|Length:||13.5 miles (21.7 km)|
|Meets:||A30, B3003, B3377, A312, A244, A3063, A3006, A314, B363, A310, B454, A3002, B455, A205, A4, A406, B490, A3000, B491, A316, A402, B408, A219, A306, B317, A3220, B316, A4204, B325|
|Old route now:||A205|
|Route outline (key)|
Faced with the conflicting conventions of starting these accounts at the London end, or starting in the “home” zone, I have gone for the latter. According to the 1922 lists this means that we will start with the original stretch of the road.
That list raises a question, as it identifies the A315 as Junction with A4 (Chiswick) - Isleworth - East Bedfont. However, the present A4 Great West Road in Brentford was not opened until 1925, which raises the question as to where exactly the “Junction with A4” referred to was – and indeed where the A4 itself was before 1925! One possible clue is that local 'B' roads (but not 'A' roads!) are numbered as if the zone boundary follows the present A315. Note the B452 in Brentford, for example, and the B325 (Gloucester Road) in Kensington. In fact, looking at an old map will show that the A4 junction referred to is more-or-less at the location of the current Chiswick Roundabout. The A4 west of this point did not in fact exist before 1925, except on paper as the number of the Brentford and Hounslow bypass, which was still under construction.
Section 1: Bedfont – Chiswick
The present A315 follows part of the original line of the Roman Road from the West Country to London. It starts at the Clockhouse Roundabout in Bedfont, the point where the A30 departs from the Roman route to follow the 1925 Great South West Road. There is no clock house visible at the roundabout, which actually takes its name from Clockhouse Lane – the road to Ashford (B3003) – which in turn takes its name from the long-gone Clock House Farm. The A315 follows the original Roman line, with little of interest until it meets, in quick succession, the A312 and A244 in Feltham.
The A315 then crosses the River Crane to pass the surviving part of Hounslow Heath. Although the heath originally covered 25 square miles, only about 2% (300 acres) now remain. It was a Royal hunting ground and military training ground since the Middle Ages (notably during the Civil War) – there is still a cavalry barracks a little way to the north. (We shall meet another barracks later on.) It also saw service as a WWI airfield and as London's first civil airport for a few months in 1919-20, before the service was transferred to Croydon. Air services returned to the western part of the heath in the 1940s, with the opening of Heathrow Airport. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the heath was a haunt of highwaymen, both on the Exeter Road and the Bath Road, which joins it at Hounslow. The Bath Road is the A3006 at Hounslow, only becoming the A4 further west where it meets the 1925 Great West / Great South West Road.
Hounslow High Street, the original line of the Roman road, has been pedestrianised, so the A315 deviates to the south, to meet the A314 Hanworth Road at traffic lights, after which we bear left to rejoin the High Street near Hounslow bus station. This was the site of the original Hounslow terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway. The station was built in an elevated position with the clear intention of being extended across the road towards Twickenham, deep into the territory of the London & South Western Railway. The LSWR, on whose tracks the District at that time relied between Hammersmith and Turnham Green, were not impressed and the extension was never built, so the District instead expanded westwards to Hounslow Barracks (now Hounslow West), abandoning the original Hounslow terminus. The Hounslow West line is now part of the Heathrow branch of the Piccadilly Line, which we shall keep company all the way to Knightsbridge.
A pronounced kink in the road marks the Isleworth Driving Test centre, which was responsible for giving me a driving licence a quarter of a century ago, but nevertheless still seems to be in business. Shortly afterwards, we pass under the Waterloo to Hounslow railway line and reach Busch Corner, the junction of the A310 to Twickenham, and Syon Lane (the out-of-zone B454) connecting with the Great West Road, now only a quarter of a mile away. We now pass Syon Park, a stately home with parkland designed by Capability Brown, and views across the Thames to Kew Gardens. The London Transport and British Leyland museums were both located here at different times.
Beyond Busch Corner we enter Brentford. As well as the confluence of the Brent with the Thames, Brentford was a major node in the canal era, as the Grand Union Canal meets the Thames here. The narrow boats required on the canal system were unsuitable for the tidal Thames, so transshipment to and from larger craft was necessary here. After crossing the river and canal, the road now skirts the north bank of the Thames, past the museums of musical instruments (in a modern building) and steam engines (in an old pumping station), to reach the A205 South Circular Road, where it joins the Chiswick High Road at the north end of Kew Bridge. For many years this was the terminus of the A315 - but before the inauguration of the South Circular it continued a short distance further to reach the A4.
However, after the construction in the 1950s of the Chiswick Flyover and its eastern approaches, the A4 from here to Hammersmith was diverted from its original route on the Chiswick High Road to follow the new road, necessitating a new number for the old road. Consequently, the A315 now resumes at the A4/A406 junction and follows the Chiswick High Road to Hammersmith. The first landmark we encounter is Gunnersbury station, with the site of Chiswick Works, spiritual home of the London Bus, across the road. Also here is the “Gunnersbury Triangle” nature reserve, a site which for many years was completely isolated by railway lines, thereby allowing nature to take a hold undisturbed.
Something strange happens here – the Roman Road to London disappears, to resume on the other side of the railway line as the B409 Bath Road, a mile or so further on at Turnham Green station. That road continues, as the A402 and A40, all the way to the City of London, but if there was ever a direct route between Gunnersbury and the Bath Road it has disappeared underneath the railway, which has no less than six tracks here. The kink in the Chiswick High Road near Gunnersbury station is a clue.
Remaining on the Chiswick High Road, we reach Turnham Green itself, where the B490 provides access across the railway at Chiswick Park station to regain the old Roman route at Acton Green, but the Chiswick High Road remains south of the railway. (Westbound traffic can avoid the Chiswick roundabout here by using Wellesley Road (the A3000), which passes under the A4 to rejoin the High Road near Kew Bridge).
Section 2: Chiswick – Knightsbridge
Passing the turning for Turnham Green station on the left (B491) and the insignificant-looking Chiswick Lane (which is in fact the A316) on the right, we now reach Stamford Brook, which is the junction with the A402, allowing traffic to regain the Roman route to Shepherds Bush and beyond. The A315 however continues past Ravenscourt Park and into the Hammersmith One-Way system. Eastbound traffic is diverted under the railway to run along Glenthorne Road, and then back over the railway (which has descended steeply in between) to arrive at Hammersmith Broadway.
Until the construction of the Hammersmith Flyover in 1961 and the bridge over the West London Railway line at Earls Court two years later, the A4 ran along Kensington High Street and Kensington Gore, but when the A4 was diverted to its present route along the Cromwell Road, the original route became a further extension of the A315. Westbound traffic has to negotiate three sides of the Hammersmith gyratory system, passing under the flyover, but eastbound traffic here carries straight on. Just beyond the Olympia exhibition hall, we cross the northbound West Cross Route (A3220), with the most exclusive car showroom on the corner – that of the Bristol motor company: they have only the one premises. The next set of traffic lights is for the southbound A3220.So into Kensington High Street, passing the Commonwealth Institute and then the Underground station – the weak bridge over the line here has necessitated a weight restriction for some years – and then Kensington Gardens appears on the left.
Coming into Kensington Gore, we reach the concentration of cultural establishments known as “Albertopolis” after the Prince Consort, whose influence helped establish them. The modern Royal College of Art building is a disappointment, but the Royal College of Organists resembles an ornate church organ. There are also the Royal College of Music, the Royal Geographical Society, Imperial College of Science & Technology and, down towards South Kensington station, the museums (Natural History; Science; and Victoria & Albert). In the centre of it all is the Royal Albert Hall, and across the road the Albert Memorial, an extravagant Victorian Gothic tribute to Queen Victoria's husband, who died in 1861 at the age of only 42.
The shape of the Royal Albert Hall is reminiscent of the Millennium Dome, which may be appropriate as “Albertopolis” was largely funded by the proceeds of the Dome's predecessor, the Great Exhibition of 1851 - the Crystal Palace. This was housed in the large open area we next pass on the left – Hyde Park. Its prefabricated buildings were later moved to the area in Sydenham that still bears the name of Crystal Palace, although the building itself burnt down in 1926.
Facing Hyde Park are some of the many foreign embassies in this area, one of which, the Iranian embassy, shot to fame in 1980 when it was first seized by dissidents, and then stormed by the SAS. The modern Hyde Park barracks, home to the Brigade of Guards, heralds the approach of Knightsbridge, where we meet the A4 once more, at the junction still known as “Scotch House”, (or Scotch Corner). However, the shop that gave it the name has now been rebranded as the more fashionable Burberry. From here the A4 resumes its original route, and so has no further use for the A315.