A Brief History of London’s West End
The West End, synonymous with the glitz and glamour of the stage and free and frivolous bohemia.
Long a centre of fashion and culture, the West End of London is the city’s entertainment centre. From the blinding lights of Piccadilly Circus to the suit shops of Savile Row, the West End is the beating hearty of London’s iconic character.
The West End covers many of the capital’s most famous districts, spreading its boundaries out over the red lights of Soho, the shopping meccas of Oxford Street and the glamour of Covent Garden.
Historically, London consisted of two adjoining cities, spanning the banks of the River Thames; the City of London in the East, a capital of commerce and business and the City of Westminster to the West, a hive of leisure and entertainment.
The West End was the centre of this. A haven for the rich and famous, away from the sounds and smog of the City’s bustling streets. With the influx of rich residents came an influx of places in which to spend those riches; theatres, shopping streets, cocktail bars and restaurants rubbed shoulders with the seedier side of elite society.
The West End first became truly established in the years after the Great Fire of London. The city was in the midst of a huge regeneration project, transforming the centre into a place of thriving and boisterous beauty worthy of the world’s greatest city. The West End was part of such rapid expansion.
Of course, the West End cannot be mentioned without also considering the theatres which call it home. “Theatreland”, as it is colloquially known, is arguably the epicentre of theatre performance in the English-speaking world.
The lights of the stage have found their home in the West End since the 16th and 17th centuries. Nowadays, near 40 venues rub shoulders with one another in this district.
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