|Length:||61.8 miles (99.5 km)|
|Meets:||A1211, A1210, A1202, A13, B134, B108, A107, B121, B120, A1205, B142, A12, A118, M11, A1301, B184, A505, A1307, A1304, A14, B1085, A1065, A1101, B1112, B1106, A134, B1107, A1066, A1075, B1111, B1077, B1172, A47, A140, A1056, A147|
|Old route now:||A118, A1199, A104, B1393, A414, A1184, B1383, A1304, B1172|
|Route outline (key)|
The A11 is the main road from London to Norwich via Epping, Harlow, Newmarket and Thetford.
The original road had already been a historical coaching route between the two cities for centuries, running via Epping Forest, the Roman settlement of Iceanum, Newmarket and Thetford Forest. Since the arrival of the M11, which has partly (but not entirely) replaced it, the road can now be divided into two sections; a short section in London's East End, and a longer section through East Anglia to Norwich. Most of the old road has been downgraded to various B roads, with a few exceptions, as a comprehensive attempt to force traffic onto the more suitable motorway where appropriate.
The latter primary section remains an important trunk route into East Anglia, and is now entirely dual carriageway up to the Norwich suburbs.
Aldgate – Bow
The A11 still begins on the fringes of the City at Aldgate. It heads along Whitechapel Road and Mile End Road, past Whitechapel Market and the Royal London Hospital. The road is wide and partly dual carriageway, though most of the route has a bus lane in each direction.
At the Bow Flyover with the A12, the A11 disappears. At this point it used to continue over the flyover and thence to Stratford and Leyton, but since the A12 was extended in the 1990s through Leyton and Hackney to meet the A13, M11 traffic is directed that way, so the A11 has been renumbered to A118 into Stratford. The route then through Leytonstone has been declassified, and has been substantially calmed and downgraded to resemble little more than an unimportant local road. In fact, this is the last we'll see of the A11 for over 40 miles.
Stratford – Epping – Harlow – Stump Cross
The A11 is no longer signed from Bow to Stump Cross as traffic takes the M11, which was designed to replace it. The old route is still known as the "old A11" in some local places such as Newport, Essex, as people generally can't remember the numbers that have replaced it and it remains a significant local road. Road names such as London Road, Harlow Road, Stortford Road, Stansted Road and Cambridge Road appear along the route, which refer back to its history as a coaching route.
After meandering through east London along a route that has now been usurped by the A12, the old A11 crosses the A406 North Circular Road between the Waterworks Roundabout and the start of the M11, bearing the number A1199. If you want to join either of those two roads, you need to take the A104 south from Woodford. At the point where the A1199 and A104 meet, the former road gives way to the A104 and heads north above the North Circular Road through Buckhurst Hill, fighting its way through the suburban sprawl towards Epping Forest. In Woodford, the road forks – the eastern leg is the A121, a road we will meet again before saying goodbye to London.
Epping Forest is a large swathe of greenery, owned by the Corporation of London. It is a magnet for people in north London - it is the first decent sized area of open space that you pass on your way out of town.
At five-ways roundabout, we meet the A121 again - this time heading from the east towards the M25 at junction 26. From Fiveways, the old A11 continues northwards, now downgraded to the B1393, though it is still a very busy road.
On the outskirts of the village of Epping, we pass Bell Common. On your right, when heading north, there is a cricket ground. You could believe that the cricket ground had been there for many years, but you’d be mistaken. In the mid 1980s the cricket ground was dug up to enable the M25 motorway to be built in a tunnel through this area. Once the tunnel was completed, the cricket ground was reinstated on top.
Epping itself is a small market town, once the haunt of highwaymen, preying on the travellers using the road that became the A11. These days, the road is much safer – the last highway robbery taking place in 1837, a hundred years after Dick Turpin is said to have operated in the area. The town was home to some 16 coaching inns – a sign of the town's importance on the main road towards London from East Anglia. A few of these coaching inns survive to the present day. Epping is also known as one of the outposts of the London Underground – it is the eastern terminus of the Central Line.
To the south of Harlow, we meet the M11 motorway and the A414, both of which are now roads of greater importance than the once dominant A11. To stay on the route of the A11, we must continue north along the A414 towards Harlow, before turning right onto an unclassified road into Potter Street and on to Old Harlow. Now dominated by the 1960s New Town, Old Harlow is the only part of Harlow to have any character, the remainder of the town is a soul-less concrete jungle.
On the northern outskirts of Harlow, at Harlow Mill, the A11 baton is taken by the A1184. Crossing the County boundary into Hertfordshire and the small town of Sawbridgeworth, our route is tree-lined, but with large houses set back from the road on either side. On the right hand side we pass the gatehouse for Beckingham Palace – the home (one of the homes...) of David and Victoria Beckham.
Sawbridgeworth is a small town. Its centre is focused on Bell Street, a narrow one-way road turning right off the A1184 at the White Lion pub. This junction, together with one or two others, is responsible for the congestion that chokes Sawbridgeworth during the weekday rush hours.
The A11 was downgraded to the A1184 when the M11 motorway was built over 20 years ago to relieve a heavily congested A11. Once again, the A1184 is carrying the same volume of traffic as it did before the motorway was built, but rather than it being long distance traffic as it was in the 1970s, the traffic is largely that running from Bishop's Stortford to Harlow, and vice versa.
From Sawbridgeworth, we head north through Spelbrook to Bishop’s Stortford. At the southern boundary of the town, we say goodbye to the A1184 which follows the western bypass, and continue into the town centre on the B1383. Stortford is another market town, but the historic A11 avoids the town centre and passes through Hockerill traffic lights to the east. The narrow approach from the south means that this junction is also frequently congested.
Leaving Stortford behind us, we cross the A120 bypass and continue along the B1383 into rural Essex. The village of Stansted Mountfichet is next – a pretty village not under direct threat from the expansion of Stansted Airport as the M11 motorway runs between the two.
We continue north, passing through Ugley. The village is named after a person called Ucga, who had a clearing or ‘Ley’ in the area – hence Ugley. After Quendon we cross the M11 motorway and arrive in one of the many Newports in Britain. In this case, the name means New Market rather than anything to do with boats. Given that the last recorded market in Newport was held in the 12th Century, the old market must have been very old indeed! The Newport market transferred to the nearby town of Saffron Walden.
To the north of Newport, between the old A11 and Saffron Walden, lies Audley End house, a 17th-Century house with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. For a while, the house acted as one of Charles II's royal palaces. Samuel Pepys was a visitor there. These days, the house is open to the public. The grounds feature a miniature railway.
It's a short haul now along the west bank of the River Cam, through the large village of Great Chesterford and on to Stump Cross, where we meet the M11 spur road at a dumbbell roundabout junction. A left turn will take you back down the M11 to London, a right turn takes you onto the dual carriageway towards Newmarket and on towards Norwich. For the first time since the heart of London, the road is called by its historic number, the A11.
Stump Cross – Thetford
The A11 leaves the M11 at a free-flowing junction with a mile-long motorway spur. It then becomes a high-quality dual carriageway, which was upgraded from the original Roman road in 1993. Most of the dualling is online, but there's a short detour at Babraham with a couple of junctions with the A505 and the A1307. At Six Mile Bottom, the old A11 (the Roman route) goes straight on through Newmarket, now A1304, but the modern route veers to the north and multiplexes with the A14 (former A45).
The A14 temporarily widens from two to three lines while the two roads run concurrently around the town. At Waterhall, the A11 rejoins its original route to head northeast towards Mildenhall. This is a slightly lower standard than before, with a few at grade junctions, though Red Lodge and Barton Mills are both bypassed. The last section of dual carriageway here just north of Barton Mills is one of the oldest, built in the late 1950s.
Fiveways Roundabout is the first at-grade roundabout since leaving the M11, where the A1065 branches off to north Norfolk, and the A1101 runs cross-country. The A11 now heads northeast through Thetford Forest and passes the Elveden War Memorial before bypassing village itself. The road continues to a roundabout which signals the start of the Thetford Bypass.
Thetford – Norwich
The Thetford bypass was originally planned to be single carriageway, which would have made sense at a time when most of the A11 north of Newmarket was also single carriageway, but the contractors suggested it would be better in the long term to build it as dual. Although showing good foresight, this might explain why all junctions along it are at grade roundabouts.
A more recent dualled stretch now continues beyond Thetford up to Attleborough, which contains a single at grade roundabout. After this, we join a high-quality dual carriageway on a completely different alignment to the old road, which runs all the way to Norwich's 1990s southern bypass (the A47). The trunk status of the A11 ends here as it heads into suburban Norwich. After a bypass of Cringleford and Eaton, the dual carriageway runs out and the route of the old road is rejoined, which turns into the suburban sprawl along Newmarket Road. Primary status ends at the A140 Outer Ring Road, and the final non-primary section ends rather inconspicuously at a roundabout with the A147 Inner Ring Road.
London – Stump Cross
The original route of the A11 out of London is a comparatively modern affair compared to its neighbours, the A10 and A12 which follow Roman Roads. Some 19th century maps mark the A104 from Dalston Junction as being the main road towards Epping Forest over the route via Leytonstone.
The section through Epping Forest and north to Harlow had become an established coaching route from the 17th century onwards, and a notorious place for robberies by highwaymen such as Dick Turpin. The original coaching route went via Loughton Camp and Golding's Hill, and was impractical for coach traffic because of steep hills. In 1834, the Epping New Road was built by the Epping and Ongar Highway Trust, replacing the old road. It ran in a straight line across the middle of the forest (and Turpin's supposed hiding grounds), and this route became part of the A11 on classification, while the old road is now part of the A121.
The old A11 through Harlow is still open to traffic, though it is now a local road to the east of the modern town centre, passing through Old Harlow and Harlow Mill station. This was the historic coaching road to Cambridge, which ran via what's now the A1301. The original coaching routes to Cambridge and Newmarket respectively split at Great Chesterford, but by the 19th century the western route through Ickleton and Hinxton had become unsuitable owing to flooding, so all traffic turned right towards Stump Cross, which remained the case when the A11 was classified. The old road through Great Chesterford does a majestic, banked, 90-degree turn, engineered to be taken at a fair speed: far too grand for a B-road, but fitting for the former A11!
The completion of the M11 to Stansted in 1975 and to Stump Cross four years later removed the A11's importance as a through route through Essex, and it was downgraded between Woodford Green (the original end of the A104) and Harlow in 1982. For some years afterwards, signs near the old route, such as at Stump Cross, showed the A11 crossed out with the replacement number added in its place, and more obvious signs of downgrading occurred over the decade, such as narrowing the road in places and removing clearway restrictions that dated from its time as a trunk road.
The A11 remained a primary route up to the Green Man where the A12 Eastern Avenue began and provided access to the M11. It continued as a non-primary route (signposted to Epping) as far as the A104 at Woodford Green. The further downgradings occurred when the A12 was extended westwards in 1998.
Stump Cross – Thetford
The original Stump Cross is somewhere in the middle of the current junction; the B1383 has been rerouted to the east of the original road. Originally this was where the A130 forked off to Cambridge, which multiplexed with the A11 to avoid Saffron Walden, but by the 1950s it had been realigned to run through it, resulting in a straightforward A11 / A130 crossroads. When the M11 was completed to here in late 1979, it simply tied in with the existing road network, with the crossroads becoming a roundabout.
The Stump Cross - Six Mile Bottom section was dualled in 1993. Before this, the route was the old Roman Road with at grade junctions. The Newmarket - Barton Mills section was dualled in 1990, leading up to the Barton Mills bypass itself, constructed in the early 1980s. The bridge over the River Lark leading up to Five Ways roundabout was built in the 1950s, and bypasses the original route to the west.
Until December 2014, the dual carriageway from the M11 ended at Fiveways Roundabout where five roads of varying importance (although all Class I) along with a service area meet in chaotic fashion. This included a congested crossroads with the B1106 in Elveden, that was the only set between London and Norwich on the M11 / A11 corridor. The section to Thetford was opened as a dual carriageway, largely online but with a bypass of Elveden though still passing alongside the War Memorial. Access with the B1112 has been closed as part of the dualling work. The new dual carriageway continues to a roundabout which signals the start of the Thetford Bypass. The A11 is now entirely dual carriageway between the M11 and A47.
Thetford has been bypassed twice. The first was simply a new bridge over the Little Ouse to the west of the old road that avoided the town centre, built in the 1960s. The newer Thetford bypass was built around 1990. It only had one section of dual carriageway originally but the contractors offered to build the whole thing as a dual carriageway as it would be cheaper overall.
Thetford – Norwich
The Attleborough bypass was built in 1985 and is was originally part single carriageway, part dual with a centre lane to turn right on top of the bridge over the B1077. The remainder of the route east of Thetford to the A47 was dualled around 2001.
The Wymondham bypass was built 1996 and was the first road built in the UK using a new type of concrete. The old A11 through Wymondham is now the B1172. This section flows into the Hethersett bypass, built a few years earlier. The last section between the A47 and the ring road features the Cringleford bypass, which opened in 1972, with a new bridge over the River Yare.
The original route in Norwich carried on along Newmarket Road, where it met the A140 from Ipswich. It carried along Saint Stephen's Street, Red Lion Street and Castle Meadow to end on the original line of the A47 to the northeast of the castle by the Post Office and what is now Anglia House. It was truncated back to the Inner Ring Road when that was constructed.
- The A11 London—Norwich Trunk Road (Thetford Bypass) Order 1987
- The London—Norwich Trunk Road (A11) (Leytonstone Road and High Road Leytonstone Detrunking) Order 1988
- The A11 Trunk Road (Red Lodge Bypass and Slip Roads) Order 1989
- The A11 Trunk Road (Newmarket to Red Lodge Dualling) Detrunking Order 1991
- The A11 Trunk Road (Newmarket to Red Lodge Dualling) Slip Roads Order 1991
- The A11 Trunk Road (Besthorpe to Wymondham Improvement) Detrunking Order 1991
- The A11 Trunk Road (Besthorpe to Wymondham Improvement and Slip Roads) Order 1991
- The A11 Trunk Road (Four Went Ways to Newmarket Dualling) Slip Roads Order 1991
- The A11 Trunk Road (A505 Junction to Four Went Ways Improvement and Slip Roads) Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (A505 Junction to Four Went Ways) (Detrunking) Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (Stump Cross to A505 Junction Improvement) Slip Roads Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (Stump Cross to A505 Junction Improvement) (Detrunking) Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (Roudham Heath to Attleborough Improvement and Slip Roads) Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (Roudham Heath to Attleborough Improvement) (Detrunking) Order 1993
- The A11 Trunk Road (Thetford Bypass Slip Roads) (Trunking) Order 1995
- The A11 Trunk Road (Attleborough Bypass Improvement) Slip Roads Order 2005
- The A11 Trunk Road (Fiveways to Thetford Improvement) (Detrunking) Order 2011
- The A11 Trunk Road (Fiveways to Thetford Improvement and Slip Roads) Order 2011
- The A11 Trunk Road (Fiveways to Thetford Improvement) (Detrunking) 2011 (Amendment) Order 2015
- The A11 Trunk Road (Fiveways to Thetford Improvement) (Detrunking) 2011 (Amendment) Order 2015 (Revocation) Order 2016 - This revokes the above order