Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 32 - London's West End - Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury Avenue
From New Oxford Street to Piccadilly Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue is at the heart of London's theatreland.   The four theatres visible in the above picture from the closest to the furthest are Queen's with "Les Miserables," Gielgud with "Strangers on a Train" opening Nov. 2, Apollo with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night," and Lyric with "Thriller."

Queen's Theatre - Les Miserables
The street, created in 1877 - 86 to improve communications across the capital's busy West End, 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.

"Eros" in Piccadilly Circus
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.

London Theatre Map
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 'The Commitments'.
Palace Theatre
As well as theatres, Shaftesbury Avenue has a few Chinese restaurants, travel agents, opticians and herbalists giving a foretaste of London's nearby Chinatown, centered around Gerrard Street.

China Town
The present Chinatown, which is off Shaftesbury Avenue did not start to be established until the 1970s. Up until then, it was a regular Soho area, run-down, with Gerrard Street the main thoroughfare. It was dominated by the Post Office, facing Macclesfield Street, and other major establishments were The Tailor & Cutter House, at 43/44, now a Chinese supermarket and restaurant, the Boulougne Restaurant, near the Wardour Street end, and by Peter Mario's Restaurant at the other end. Other businesses included a master baker's, the Sari Centre, Lesgrain French Coffee House, Harrison Marks' Glamour Studio, an Indian restaurant and various brothels. Probably the first Chinese restaurants opened in Lisle Street, parallel to Gerrard St, and then spread gradually. The Tailor & Cutter did not close down until around 1974.

The area boasts over 80 restaurants showcasing some of London's finest and most authentic Asian cuisine.

West End map with Agatha Christie Statue marked
Since November 18 of 2012 a new bronze sculpture has occupied a spot at the end of Cranbourn St in London’s West End – a monument to Agatha Christie.  It stands at 2.5 metres high and has the sideways profile of a book, with a cut-out oval section at the centre which features a bust of Christie in profile. It is also studded with effigies of her most popular characters and scenes from her novels – Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and the Orient Express all appear.

Agatha Christie Memorial
The sculpture’s book form was chosen both to represent her achievements as one of the 20th century’s most celebrated novelists and also as a reference to the West End’s longest running play, The Mousetrap, which is based on a short story that she penned some time during the late nineteen forties. The unveiling happened to take place on the 60th Anniversary of the play’s continuous London run.

Agatha Christie Memorial at Night
Rather than present the novelist when she was young, the sculptor sought to capture Agatha Christie at the height of her powers – she was still producing a new novel almost every year into her eighties, having written her first novel some fifty three years before.

Once hubby finished his photo tour of the West End, he came back to the flat and we had Shepherd's and Cumberland pies for dinner.  It's past midnight here now, so I'm going to say good-night, and will check in again tomorrow.


  1. Fascinating. I try to make a point of visiting Chinatown in every new city I go to. Of course, that only works in metropolitan areas, not out in the burbs. They're always so interesting, and surprisingly consistent.

    Love your theater tidbits. Wouldn't you love to be able to see all of those shows?

  2. We want to eat there one night, but aren't sure where, so we need to do some research. As far as seeing shows, we've made some progress. I'd need to review to make sure, but I'd say we've seen eight of the shows currently playing, and we intend to see several more before we leave, but yes, I'd love to go to all of them. Thanks for visiting.