From New Oxford Street to Piccadilly
Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue is at the heart of London's
The street was created in 1877
- 86 to improve communications across the capital's busy West
End. Although it was driven through areas of slums,
following the route of an earlier highway, the shape of Soho
to the north was kept.
The street was named after the
7th Earl of Shaftesbury, 1801-85, a social reformer, whose
attempted to improve housing condition.
The statue of Eros in Piccadilly
Circus, originally known as the Shaftesbury Monument, also
commemorates the Victorian philanthropist.
Over the next 20 years seven
theatres were built along Shaftesbury Avenue. Six have
survived, all located along the north side of the street.
The Lyric Theatre, designed by CJ Phipps, has been open almost
as long as the avenue.
The Palace Theatre, dominating
the west side of Cambridge Circus, was built in 1891 as an
opera house but became a musical hall the following year.
In 1910 the ballerina Anna Pavlova made her London debut here.
Today the theatre is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is currently
staging 'Les Miserables'.
As well as theatres Shaftesbury
Avenue has a few Chinese restaurants, travel agents, opticians
and herbalists giving a foretaste of London's nearby Chinatown,
centred around Gerrard Street.