Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D

800m from Charing Cross

50m from Piccadilly Circus

Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D

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Shaftesbury Avenue is a busy road running from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street and is named after the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. It’s best known as being the centre of London theatreland, but whilst it attracts tourists and a discerning clientele, its origins are far removed.

The winding road, south west to north east, follows the route of an old bridle path which by the 1880’s had developed into one of the poorest slums in London. The city was becoming a busy, sophisticated place and had to find ways of easing traffic congestion with the West End in urgent need of a new thoroughfare. Such was the squalor in this particular area that in 1877 Parliament ordered the area to be bulldozed and the occupants rehoused elsewhere. Two problems were solved in one.

The area was redesigned by architect Georges Vulliamy and engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and was opened in 1886. In 1888 The Shaftesbury Theatre opened, although not the one of the same name today. Others soon followed. The wealthy came to be entertained and the profile of the street soon changed from the crime and poverty of years before.

The Lyric Theatre opened in 1888, the Palace, by Cambridge Circus, opened in 1891, originally being an opera house. The Apollo followed in 1901, the Gielgud (as the Hicks Theatre) opened in 1906, the Queens in 1907 and, across Cambridge Circus and at the far north east end, the Shaftesbury in 1911.

Geographically, Shaftesbury Avenue is split into two with the traffic interchange of Cambridge Circus in the middle. The west side has all the theatres, whilst the east part is more of a business area. The west side can be split further as all the theatres are on the north side of the road, whilst the south side borders on Chinatown.

Some of the best and most famous London sites are within easy walking distance of this well-known landmark.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.