The Seven Dials Conservation Area is one of the most compact and distinctive pieces of townscape in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century patchwork that makes up the West End of London. Most London estate developments in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century were planned around a square.Seven Dials is unique, however, in having a radiating pattern of seven streets and a central polygonal space. The streets are only forty feet wide and the Sundial Pillar is forty feet high.
Thomas Neale's original plan, submitted to Sir Christopher Wren as Surveyor General, shows six streets and a church but Neale cheated by adding a street and failing to build the church, thus increasing his land value without providing the social facilities. The Sundial pillar only has six faces - a seventh face would have been impossible. It is highly likely that the stonemason Edward Pierce was a member of the Masons (whose first Lodge was in Covent Garden) and the Sundial Pillar and the whole layout probably relate to the basic precepts of the 'Craft' of Masonry.
The seven streets radiating off the Dials have had changes of name over the years.
|Castle Street||Castle Street||Shelton Street (1938-)|
|Church Street||Queen Street||Short’s Gardens (1906-)|
|Earle Street||Earl Street Great & Little||Earlham Street (1938-)|
|King Street||King Street||Neal Street (1877-)|
|Little Monmouth St||White Lion Street Great & Little||Mercer Street (1938-)|
|Monmouth Street||Dudley Street (1845-1886)||Shaftesbury Avenue (1886-)|
|St Andrew's Street Great & Little||St Andrew's Street Great & Little||Monmouth Street (1938-)|
|King's Head Court||Neal’s Yard||Neal’s Yard|
|—||West Street||West Street|
|—||Coucumber Alley / Neal's Passage||Cucumber Alley in Thomas Neal Centre|
|—||Lombard Street / Lumber Court||Tower Court (1938-)|
Research Paper: The Seven Dials: “freak of town-planning”, or simply ahead of its time?
By: William C. Baer, Department of Policy and Planning, University of Southern California, Los Angles, CA, USA.
Publication: Journal of Urbanism, International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability. Volume 3, Issue 1, 2010.