It’s not difficult to find quirky and bustling streets in the centre of London. But to find seven of them that are linked and have one tall monument in the middle… Well, you don’t have to go too far! It’s a 10-minute walk from Bloomsbury International: the Seven Dials Monument. The pillar is more than 10 metres high, and it features six sundials on its top. It connects the energetic and colourful Soho with the stylish and vintage Covent Garden.
“Six sundials for seven streets? Why?” -you might ask. Alright, its story goes back to the late 17th century, when so the English politician, Thomas Neale, created some streets plans. Originally, he only planned to build 6 streets, plus a church. However, he changed his mind later and added another street instead of the church. He wanted to create a posh area where experienced merchants would sell fine goods, and stylish gentlemen would walk around to buy them. His brilliant idea was to use huge shopping windows that would attract even more customers.
It was a success in the first years, but, after the area was sold to a new owner, it slowly started to become an unsafe place. It became very expensive to rent the houses, so too many people would crowd and live in very small spaces. Seven Dials turned into an unpleasant and dangerous slum, full of thieves and bad-tempered tenants. I’m not joking, it wasn’t peaceful – a number of night watchmen were hired in order to keep the streets at least a little safer.
Did you know? Towards the end of the 18th century the monument was taken away from its place. There were two theories behind its disappearance:
- Locals believed that there was treasure under the sculpture, so they knocked it down to search for it.
- It was taken down by respectful people to keep it safe, somewhere away from the angry crowds.
The second story is probably the truth.
Decades later the original Seven Dials pillar was moved to Weybridge and got displayed on Monument Green. (Yes, you can still see it! It’s there.)
“But what about the central London statue?” you ask. From around the second half of the 20th century, the neighbourhood became richer and safer. And a new monument was created in the late 1980s, which had the same sundials on it.
There were some refurbishments over the years, but most of the buildings still have their old features. Today, it’s a land of specialty shops, restaurants, cafés / bars, salons, theatres, and even more! Just like Thomas Neale once imagined.
Do you like mysteries and detective stories? If you still don’t believe how a rich area nowadays could have been such a danger zone in the past: I would recommend Agatha Christie’s ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’ from 1929, which she set in the area.
Location: 45 Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9HD
Closest tube stations: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Holborn
If you’re interested, or fancy a restaurant visit, check the Seven Dials website! They might have some seasonal promotions or vouchers for their food and drink.