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Programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931

Windmill Theatre Feature

History of Piccadilly and the Windmill

Front cover of programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre, Great Windmill Street, London in 1931.The story of Piccadilly centres round a Windmill, which stood until late in the Eighteenth Century on the site where the Windmill Theatre now stands.

Despite a common fancy to the contrary, the original Piccadilly was where the corner of Great Windmill Street and Coventry Street is now. There was, at this corner, a stile at the bottom of a footpath leading to the Windmill. In 1305 Joan, widow of William Charles, held of the Abbot of Westminster a messuage and 32 acres of land surrounding the site of the Windmill. These passed into the hands of the Widow Golightly and in 1536 Henry VI1I "acquired" them, including "a narrow strip in Windmill Fields with its north end close to the Windmill."

Right - Front cover of programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931.

In 1612 a tailor named Robert Baker bought the strip of land and began to build. His purchase was described in 1624 as " lying very fit and necessary for building." He built eleven houses to the east of a footpath which led from the corner of " the way from Colebrook" (Colnbrook) and the top of the Hay Market, to the Windmill. At this date the name Pickadilly first appears and it is derived from the stiff frilled collars, worn at the time of the Stuarts, which were called "Pickadillies."

A history of Piccadilly and the Windmill from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre, in 1931.The story goes that some wit, hearing that a tailor had built himself a fine house in Windmill Fields, assumed that he had made much profit out of the sale of these frills, and so dubbed this place "Pickadil Hall."

The record of Lammas payments for 1623-24 includes one "for land near the Windmill, builded upon and lately called Pickadilly."

Left - A history of Piccadilly and the Windmill from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931.

Imagine a quiet evening stroll in the 17th Century, from your suburban home near St. Giles' Fields (Drury Lane). Walking peacefully through the fields to the top of the Hay Market, you would have seen the sun setting behind the trees at Knights Bridge and the Manor of Hide (Hyde Park), the Tyburn trickling through fields to join the Thames and disappearing beyond St. James' Palace. On your left the towers of Westminster and the Palace and yards of Whitehall, and on your right the stile and footpath leading to the Windmill.

Detail from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre, Great Windmill Street, London in 1931.

Above - Detail from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931.

Cast list from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931.

Above - Cast list from a programme for 'Inquest!' The first production at the newly opened Windmill Theatre in 1931.

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