From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|To:||Great Yarmouth (SP080876)|
|Via:||Leicester, Peterborough, Norwich|
|Length:||157.9 miles (254.1 km)|
|Meets:||M6, A1, A5, A11, A12, A15, A16, A17, A43, A140, A141, A146, A148, A149, A444, A447, A452, A594, A653, A663, A1042, A1064, A1074, A1075, A1122, A1139, A1101, A1260, A4540, A5460, A6003, A6030, A6118, A6121|
|Former Number(s):||A1096, A17, A141|
|Old route now:||A1064, A1122, A1101, B4114|
|Route outline (key)|
The A47 is a key route connecting Great Yarmouth, on the east coast of Norfolk, to the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands. However, most of the 17-mile-long section between Nuneaton and Castle Bromwich which was part of the original A47 has now been reclassified as the B4114.
Section 1: Great Yarmouth - Peterborough
It starts on the Yarmouth Western Bypass, although when it was built in the 1980s this was numbered as part of the A12. It then runs in a dead-straight line (Acle New Road) across Halvergate Marshes until it reaches a bend to the right with a left turn to Halvergate village and a pub (Stracey Arms) on the corner. It then continues straight again to Acle, which is bypassed in the 1980s by a dual carriageway. There's a junction here on a roundabout with the A1064, the old road from Yarmouth to Acle.
The road is single-carriageway again past North Burlingham then it becomes the Blofield bypass, dual carriageway from here, flowing into the Norwich bypass (early 1990s). It's free flowing with intersections for the A140, A146 and A11. This section ends at a roundabout at Easton then it's single carriageway again bypassing Honingham and Hockering (1970s?). The next newish section is the North Tuddenham bypass (1992), dual carriageway again which flows into the East Dereham bypass (1978). The dual carriageway stops shortly after the intersection with the A1075 and the rest of the bypass past Scarning and Wendling is a dead straight wide concrete single carriageway built on the route of an old railway line.
It continues past Necton then bypasses Swaffham (1981). This is initially single carriageway then dual with an intersection for the A1065. The Swaffham bypass ends at a roundabout with the A1122 (built to replace a notorious right turn across the dual carriageway) then it's back to single carriageway until the Hardwick Roundabout at King's Lynn. A flyover constructed in the early 2000s takes the A47 over the roundabout where it meets the A10 and A149.
The King's Lynn bypass (a 1970s construction) ends at a roundabout. The A47 turns left and the A17 goes straight ahead (although it originally ran along the current A47 to Swaffham). Another section of dual carriageway was constructed in 1994/5 to bypass a few villages and this runs into the single carriageway Wisbech bypass (early 1980s). We're well and truly into flat Fenland now and continue to Guyhirn (recently bypassed) and turn right at a roundabout for the next stretch to Peterborough.
Section 2: Peterborough - Nuneaton
At Peterborough the A47 crosses the A15. Once upon a time it passed close to Peterborough Cathedral; nowadays it sweeps around the northern side of the city mostly in tree-lined cutting so that you hardly see even a house.
Our route westward continues on a dual carriageway with grade-separated crossings… which grinds to a halt at a little roundabout four miles further on. The next mile and a half to the A1 junction is poorly aligned single carriageway which sees frequent accidents (and the employment of that little roundabout to turn traffic round and send it back to Peterborough: the only other alternative is a narrow lane where two tractors meeting would mean total gridlock). Just before that island, though, you might care to look out for where Ermine Street crosses, running SE-NW (the A1 has abandoned it at this point: the Roman road is just an extra-wide hedge).
We bridge the A1 at Wansford (the A47 on a more northerly, the A1 on a more easterly, alignment than when they were first numbered). The intersections here, which were as far as the A47 was concerned, plain T- and X-junctions (and highly dangerous) have recently been replaced by roundabouts at each end of the bridge. The dual carriageway between the two extremities of the overbridge retains its 60 mph speed limit, which seems a bit pointless for a section no more than 200 yards long.
It's single carriageway now (with the odd crawler-lane) all the way to Nuneaton. From Wansford to Duddington roundabout (A43) we cross the low ridge between the Nene and Welland valleys. Much of the land to the left is given over to quarrying; to the right is Wittering RAF base from which low-flying Harrier jump-jets sometimes hover alarmingly close to the road.
At Duddington we cross the Welland and are in Rutland ("Magnum in Parvo" say the signs: a lot in a little). From here to Leicester the A47 is in large part a ridgeway and there are some good views to be had on fine days. In particular look out, after climbing the hill beyond Tixover, for the Harringworth railway viaduct down in the valley to your left – especially when driving into the evening sun. At Morcott (after the windmill) the B672/A6121 Caldecott – Stamford road crosses in a dogleg. Old maps show this was once a plain crossroads, with the present B672 passing the other side of the houses on the south side of the A47.
The Rugby – Stamford railway line once crossed our route here too, in a tunnel underneath Morcott crossroads. Up the hill, just before entering the village of Glaston, the line we might have seen crossing that viaduct earlier passes beneath the A47. This railway is still open but sees only occasional passenger traffic connecting Oakham with Corby and places south.
The A47 next skirts Uppingham (very few places remain unbypassed on this section of the A47, which means that roadside hostelries are few and far between!). We cross the A6003 Kettering – Oakham road, shortly after which there is a steep descent past Wardley, now on a dead end but formerly on a loop off the narrower and twistier, alignment of the old A47. This tiny village, it seems, once suffered from car drivers attempting to overtake slow-moving lorries on the main road by diverting through it at high speed!
Crossing the Eye Brook, we enter Leicestershire and begin climbing again, past East Norton (bypassed), Tugby, and Skeffington (unusual signs here which flash a warning when a vehicle is approaching the junction, on the inside of a blind bend, between the side road to the village itself and the main road). Some 35 miles or so since leaving Peterborough we now reach the summit of the section, at around 200 m above sea level, and cross the Jurassic Way (at this point occupied by the present-day B6047 Market Harborough – Melton Mowbray road). So far all the streams we have encountered have run towards the Wash (via Welland and Nene); from now any water on our road will reach the North Sea by way of the Trent and its tributaries.
After Billesdon, bypassed and unseen on our left, and Houghton on the Hill, then Thurnby our route is now largely a descent into the City of Leicester. Although it once went straight through the middle of the city along Humberstone Gate and High Street, the A47 now dies temporarily at its junction with the A594 Leicester Inner Ring Road.
When born again on the other side of Leicester, the A47 is no longer a main through route, its function of serving Birmingham having now been taken over by the M69 and M6. It still however crosses the now rather flatter Leicestershire countryside, Hinckley-bound.
Shortly after the B581 junction, the A47 strikes off on a new course: the Hinckley bypass, with a junction midway with the A447. Look out, when cresting the hill just after the second roundabout beyond the A447 junction, for the biggest of the "Warwickshire pyramids" (old mining spoil-tips) across the valley: at 2 o'clock in Biggles-speak. You'll pass right by this if you decide to follow the old A47 (now B4114) beyond Nuneaton.
The final part of the Hinckley bypass is, in fact, an industrial estate road which was there before the bypass was built. After that we dogleg (roundabout) right - (T-junction) left across Watling Street (the A5 and the Leics/Warks boundary) and head for Nuneaton along the road called "The Long Shoot". And so, at Nuneaton – the "Birmingham bit" (which has moved twice in recent years) notwithstanding – we reach (at the A444) the end of the continuous A47.
Section 3: Nuneaton - Birmingham
Beyond Nuneaton, most of the original A47 to Birmingham has been reclassified as the B4114. However, the A47 mysteriously pops up again at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, just north of M6 junction 5, at a junction with the A452. Here the road is dual-carriageway and non-primary, running slightly north of its original route (which is still the B4114). As the "Fort Parkway" it curves slightly to the right to run adjacent to the railway and M6, coming to the A4040 roundabout where it crosses beneath the M6. At the B4137 roundabout at Nechells it bends to the left, becoming the "Heartlands Parkway" running alongside the Grand Union Canal to Saltley, where it finally rejoins its original route - the B4114 ends here. The final section runs along Saltley Road and the Nechells Parkway, to end on the A4540 Middleway.
The A47 originally started at a triple point in Great Yarmouth with the A12 and A1026 and ran to Acle via Caster-on-Sea (then known as Caister next Yarmouth). It was rerouted onto the Acle Straight in 1935.
The original route through Norwich was via Thorpe Road, Bank Plain (where it met the A11), St Andrews Street, St Benedicts Street and Dereham Road.
Originally, the A47 ran from Swaffham to Wisbech via Downham Market, along what is now the A1122. It was rerouted via King's Lynn on 1st April, 1933, taking over the original east end of the A17. South of Wisbech, the it ran via Wisbech St Mary, along what is now an unclassified road. This is because there was no bridge at Guyhirn until 1927.
The original, pre new town route in Peterborough was via Eye Road, Eastfield Road and Thorpe Road.
The main stretch of road between Leicester, and Uppingham had been built as a turnpike road in the 1750s. It was improved in stages throughout the 1980s.
First to open was the Uppingham bypass in 1982, cutting three miles and a steep hill off the journey; it's hard to imagine why it didn't open sooner. New S3 bypasses were opened at Billesdon, in 1986, and Wardley, in 1987. Both of these too are located on steep hills, which had direct connections to their villages. Wardley, in particular, was notorious for lorries slipping, and sliding in icy weather - as well as the village road being used as a rat-run (see above). The bypassed sections are still in use for access, although as no through roads.
Finally, a much welcomed bypass of East Norton opened in 1990, meaning that traffic lights could be removed from the village. Duddington was also bypassed in 1975. At many other places, bend improvements have taken place, particularly Belton-in-Rutland, and Tixover.
The northern bypass of Peterborough was built between 1972 and 1974. The grade-separated junction with the A15 (J18) was immediately named Rhubarb Bridge by locals, because of the old railway bridge on the spot that had been demolished 10 years earlier. The 'rhubarb' was because of the rhubarb plants growing in the nearby allotments! Until 1991, the route then followed the current A15 eastbound, and A1139 - until the Eye bypass was completed.
In 1922 the A47 entered Birmingham along Coleshill Street (which has now been bypassed by Nechells Parkway and Jennens Road) before turning along Dale End to end on the A41 High Street. It later gained a link along James Watt Street (now largely buried under the Law Courts) to reach Corporation Street (whose most likely number is A34). With the construction of the Birmingham Inner Ring Road in the 1970s the road was cut back to Masshouse Circus and then cut back again to the Middleway in 2002 when the junction was demolished.
Heading east, the A47 originally ran along Washwood Heath Road and Chester Road before reaching Coleshill. Part of this section featured a multiplex with the A452; although the A47 was initially dominant the A452 had taken over by the 1950s - and then the A47 got it back in the 1970s when the bypass was built. Soon afterwards the A47 east of the A452 was downgraded but the road still followed more-or-less its original route in this area until the 2000s when the current route was built (although it still disappears on the A452).