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The History Of London’s West End

The USA has Broadway and the UK has the West End. It’s the premiere theater destination in Europe with a history dating back to 1663. This area of London is also one of the top places for a night out on the town, with clubs, pubs and restaurants that are uber trendy. People come from all over the world to experience the culture and night life of the West End.

The Perfect Location

London’s West End is part of the central city, which lies just north of the River Thames. The two suburbs that make up the West End are Westminster and Camden. The reason this particular area became so popular is because of the fact that the wind usually blew downstream, making it a good spot for the wealthy set in medieval times. It was also close to the Palace of Westminster, which has since become the Houses of Parliament.

After the Great Fire of London back in 1666, the area really became a hotspot for the wealthy and the famous. The elite moved in and built more and more townhouses. Theatres, restaurants and bars started appearing too.

The First Theaters

The Theater Royal Drury Lane was the first of its kind in the West End. It was built in 1663 and was originally called the Theater Royal in Bridges Street. It was managed by Thomas Killigrew, and it’s said that Nell Gwynn, mistress to King Charles II, even performed here at one point.

It wasn’t until 1806 that another major theater joined Drury Lane, when the Sans Pareil was created by John Scott. This theater was actually fairly small but it gathered a strong following. Today, it is known as the Adelphi Theater. Towards the end of the century, another two theaters joined the party. The Garrick Theater and the Lyric Theater. The latter is now the oldest on Shaftesbury Avenue, which is widely considered to be the main road for the West End.

The Garrick Theater also has quite the claim to fame, with the construction crew finding a Roman river flowing under the area. They had done a deep excavation of the site to ensure that the Dress Circle of the theatre would actually be level with the street outside. The crew worked hard to divert the river to ensure that the building’s foundations would be solid and stable. Their work must’ve been good as the theater is still standing.

The Longest Running Show

Much like the games we love, the proud history of the West End has gone from strength to strength over the centuries. One of the biggest claims to fame that thespians working in the area have is that it still holds the record for the longest running production of all time. In 1952, The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre and it has never closed. To date, there have been over 28 000 performances in over 60 years. The numbers show that well over 10 million people have sat in the audience and watched these performances.