More than 8,500 performers – including those pictured celebrating the launch of London’s Olympic year – took part in this year’s New Year’s Day Parade in London, the wettest in the event’s 26 year history. But the wild weather didn’t put off the more than 500,000 people who turned out to watch the parade as it made its way from the starting point outside the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly via Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. As many as 19 London boroughs submitted entries in a competition based on the themes of the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with Merton (its entry ‘From Horsepower To High Speed Rail’ featured animatronics) and the City of Westminster (its entry ‘Peter Pan’ involved a giant galleon and the The Sylvia Young Theatre School) announced as joint winners. For more on the parade, see www.londonparade.co.uk.

IMAGE: Courtesy of www.londonparade.co.uk

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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.