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From:King's Cross (TQ329790)
To:Bricklayers' Arms, Bermondsey (TQ303829)
Length:3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Meets: A501, A401, A5201, A4208, A3211, A3200, A3202, A3203, A302, A3, A100, A2
Former Number(s):B503
Highway Authorities

Transport for London

Traditional Counties

Middlesex • Surrey

Route outline (key)
A201 King's Cross - Elephant and Castle
A201 Elephant and Castle - Bricklayers' Arms


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.

Here is a late-2006 view of Holborn Viaduct

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?
Many say it's a corruption of "Infanta de Castile". Infanta is the title given to the eldest daughter of the Spanish monarch: roughly the equivalent of the British title "Princess Royal". Some suggest that the name was inspired by a visit to London of the "King of Spain's daughter" of the nursery rhyme - possibly Katharine of Aragon, later to be wife to Henry VIII, but she had no connection with Castile and did not have the title infanta. The only infanta with any British associations was the one once engaged to Charles I, and she had no connection to Castile. Some assume a connection with Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I, but she lived some three hundred years before the title was created. In fact, the name is almost certainly an accurate description of the symbol of the Cutlers' Company, a member of which plied his trade on the site later occupied by the pub. Cutlers used ivory for the handles of the knives and other implements they made, and so their symbol was the animal from which ivory is obtained. It was depicted carrying a howdah: the canopied seat resembling a castle used by elephant riders in India.

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

Primary Status

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.

JunctionsBlackfriars Junction • Bricklayers Arms • Elephant and Castle (South London) • Kings Cross • Ludgate Circus • St Georges Circus
CrossingsBlackfriars Bridge • Holborn Viaduct
RoadsCS6 • Longest Lane
Related Pictures
View gallery (39)
94. New Bridge Street - Coppermine - 808.JPGBlackfriars Bridge, London - Geograph - 1694727.jpgBlackfriars Cycle Lane (after) taken from bus - Coppermine - 607.JPGBricklayers Arms flyover (2) - Geograph - 1766302.jpgCorner of Blackfriars Road and The Cut, SE1 - Geograph - 470886.jpg
Other nearby roads
Central LondonA Ring • A1/Central London - South Mimms • A10 • A100 • A11 • A1200 • A1202 • A1203 • A1204 (Wapping) • A1208 • A1209 • A1210 • A1211 • A1212 • A1213 • A13 • A2 • A200 • A202 • A203 • A215 • A2198 • A2200 • A2205 • A2206 • A2207 • A23 • A3 • A300 • A301 • A302 • A303 (Vauxhall - Wandsworth) • A3036 • A3200 • A3201 • A3202 • A3203 • A3204 • A3205 • A3211 • A3212 • A3213 • A3213 (Pall Mall) • A3214 • A3215 • A3217 • A4 • A4/Great West Road • A40 • A40(M) (Central London) • A40/Central London - Denham • A400 • A401 • A402 • A404 • A41 • A41/Central London - Watford • A4200 • A4201 • A4202 • A4203 • A4205 • A4208 • A4209 • A4801 • A5 • A5/Central London - Brockley • A500 (Marble Arch - Finchley) • A501 • A5200 • A5201 • A5202 • A5203 • A5204 • B100 • B101 • B107 • B126 • B128 • B129 • B130 • B131 • B132 • B133 • B134 • B139 • B144 • B200 • B201 • B202 • B240 • B300 • B308 • B309 • B310 • B310 (Thames Embankment) • B311 (Westminster) • B312 • B323 • B324 • B326 • B327 • B400 • B401 • B402 • B403 • B404 • B405 (Trafalgar Square) • B406 • B500 • B501 • B502 • B503 • B504 • B505 • B506 • B507 • B513 • B521 • B522 • B523 • B524 • CS1 • CS2 • CS3 • CS5 • CS6 • CS7 • CS8 • E1 (Old System) • E2 (Old System) • E5 (Old System) • Ermine Street • EuroVelo 2 • Great North Road • Holyhead Road • London Inner Ring Road • Longest Lane • M1 • M11 • NCN13 • NCN4 • RM3 • Watling Street
A200 – A299
A200 • A201 • A202 • A203 • A204 • A205 • A206 • A207 • A208 • A209 • A210 • A211 • A212 • A213 • A214 • A215 • A216 • A217 • A218 • A219
A220 • A221 • A222 • A223 • A224 • A225 • A226 • A227 • A228 • A229 • A230 • A231 • A232 • A233 • A234 • A235 • A236 • A237 • A238 • A239
A240 • A241 • A242 • A243 • A244 • A245 • A246 • A247 • A248 • A249 • A250 • A251 • A252 • A253 • A254 • A255 • A256 • A257 • A258 • A259
A260 • A261 • A262 • A263 • A264 • A265 • A266 • A267 • A268 • A269 • A270 • A271 • A272 • A273 • A274 • A275 • A276 • A277 • A278 • A279
A280 • A281 • A282 • A283 • A284 • A285 • A286 • A287 • A288 • A289 • A290 • A291 • A292 • A293 • A294 • A295 • A296 • A297 • A298 • A299
Defunct Itineraries: A239 • A268 • A270 • A273 • A274 • A277 • A278 • A280 • A282 • A285 • A292(W) • A292(E) • A295