Medieval London comprised two adjacent cities – the City of London (cathedral: St. Paul's) to the east, and the City of Westminster (cathedral: Westminster Abbey) to the west.
Over time they came to form the centre of modern London, although each kept its own distinct character and its separate legal identity (for example, the City of London has its own police force and is a distinct county). The City of London became a centre for the banking, financial, legal and professional sectors, while Westminster became associated with the leisure, shopping, commerce, and entertainment sectors, the government, and home to universities and embassies. The modern West End is closely associated with this area of central London.
Lying to the west of the historic Roman and medieval City of London, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City. It was close to the royal seat of power at the Palace of Westminster (now home to Parliament), and is largely contained within the City of Westminster (one of the 32 London boroughs).
Developed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was built as a series of palaces, expensive town houses, fashionable shops and places of entertainment. The areas closest to the City around Holborn, Seven Dials, and Covent Garden contained poorer communities that were cleared and redeveloped in the 19th century.