What’s In A Name? – Piccadilly

One of the principal thoroughfare’s of London’s West End – and lending its name to that most famous of intersections, Piccadilly Circus, the name Piccadilly derives from the stiff ruffs known as ‘piccadils’ which were widely worn by the fashionable during the 17th century.

The street was known as Portugal Street until the 17th century. While there are several different stories explaining the name, the most widely accepted story is that the name’s origins go back to a tailor by the name of Robert Baker.

He’d made a fortune from making and selling piccadils and used that money to purchase a large tract of land in the area, then largely countryside, and 1611-12 built a mansion there which became known, probably derisively, as Piccadilly Hall in reference to his trade.

When the area came to be developing in the years after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the name stuck.

Famous sights along Piccadilly include grocer Fortnum & Mason, founded in 1707 by one of Queen Anne’s footmen (pictured above), the Royal Academy of the Arts, the Ritz Hotel, which opened in 1906 and indicated a new level in luxurious hotels, the Wren-designed St James’ Church, and the entry to the 19th century Burlington Arcade.

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