|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||King's Cross (TQ329790)|
|To:||Bricklayers' Arms, Bermondsey (TQ303829)|
|Distance:||3.5 miles (5.6 km)|
|Meets:||A501, A401, A5201, A4208, A3211, A3200, A3202, A3203, A302, A3, A100, A2|
|Route outline (key)|
The A201 is a north-south route through central London.
Although it is conventional to discuss roads starting in their "home" zone, in this case it is more convenient to start at the other end - which in this case is very much "out of Zone" - it is in fact the only 2-road apart from the M25 to enter the 5-zone. The A201 is in the interesting position of meeting roads from all five zones in London!
King's Cross - Bricklayers' Arms
The road starts close to Kings Cross railway station, where the right hand lane of Pentonville Road, the A501, peels off to the right to form Kings Cross Road. As has been discussed elsewhere on SABRE, this particular lane can in fact be traced back nearly 300 miles - all the way to Hyde Park Corner - via the M5! We, however, are going forward. This road was built in 1863, as the roof of the world's first underground railway - the Metropolitan. This in turn was built over the open sewer that had once been the Fleet River.
We pass London's main postal sorting office, Mount Pleasant (which until 2003 had its own private underground railway) and cross the A401. This is the original northern end of the A201; that which has gone before was the B503 until at least the 1950s. We then enter the City of London. Since that city famously has no roads, we should not be surprised that the name changes to Farringdon Street at this point. Next we pass under Holborn Viaduct, built in 1869 to carry the main road from London to the west (now the A40) across the steep-sided valley of the Fleet, which is still underneath the road although the railway has now parted company. Beyond the viaduct, we are now in Zone 4 (or maybe 3 - the re-routing of the A4 near here has made it unclear).
Continuing south, this is one of the broadest and easiest north-south routes across central London, as we progress to Ludgate Circus, where we cross Fleet Street, the old A4, now unclassified. The view here to the left, of St Paul's, is relatively new - until the 1990s it was obscured by a railway bridge - the Thameslink line now runs underground although it can still be seen at Blackfriars, which we reach by way of New Bridge Street. There is a complex junction at Blackfriars, with the approach to the bridge crossing over the Victoria Embankment.
The bridge itself was built at the same time as Holborn Viaduct, to replace an older structure built in 1750, and achieved notoriety in 1982 when Roberto Calvi - whose links to the Vatican's finances earned him the nickname "God's banker" - was found hanging underneath it.
Moving on, Blackfriars Road is a broad thoroughfare leading straight to St George's Circus, which forms part of the Elephant & Castle one-way system. Six roads radiate from here, but only three of them are two way. Until recently traffic could go the wrong way round this roundabout, but since a contraflow bus lane was put into London Road, all traffic now has to go the normal way round. We follow London Road in the correct direction to the Elephant & Castle (traffic in the reverse direction has to make a long detour using the A302 and A3202 past the Imperial War Museum - conversely in this direction A302 traffic has to use the A3202 and A201).
The Elephant & Castle is a nightmare of modernistic shopping centres and a huge traffic intersection, with two large linked roundabouts. Why "Elephant & Castle"? Well, it was the name of a pub, but why was the pub called that in the first place?
But enough of history - we are off to another pub: the Bricklayers' Arms. To do so we follow the New Kent Road, which ends in a spectacular one-way flyover which carries us over the Bricklayers' Arms roundabout and deposits us in the middle lane of the Old Kent Road - the cheapest site on the Monopoly board. As this is the A2, this would seem to be a good place to end our account of the A201.
Original Author(s): Tim Lidbetter
The southern end of the A201, east of Elephant And Castle, is primary and forms part of the ring road. The remainder is non-primary because it is inside the ring-road but is nevertheless a red-route, one of the few that is actually inside it. There is also a green sign at the junction with A5201 Clerkenwell Road, indicating that perhaps the rule of "no primary routes inside the ring road" has not always applied and that this road was once primary for its entire length.