts such as Soho, Hong Kong; Soho, Málaga; SOHO, Beijing; SoHo (South of Horton), London, Ontario, Canada; and Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. SoHo, Manhattan, gets its name from its location SOuth of HOuston Street, but is also a reference to London’s Soho.

Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation as a base for the sex industry in addition to its night life and its location for the headquarters of leading film companies. Since the 1980s, the area has undergone considerable gentrification. It is now predominantly a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices, with only a small remnant of sex industry venues.

Soho is a small, multicultural area of central London; a home to industry, commerce, culture and entertainment, as well as a residential area for both rich and poor. It has clubs, including the former Chinawhite nightclub; public houses; bars; restaurants; a few sex shops scattered amongst them; and late-night coffee shops that give the streets an "open-all-night" feel at the weekends. Record shops cluster in the area around Berwick Street, with shops such as Phonica, Sister Ray and Reckless Records.
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