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The Seven Streets of Seven Dials

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.

Map by John Strype (1723), courtesy of The Guildhall Library, London.

Map by John Strype (1723), courtesy of The Guildhall Library, London.

 

Changing Names

The seven streets radiating off the Dials have had changes of name over the years.

 

1691 PLANC18-C19TODAY
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-)

 


Journal of UrbanismResearch 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.