Shaftesbury Avenue is a major street in the West End of London, named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, that runs in a north-easterly direction from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. From Piccadilly Circus to Cambridge Circus it is in the City of Westminster and from Cambridge Circus to New Oxford Street it is in the London Borough of Camden.
Shaftesbury Avenue was built in the late 19th century (1877-86) by the architect George Vulliamy and the engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette to provide a north-south traffic artery through the crowded districts of St. Giles and Soho. It was also part of a slum clearance measure, to push impoverished workers out of the city centre although the street's construction was stalled by legislation requiring rehousing some of these displaced residents, overcrowding persisted.
Charles Booth's Poverty Map shows the neighbourhood makeup shortly after Shaftesbury Avenue opened. It is generally considered the heart of London's West End theatre district, with the Lyric, Apollo, Gielgud and Queen's theatres clustered together on the north side of the road between Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross Road. At the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road there is also the large Palace Theatre. Finally, the north-eastern end of the road has another large theatre, called the Shaftesbury Theatre.
The Saville Theatre used to be on Shaftesbury Avenue, but this became a cinema in 1970, first known as ABC1 and ABC2, and since 2001 as Odeon Covent Garden. Another, the Curzon cinema, is located in the middle of the Avenue. Shaftesbury Avenue is also the beginning of London Chinatown. The number of Chinese business on the avenue has been on the increase.