Bovril & Prostitutes

‘Picadils’ were pieces of material used to support stiff collars or ruffs, which were popular during the  Elizabethan times and en vogue in the royal courts.

Robert Baker was a well-known tailor with a shop on the Strand and ‘picadils’ made him a very wealthy man.  In 1612 he built a large house in what is today’s Piccadilly and it was instantly nicknamed Piccadilly Hall.

The house was later demolished and the area became a busy thoroughfare and crossroads.

In the early 1900s electrically illuminated advertising boards appeared and in 1910 the famous Bovril and Schweppe’s signs were erected, followed by a Guinness clock.

London County Council could not prevent this advertising even though most of the land was owned by the council. The reason the boards did not spread to other sides of the Circus was because the land granted by the council to John Nash in the 1800s was so tightly worded that it did not permit any advertising.

During World War 2 “Piccadilly Circus” was the code name used by the  Allied Forces during the D-Day invasion as an assembly point for the fleet in the English Channel.  It was also during the War that the soldiers called the ‘Ladies of the Night’ in this part of London ‘Piccadilly Lillies’.

But for most of us, when we think of Piccadilly Circus, we think of the large Coca Cola sign which has been on the facade here since 1954.

And whether we are visitors to the city or Londoners, we cannot but stop and admire our very own ‘Times Square’.

Dawn Denton©

Image Sources: & &



  1. The origin of name places always intrigues me – thanks for this little gem. I remember Piccadilly Circus as I saw it in 1959!! The excitement was almost more than I could bear! Tnx Dawn

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