A1/Roaders Digest Entry
Note that information on this page forms part of a preserved historical narrative, showing an original Roaders Digest Entry for the A1. This was superseded by the current wiki, and therefore for up to date information should be found by returning to the A1 page.
Original Roaders Digest Entry: Edinburgh to London
The Great North Road wound away like a flat, steel-grey ribbon. Up it, with the sun and wind behind them, two black specks moved swiftly. To the yokel in charge of the hay-wagon they were only two of "they dratted motor-cyclists", as they barked and zoomed past him in rapid succession. At that abominable and unexpected S-bend across the bridge above Hatfield, the Norton man, in the pride of his heart, turned to wave a defiant hand at his pursuer. In that second, the enormous bulk of a loaded charabanc loomed down upon him from the bridgehead. The Scott was cornering melodramatically, with left and right footrests alternately skimming the tarmac. A party of children rushed helter skelter across the road. The Scott lurched through them in drunken swerves. The road was clear and the chase settled down once more.
It is not known why motorists who sing the joys of the open road spend so much time grinding their way to Southend and Brighton and Margate, when all the time the Great North Road is there - a surface like a race track. without traps, without hedges, without side roads - and without traffic. True, it leads to nowhere in particular; but after all, one pub is very like another.
The tarmac reeled away, mile after mile. The sharp turn to the right at Baldock, the involute intricacies of Biggleswade, with its multiplication of signposts, gave temporary check, but brought the pursuer no nearer. Through Tempsford at full speed, with blowing horn and exhaust, then, screaming like a hurricane past the RAC post where the road forks in from Bedford.
The constable at Eaton Socon was by no means an anti-motor fiend but he was just and God-fearing. The sight of two maniacs careering at seventy miles an hour into his protectorate was more than he could be expected to countenance - the more, that the local magistrate happened to be passing at that very moment in a pony-trap. He advanced to the middle of the road, spreading his arms in a majestic manner. The Norton rider looked, saw the road beyond complicated by the pony-trap and a traction-engine, and resigned himself to the inevitable.
From "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag" collected in the 1928 volume "Lord Peter Views the Body", by Dorothy L Sayers.
Dorothy Sayers was herself a keen biker, but I somehow think a 70mph chase up the current A1 would be rather less interesting, and certainly less hazardous, than the 1928 version. I won't reveal why the Scott rider was chasing the Norton, nor why the Norton rider didn't want to be caught. (There is a bag, but despite the title of the story there is no cat). You'll just have to buy the book.
Things have changed somewhat since 1928, but then the A1 and its predecessors have a long and ever-changing history, going back to Roman times. Its age, strategic importance (linking the capital cities of the United Kingdom's two largest constituent countries), and sheer length, (at 400 miles by far the UK's longest A-road), means that it is constantly subject to improvements, widening, and diversion, and so any account of it is difficult to keep up to date. The route of the A1 has been extensively modified over the years, replaced by the A1000, B197, A638, A168, A167, A194, A19 and A199 to name just the most extensive examples. In some places, such as Hatfield and Newcastle, it has been replaced more than once. Even at the time of writing, a fourth bridge across the River Wharfe is planned.
Much has been written about it elsewhere for example "The Great North Road" by Frank Goddard (Frances Lincoln,2004), "A1, Portrait of a Road" by John Nicholson (Harper Collins, 2000), Biff Vernon's e-book and there is an account of the first mile at London Geezer's page. I will try not to duplicate what they have done, but hopefully offer a different perspective, if only by travelling in the opposite direction to these other accounts.
The bare facts are briefly stated - at over 400 miles the A1 is Britain's longest A-road, over 100 miles longer than its nearest rival, the A38. The A1 has primary status between the Inner London Ring Road (A501) at the Angel, and its final meeting with the A199 near Portobello in Edinburgh. It meets roads from all other zones except 2 and 3, and has long multiplexes with an A4x, an A5x and an A6xx road. It has no fewer than six separate motorway sections (Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and Durham). The junctions on these sections are numbered in one series, with gaps in the numbering to accommodate future construction. However, if the road is upgraded to motorway throughout, some existing junctions will have to be missed or combined if the numbers already allocated are to fit. In the following discussion I have provided conjectural junction numbers on the non-motorway sections, except within Edinburgh's and London's outer ring roads. I am indebted to Chris55000 for the suggested numbers north of Birtley. These assume some junctions are too closely spaced for a motorway and would be combined or left to a distributor road if the road were ever to be upgraded.
The A1 starts (or finishes) on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, next to Waverley station and the site until 1983 of the General Post Office, from where the mails were dispatched to London. This is the junction with the A7 (North Bridge), A8 (Princes Street) and A900 (Leith Walk). Thus it is also the meeting place of four number zones (or five if you count the A8 as being in zone 8, rather than the boundary between zones 7 and 9). The A1 strikes off east round Calton Hill, to join the promisingly-named London Road. At a cannon with the A199 near Portobello, the A1 leaves its original route, which is now the A199 through Musselburgh and on to Dunbar. The modern A1 here gains primary status and takes a more southerly route, now on dual carriageway, to meet the city bypass (A720) at our conjectural Junction 100, and begins a long section of expressway which now extends uninterrupted for 20 miles to Dunbar.
- J99: (Wallyford) we meet the A6094 - a numbering curiosity as it is a "6" road that starts in the 7-zone and ends in the 1-zone.
- J98: A199 Tranent, Musselburgh
- J97: B6371 Tranent, A198 Longniddry, North Berwick
- J96: A199 Gladsmuir, B6363 Longniddry
- J95: A199 Haddington (West) - from here to the border we run within sight of the East Coast Main railway line for most of the way.
- J94: A6093 Haddington (East), A199 East Linton
- J93: A199 Dunbar (West), East Linton
The section near Haddington was shown on some maps while under construction as being a motorway, but it is in fact numbered as a "special" A road with motorway restrictions.
- J92: A1087 Dunbar (East) - to this point the A1 has been dual carriageway since the A199 cannon in Edinburgh. The stretch of single carriageway shortly afterwards is a herald of what to expect for the next sixty miles, as beyond Dunbar the A1 resumes more or less its original route, closely following the coast as far as the English border and well into Northumberland, with just a few short dual carriageway sections on an otherwise single carriageway route.
- J91: A1107 Cockburnspath - we leave the coast to itself for the rugged stretch by St Abbs Head. The inland route was upgraded at Penmanshiel c 1980 along with the parallel railway line following a fatal tunnel collapse on the latter.
- J90: A6112 Grantshouse, Duns
- J89: A1107 Eyemouth - we rejoin the coast
We have now reached another dual carriageway section, allowing us to cross the border in style and taking us to the Berwick bypass, where the A1 reverts to single carriageway again.
- J88:- A1167 Berwick-Upon-Tweed North; A6105 Duns. (actually two junctions close together)
- J87: B6461 Paxton
We now cross the first major river we have come to: the Tweed.
Resuming its original route after the bypass, the A1 now enters its most scenic section, a few miles inland from the Northumberland coast with views across to Lindisfarne.
- J84:- B6353 Lowick and local roads for Lindisfarne (Holy Island)
- J83: B6349 Wooler, B1342 Waren Mill, Bamburgh
- J82: B6348 Wooler, B1341 Adderstone Services, Bamburgh
- J81: B6347, B1340 Christon Bank, Embleton, Beadnell
The Alnwick bypass is the beginning of a six mile dual carriageway section.
Now comes the last section of single carriageway until the North Circular Road: the Highways Agency propose to dual this in the next few years.
- J78: (A697, A192) The A697 is one of several routes from Edinburgh to North- East England that are more direct than the A1. This one crosses the border at Coldstream. This junction is also the start of the Morpeth bypass
- J77: A197 Morpeth South
- J76: Stannington - we cross the River Blyth, which leads to the port of the same name. However, it's a long way to the Blyth Junction - J34 in Nottinghamshire!
- J75: A19 for Tyne Tunnel - until the Newcastle Western bypass was built, the A1 followed the present A19 through the Tyne Tunnel, and then the present A194(M) to rejoin the present A1(M) at J65
- J74: A1056 for the curiously-named Wide Open, and B1318 Great North Road - an even older incarnation. Before the Tyne Tunnel was built, this was the A1
- J73: minor road (Bank Foot)
- J72: A696 Ponteland, Newcastle Airport. Another cross country route from Edinburgh, this one via Carter Bar and the A68. This is also the junction for the A167 to Newcastle, of which more anon
- J71: B6324
- J70: A69 - the Hadrian's Wall route to Carlisle, A695 along the Tyne Valley, and the A191 back into the City Centre (this is actually two junctions very close together)
The A1 now crosses the Tyne on Blaydon bridge.
- J69: A694 - Blaydon: Derwent valley route to Consett
- J68 Metrocentre - a very busy junction, made worse by its close proximity to the neighbouring ones
- J67: A184 Gateshead, A692 Consett (again actually two closely spaced junctions)
- There is a junction here with an unclassified road for Lamesley and the Team Valley Industrial Estate
- J66: The Angel of the North - A167 Newcastle and Chester le Street: the original Great North Road crosses the A1 here. Before Newcastle's western bypass was built this was numbered A6127 right through the city centre - including the double deck motorway section.
- J65: Birtley and the start of the A1(M) Durham Motorway, which extends from here to J56 just north of Scotch Corner
At Chester le Street (J63) the Motorway crosses the River Wear, and follows its course upstream towards Durham. Also at Chester le Street, the original route of the A1 resumes the A167 number most of the way to Boroughbridge. The present more westerly route of the A1 through Scotch Corner was adopted quite early on (see M40's historic list for the full story). The motorway picks up the A66(M) Darlington spur at junction 57, just after crossing the River Tees. At J56 the motorway ends, and we are back on all-purpose road again. This is in fact the Roman Dere Street. There are plans to upgrade the next section to motorway by 2015, which will, with another project further south, finally connect the north-east to the rest of the motorway network.
- J55 (Scotch Corner): This is the junction for the A66 to Penrith - another Roman road, crossing the Pennines at Stainmore. A major intersection for nearly 2000 years, this also marks the watershed between the Tees and the Vale of York.
- J54: A6136 Catterick (River Swale) - at present there are two junctions, but the HA plans provide only one junction. We now run on the high ground between the Swale (to the east) and the Ure (coming from Wensleydale, to the west), until crossing the Ure at Boroughbridge.
- J53 (Leeming): - A684 to Northallerton
- J52: B6285
- J51: B6267
(note that the HA plans do not mention any proposed junctions between Leeming and Baldersby, but the numbering on the existing stretches of motorway requires a total of six junctions in this missing link)
- J50 (Baldersby) A61 to Thirsk
- J49 A168 to Thirsk - this is the link road to the A19 which runs to Cleveland and up the Durham coast. South of here the A168 occupies the old route of the A1, as this is the point where the North Yorkshire section of the A1(M) starts.
For most of the length of this section of A1(M) the old road, now numbered A168, runs adjacent to the motorway, including the Boroughbridge bypass which crosses the River Ure. The A1 finally rejoins its original route via Northallerton at Boroughbridge (j48) - the last section of the old route between Dishforth and Boroughbridge is now lost under the airfield.
This section of motorway was extended by one junction at the end of 2004, eliminating a narrow section with an unusual "kink" in the northbound carriageway appraently to avoid a stand of trees, and now rejoins the Wetherby bypass at a temporary terminus south of junction 46.
When the bypass was first built, the junction at the southern end with the A58 (Leeds) and A661 (Harrogate), was a roundabout - the A1 southbound "totsoing" to the left as the straight ahead route was the A58 - but a cut-off was later provided, with grade separated access to that roundabout. (A similar arrangement can be seen at the south end of the Newark bypass.) This cut-off also provided a new bridge across the River Wharfe. The ten mile gap in the motorway here is currently being filled in with a new D3M road, which will provide a fourth alignment at this point, and indeed a fourth crossing of the river. The A58 will not have direct access to the new motorway, but tarffic will have to use the parallel all-purpose road to join at the A659 junction. As there are no spare junction numbers between J46 north of Wetherby and the present J45, where the motorway currently resumes at Bramham Crossroads (A64 Leeds to York) some renumbering is happening around here: the A659 will become the new Junction 45, the Bramham junction has already been completely closed and the slip roads removed, then the A64 junction will become J44. With the junction with the M1 becoming J43.
For the time being we resume motorway status after the A1(M) junction, but as of mid-2009 this will be motorway all the way through. Currently the West Yorkshire section of the A1(M) is very short but nevertheless very significant as it takes the A1 through J44 (Hook Moor: to become J43) where the A1(M) "TOTSOs" off - the main line here is the M1. From here to Fiveways Corner in Hendon the M1 acts as a bypass for the A1 - or is it the other way round...?
Until recently the A1(M) then quickly reverted back to all purpose road to take us around the eastern side of Ferrybridge power station. However the A1(M) now enjoys a completely new alignment past the western side this time as full D3M. J62 with the A63 allows us to get off the new motorway and take a look at the old A1. Through Fairburn the road has been reverted to single carriageway, and indeed it's hard to picture all the A1 traffic roaring through this village, but that it did. South of fairburn the old A1 still exists completely untouched as a full dual carriageway apart from replacing the green signs with non-primary white, it continues this way all the way up to the junction with the M62 which still remains as it was.
Best on the new alignment we pass to the west of Ferrybridge power station, and breifly have the M62 for company on our right hand side. Quite strange to see another full D3M motorway running roughly parallel. This is Holmfield interchange and the new way to get to the M62. As we continue on the A1(M) we quickly dip down underneath the M62 and as soon as we emerge onto the other side we get warning that the motorway is about to end and we are to return to two lane running. Which will remain so until south of Peterbrough.
Back on the original A1 for eight miles now, apart from the 1960s viaduct at Wentbridge whose "listed" status seems to have been a bar to further improvements on this stretch, although recent information suggests that this last gap in the continuous motorway from Blyth to Gateshead may itself be closed within the next decade. We next pass J39 (A639) where we briefly join the Roman Ridge route. This Roman road can be traced south from near Hook Moor, first west of the current A1 by way of the A656, Castleford, Pontefract and the A639 to briefly join the A1, then running via the A638 through Doncaster and Bawtry, and then by various minor roads, before fording the Trent and following the A1500 to join Ermine Street a few miles north of Lincoln.
However, at the next junction (J38: Skellow) the A1 leaves the Roman route again and we join the Doncaster bypass; the South Yorkshire section of the A1(M). This was one of the first motorways in the UK - it shows its age in places. The HA plans to upgrade it to three lanes. We will not see the original A1 (now the A638) again until Markham Moor (J31).
Shortly before Junction 36 we cross the Don Valley, after which we start to climb to the watershed with the Trent valley. Junction 35 is the M18, (J2) and Junction 34 (Blyth) the end of the motorway and the first junction in Nottinghamshire. This is also the first roundabout since Berwick - but there are now another ten before we reach the M25, getting thicker on the ground the closer to London we get! There are detailed proposals to eliminate the first six of these. The first, at Blyth itself, will use a conventional underpass and dumbell arrangement. This town has no connection with the Northumberland port of the same name.
From Blyth the A1 has hijacked the A614 Nottingham to Goole road to bypass Retford, passing Ranby (J33: A620), to J32 (Apleyhead or Dukeries Roundabout). This junction is to be replaced with an offline diversion, the existing roundabout becoming part of a "dumbell" arrangement.
At Markham Moor (J31) the original Great North Road arrives from the Retford direction as the A638, and the A1/A57 multiplex ends, with the A57 continuing eastwards towards Lincoln This junction has a distinctive landmark in the "butterfly-roofed" building that was originally a petrol station but, after a long period derelict, has now become a Little Chef. This six-way junction is to be replaced with a flyover and dumbell arrangement The large embankment that has been present for nearly half a century between the carriageways on the southern approach to the junction may see use at last!
From Markham Moor the A1 resumes its historic route (give or take a few bypasses) towards Newark.
- J30 Tuxford A6075: this relatively minor road leads to Mansfield, beyond which it continues as the mighty A38.
The A1 now follows the River Trent from Carlton on Trent to just beyond Newark. For this short distance the main London to Edinburgh railway is to the west - the only place this is so between Biggleswade (Beds) and Newton Aycliffe (Durham). Although the A1 has a very close relationship with the London to Edinburgh railway, only 10% of the route of the A1, (albeit including both ends), lies to the east of the railway. This can be explained by the road having favoured the slightly higher (and therefore drier) ground to the west of the fens and the Vale of York, crossing the many rivers as they come off the Cheviots and Pennines to cross the eastern plains towards the North Sea. The railway, coming after the land had been drained, favoured the flatter ground further east.
The original A1 through Newark is now the B6325, A616 and B6326, but before the A46 northern bypass was built, it was still an A road (A6065). The Newark bypass crosses the Trent just before the complex "dumbell" junction 29 (A17 Sleaford, A46 Lincoln / Leicester). Where the A1 recrosses the main railway line there is a scrapyard, which for the last 30 years has contained an aircraft (a Lightning I believe, but it's getting increasingly difficult to tell). Just beyond the end of the Newark bypass (J28 - B6236) we at last leave the catchment area of the River Humber, which we entered at Scotch Corner, and enter that of the Wash - the Washbasin perhaps?
The A1 now enters Lincolnshire, and follows the River Witham upstream towards the Gonerby roundabout (J27), where the Grantham bypass starts. The old Great North Road through Grantham is the B1174. The Gonerby junction is to be replaced by an offline upgrade, the existing roundabout being one of three in the new GSJ arrangement. The other three junctions on the Grantham bypass are already GSJs:
- J26: A52 Nottingham
- J25: A607 Leicester
- J24:B1174 old Great North Road through Grantham rejoins original A1
Colsterworth is famous as Sir Isaac Newton's birthplace. At nearby Woolsthorpe Manor is the apple tree which is said to have inspired his theory of gravitation. The Roman Ermine Street from Lincoln joins here as the B6403. This is still the fastest way between that city and the south, despite the upgrade to the A46 further north. The junction is just a gap in the central reservation, and is planned to be eliminated as part of the upgrade to the Colsterworth roundabout (J23) a mile futher south (A151 (Spalding) / B676 (Melton Mowbray).
From Colsterworth the A1 follows the Roman Ermine Street across the range of limestone hills that bisect the country from the Humber to the Bristol Channel. Some interesting signs to be seen: Honey Pot Lane Industrial Estate (an image of Winnie the Pooh as a wage slave comes to mind), "London, 100", the "Ram Jam Inn", and "Rutland" - England's smallest county. When Rutland was just a district within Leicestershire, signs for both local authorities were displayed at the boundaries, but some wag on the council had placed the "Leicestershire" ones about 50 yards after the "Rutland" ones, suggesting that Rutland was even tinier than it really was!
- J22: B668 to Oakham, Rutland's county town.
- J21: B1081, which is the original Great North Road through Stamford.
- J20: A606 Oakham, and River Welland - the first of several large rivers we cross draining eastwards to the Fen Country and eventually the Wash.
- A6121 connection to A47 for Leicester
County boundary changes in this area are rife, but currently the A1 is intersected by the meeting point of four counties - Lincolnshire (in which Stamford itself is situated), Rutland, Northamptonshire, and Cambridgeshire. The A1 here leaves Rutland and enters Cambridgeshire.
- J19: A43 for Northampton and Oxford.
Climbing steeply out of the Welland valley we reach another roundabout, where the B1081 (Old Great North Road) rejoins the A1, near the entrance to Burghley House. This roundabout is also to be replaced by a modified "trumpet" arrangement. The Great North Road in this area was diverted when the Burghley House estate was created, so the A1 does not pick up the Roman Road again until after Wansford.
- J18 Wansford A47 (Peterborough to Leicester), and the River Nene. The old bridge over the river has its own number, on which Viator commented (on the "4-digit" thread):
The A6118 at Wansford near Peterborough is so short the OS has to use an arrow to point to it! I really wonder why this is an A road at all as, with its one-lane width river bridge and requirement to give way to the unclassified route at the crossroads, it's only used by light local traffic. A1 <> A47 traffic uses the slip roads to the north of the A47 (with new roundabouts on the latter since late 2001).
The Great North Road seems to have an aversion to cathedral cities. Having already missed York and Lincoln, it now also skirts Peterborough. These are not modern bypasses: the original Great North Road eschewed them all as well.
Shortly after rejoining the Roman Road, we reach the Cambridgeshire section of the A1(M) at J17. Like the North Yorkshire section, this section was built alongside the original road. After J16 (A15 Norman Cross) the A1 bypasses Stilton, which gave its name to the cheese that was sold there to passing trade, even though it was actually manufactured in Leicestershire. Stilton village, with its coaching inns and wide (and empty) main street gives a good impression of what the Great North Road must have been like in the early days of motoring.
J14 is Alconbury Hill, where the large milestone indicates the parting of the ways - the old North Road (Ermine Street) via Royston (A14, A1198, A10), the modern route to east London (also by the A14, and then the M11), and the Great North Road via Hatfield (A1, now non-motorway again). Before the bypass at Alconbury, the straight ahead route was the A14, A1 traffic having to turn off here.
We now descend again, into the valley of the Great Ouse (not the Yorkshire Ouse, which is formed by the confluence of the Ure and Swale, much further north).
This next (Bedfordshire) section is one of the busiest, despite the siphoning off of east London traffic at J14 for the M11. It was dualled early on, but is now much in need of further improvement. There are plans afoot for improvements here. Despite the existence of five roundabouts on this section, only three junction numbers are available between the two motorway sections, so I'll have to be economical with them.
- J13 Brampton: A14 to Kettering and Rugby. The A1 has been straightened here -- when the A14 was still the A604, the original route of the A1, with more divergent carriageways, ran further to the west. The original A1/A604 roundabout is now part of the service area. From here we follow the Great Ouse and its tributary, the Ivel, upstream to Biggleswade.
Buckden Roundabout (B661) has the strange sign "Car Transporters prohibited at Kimbolton". This very specific ban, I understand, is because the design of car transporters, with a large overhang of the trailer over the cab, causes difficulties in the narrow streets, with the distinct possibility of a brand new car ending up in someone's bedroom when it's not even their birthday.
Just after a very tight bend at Southoe, the slow lane of the southbound carriageway near Little Paxton was until very recently used for "road marking trials" - dozens of transverse white lines painted across the road. I don't know the outcome of the trials, but the paint certainly seemed very durable!
- B645 (former A45 west) junction. Eaton Socon, The end of the motorcycle chase described by Dorothy Sayers.
- J12 St Neots A428 (east - former A45) / A421 (west to Bedford - former A428). The Bedford junction ("Black Cat") is yet another roundabout. Despite improvements planned to the A421, there are no plans to improve this very congested junction.
Just south of this roundabout the A1 crosses the Great Ouse. The southbound carriageway is carried on a modern bridge, but the northbound carriageway uses the old bridge, which is located between two very sharp bends. There is a boatyard here, in the gap between the carriageways, whose only road access is off the fast lane of the northbound A1.
- Sandy - roundabout A603. This section includes a trap - there is a 50mph limit for some distance before and after the roundabout, but no reminder signs for some distance after the roundabout, so you pull away from the roundabout back up to the standard A1 speed of 70, and flash! -- you've been GATSO'd!
- J11 Biggleswade A6001 (north and south - both are roundabouts)
The original Great North Road through the Chilterns included some major hills and twisty bits. It is now the B197 to Welwyn, and then the A1000 all the way to Highgate. The Hertfordshire stretch of the A1(M) (junctions 10 down to 1) bypasses Baldock, Stevenage, Welwyn and Hatfield. Near junction 6 it crosses the Mimram, a tributary of the River Lea, with a good view of the Welwyn railway viaduct, and near Junction 5 crosses the Lea itself, parallel to the A6129 (the closest any A-road in the 6-group now gets to London). The Hatfield Tunnel (junctions 4 to 3) replaced the last single-carriageway stretch of the A1 between the North Circular Road and Newcastle - now the A1001 Comet Way.
- Junction 1 (South Mimms) is for the M25 (J23), and also the junction with the A1081 - formerly the A6, and before that, Telford's Holyhead Road, which originally joined the A1 (now A1000) in Barnet.
From South Mimms the A1 starts the gradual descent into the London basin, taking a wide sweep around Barnet, to arrive at the Apex Corner roundabout. Here there is a TOTSO, since northbound the straight ahead route is the A41. Recent improvements have provided a southbound filter lane for left-turning A1 traffic.
From Apex Corner the A1 Barnet Bypass multiplexes for a while with the A41 (Watford bypass) through suburban Mill Hill, before they part company again at Five Ways corner. The M1 (J2) slips come in here, after its long detour via the East Midlands, and then the A1 arrives at the A406 North Circular Road. After a short multiplex, crossing the A598 Finchley Road, the A1 and A406 part company again, and the dual carriageway ends at last.
Falloden Way takes us to Highgate Wood. Over the years the Great North Road followed many different routes through North London, notably the present B550 through Friern Barnet and Muswell Hill, But Thomas Telford, as part of his improvements to the Holyhead Road (which joined the Great North Road at Barnet) created a new route along the line of the present A1000. We join this route again at Highgate Wood, where the high ground of North london ends abruptly. The old Great north Road descended Highgate Hill, but Telford avoided this by constructing one of the more heavily engineered part of his route - a deep cutting now accomodating a short dual carriageway, and it is this way the A1 now goes. This is Archway Road, which takes it name from the bridge carrying Hornsey Lane across the cutting. The present viaduct is a 1900 replacement for Telford's much more modest structure.
From the bottom of the hill, the A1 takes the Holloway Road, so called because heavy traffic eroded the soft ground hereabouts until the road level was hollowed out to well below the level of the surrounding land. After passing under the main railway line into Kings Cross for the last time, and converging with Hornsey Road (another former route of the Great North Road) We arrive at Highbury Corner, where the New North Road (A1200) branches off for Old Street and the Bank of England. The A1 itself turns south down to Upper STreet to the Angel, Islington, where it meets the A501 inner ring road marking the boundary of the Congestion Charge Zone, and finally loses its primary status.
Straight ahead here lies the route that countless animals travelled on their last jolurneys, to Smithfield Market. In the days before refrigeration the only way of ensuring meat was still fresh at the market was for it to arrive alive - literally on the hoof. However, the A1 undergoes the indignity of "totsoing" left onto the A501, and then right as it enters its last leg, down Goswell Road and Aldersgate Street, past the Barbican complex and the Museum of London to end at St Martin's le Grand, opposite St Pauls Cathedral.
St. Paul's Underground Station was originally named "GPO", the General Post Office's headquartershaving been housed in a complex of Victorian and Edwardian buildings in this area. Dispite severe bomb damage in this area during World War Two, two of the buildings survive. BT, which took over the GPO's telephone operations, still has its modern headquarters building here.
The current "Ring of Steel" arrangements now mean that both the A1 and A40 terminate at St Martin's, but originally it was the A40, and not the A1, that continued along Cheapside to the heart of the road network at the Bank of England. Some old maps show the A1 may have continued along New Street to terminate on cannon Street, (The A4). However it is historically fitting that the Great North Road should end here at St. Martins, thereby celebrating its long association with the Royal Mail by connecting Edinburgh's and London's historic General Post Offices.
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