Merton had a priory by the River Wandle until Henry VIII's Reformation, when the priory church it was largely demolished to provide building materials for nearby Nonsuch Palace. Many of the other buildings are still there, known (inaccurately) as Merton Abbey. Not being on the Tube map, Merton is now rather less well-known than its younger neighbours Wimbledon and Morden, but it has given its name to the London borough containing all three. It has also given its name to the comedian Paul Merton – real name Paul Martin – who grew up there.
The road north from Merton past Wimbledon Common, across Putney Bridge and through west London is the A219, making it one of the northernmost roads with a 2 number.
Section 1: Merton – Putney Bridge
Should you have occasion to approach London along the A24, shortly after passing Morden underground station you will find it abruptly turns right onto a new formation, previously a railway line – a classic example of a TOTSO. If you miss this turning, the road ahead is the present beginning of the A219. A couple of hundred yards beyond the A24 junction, you reach South Wimbledon tube station, which was the original start of the A219. The A238 crosses here, although the road to the right is the original course of the A24 towards London. We continue straight on, and then abruptly left in to Wimbledon Broadway, which leads via a short one-way system to the station. This is only half a mile from South Wimbledon, 27 stops and over an hour's journey away by Tube!
Adjacent to Wimbledon station is a large shopping mall called, I suppose inevitably, Centre Court. The A219 continues straight on, up Wimbledon Hill to Wimbledon Village. Wimbledon has two principal claims to fame: The All England Tennis Club a little way off to our right, and the Wombles of Wimbledon Common, which area is now on our left. The Common is one of many large expanses of greenery in this part of London – it is possible to walk all the way to the Thames at Richmond or Putney, both about five miles away, in almost completely rural surroundings. The A219, however, skirts the edge of the Common to Putney Heath, and Tibbetts Corner, where the A3 dives under on its way to Portsmouth. Nearby is Telegraph Hill, site of one of the "optical telegraph" sites in the network built by the Admiralty during the Napoleonic Wars. This was a sophisticated semaphore system using a set of shutters, which allowed a message to be relayed from station to station get the 72 miles from London to Portsmouth, and a reply to be returned, within 15 minutes. This is close to the speed of sound – a huge advance for the end of the 18th Century, and still much better than the A3 can manage!
Down Putney Hill we go, to cross the South Circular Road (A205) at Putney Station, and along the High Street to Putney Bridge. Until 1729, when the original bridge was built (it was replaced in 1886), there was no fixed crossing of the Thames between London and Kingston. Since 1845 Putney has marked the start of the University Boat Race.
Section 2: Putney Bridge – Harlesden
Crossing the bridge, and noting the District Line's bridge crossing the river just downstream, we enter Fulham, passing the junctions with the New Kings Road (A308) and Fulham Road (A304) in quick succession, and shortly afterwards passing Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club.
We now arrive at the complex that is Hammersmith, and are confronted by the huge flyover that carries the A4 over the centre of the town. There is no direct access to the A4 from here – we would have to follow part of Hammersmith Bridge Road or, if heading towards London, go right round the one-way system. But we have further to go. Through Hammersmith Broadway, and on up Shepherd's Bush Road to Shepherds Bush Green, another glorified roundabout. Much of the traffic that might have gone this way uses Holland Road and the motorway-standard West Cross Route (A3220) , so traffic is not too bad as we progress up Wood Lane to the White City – previously the site of the 1948 Olympic Games - and the former BBC Television Centre.
Wood Lane was until recently a multiplex with the A40, but when the Westway, whose flyover we now see ahead, was downgraded from motorway status it took the A40 number so Wood Lane is now just the A219. Beyond the Westway, we pass Wormwood Scrubs Common on the left – the prison is the other side of the common. We are now further north than any other "2-road" except the M25, so it is perhaps appropriate that this area is known as the North Pole! Here we cross the West London Railway line which we have followed from Shepherds Bush, as it enters the tangle of railways connecting the main routes out of Euston and Paddington with the West London and North London orbital lines.
Journey's end comes quite abruptly, behind Willesden Junction railway station, at a junction with the A404 Harrow Road at College Park, at the point where it enters Harlesden.