What exactly is: the fountain at Piccadilly Circus?

The third installment in a new series on the blog which takes a closer look at some of London’s most famous landmarks and their origins…

We all know it. One of London’s most famous sites that’s been attracting tourists since its unveiling in 1893 by the Duke of Westminster (1880-1885), but what exactly is the monument at Piccadilly Circus?

To some it’s known as the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, to most its Eros the Greek god of love, however it is in fact Eros’ brother, Anteros, the god of selfless love. The memorial was designed by Sir Alfred Gilbert to commemorate the life of the Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885), a well known London philanthropist, hence the decision to choose the Greek god Anteros.

At the time of it’s unveiling it was the first statue in London to be cast out of aluminum. The fountain base was made of bronze.

The model for the sculptor was none other than Sir Alfred Gilbert’s studio assistant, the Italian/British born Angelo Colarossi.


The statue has been moved several times in its lifetime – firstly to Embankment Gardens in 1925 when Piccadilly underground station’s booking hall was under construction. It returned back in in full (with its fountain base) in 1931, but moving slightly to the east from its original location in the center of the circus.

It was removed once again during the second world war and kept in Egham before returning back to its current location in 1947.

Incidentally, the name of Piccadilly is said to originate from Piccadilly Hall, once the residence of Robert Baker, a tailor who sold a particular type of shirt collar known as the piccadill, popular in the late 16th and early 17th century.

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