This documentary in the Look At Life series – made by the Rank Organisation for screening in Odeon and Gaumont cinemas – was released in 1967 and anticipated a radical redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus, which never actually happened. More on that below, but for now just enjoy these nine delicious minutes of London history.
The thing we’re all supposed to know about Alfred Gilbert’s statue of Eros is that it isn’t of Eros at all, but his brother Anteros. More on that from Londonist. Another point of fact about the film is that in the section about the sewer system it refers to “Barking in Essex”, but Barking had been part of Greater London since the creation of the boroughs in 1965.
As for the redevelopment scheme, its fate is covered in what seems a very authoritative Wikipedia entry on Piccadilly Circus. A plan presented in 1962 had envisaged an elevated pedestrian concourse with most of the existing footways given over to additional road space. A later version proposed three new octagonal towers, but the whole idea was junked by the Conservative national government in 1972.
The reason? A 20 per cent increase in road traffic capacity was anticipated, but the government wanted 50 per cent. Let’s be thankful for small mercies.