top of page

The Angel of Christian Charity

Let's start with a quick question. Unless you know or are related to one, how many members, serving or otherwise, of the Metropolitan Police CID can you name? I'll leave you to ponder that one.

The other day having decamped at Charing Cross railway station I decided to alter my usual route and wandered up the Haymarket, as I wanted to look at a particular small street that leads off of it. Having done so the quickest way to where I wanted to be was to cut across Piccadilly Circus, passing the statue of Anteros as I did so. The circus was as usual packed with tourists milling around. I always get the sense that once they've arrived in the location they're not quite sure what they should do, anticlimactic could be the sense, and so people just either stand, sit or lay at the feet of the statue. "Hang on a minute", I hear you cry, (possibly not, but for this literary device to work you've cried it, in my head anyway) "you've got a factual inaccuracy there. You mean you passed the statue of Eros, surely everyone knows that?" Ahhh, Anteros and Eros, two completely different chaps.

Anteros in Greek mythology is the god of requited love and also the punisher of those who scorn love and the advances of others, or the avenger of unrequited love and is the son of Aphrodite. He is one of the Erotes, a group of winged gods in Classical mythology.

Another Erotes is Eros, who is actually Anteros' brother and he is the God of love, lust, desire and sex and the personification of love, a slightly more gritty character than his romantic brother. Both brothers are usually depicted as young men, but Eros is nearly always depicted as being younger than Anteros. In fact it was said that Eros would only grow and age while in the company of his brother.

Despite the notion in popular culture, the statue that stands in the middle of Piccadilly Circus is actually of Anteros, but how he came to be known as Eros is a story of Victorian morality.

The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, to give it it's official name was erected in 1892–93 to commemorate the philanthropic works of The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Victorian politician and philanthropist, who played a leading role in replacing child labour with school education.

Designed and sculpted by Alfred Gilbert, the use of a nude figure on a public monument was controversial at the time of its construction. The model for the sculpture was Gilbert's studio assistant, a 16-year-old, Angelo Colarossi a native of Shepherd's Bush. The memorial was unveiled by The 1st Duke of Westminster on 29 June 1893. Following the unveiling there were numerous complaints. Some felt it was sited in a vulgar part of town, the area was at the time rife with prostitutes.

There were other complainants who felt that it's sentiment was at odds with the famously sober and respectable Earl. The number of instances of people taking the trouble to write to the newspapers about either it's lewdness, location or dedication began to grow and probably to curtail this growing furore the authorities renamed the statue as The Angel of Christian Charity. However, the name never became widely known and the statue was thence referred to, incorrectly, as Eros, one commentator noting it as an ironic representation of the more carnal side of the neighbourhood.

Since 1893 the statue has left the circus only twice. Once in 1922 when it was removed due to the building of Piccadilly underground station directly below it and was sited in Embankment Gardens for nine years. It was removed again during the Second World War and spent the hostilities in Egham in Surrey, despite it's absence hoardings were erected to protect the plinth.

However, had circumstances played out differently, the circus could have looked very different today. Come up with any members of the CID yet? I'll give you another week to think about it.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page