|To:||Redbridge, Southampton (SU372138)|
|Distance:||52 miles (83.7 km)|
|Meets:||A329, M4, A339, A30, M3, A34, A27, A335, A3024, A35, M271|
|Former Number(s):||A32, A36|
|Old route now:||A30|
|Route outline (key)|
The A33 runs from Reading to Southampton. Once a continuous through route, it has been extended, then gradually shrunk, largely through being superseded by the M3. Part of it was once the main trunk road from London to the South Coast, and received numerous upgrades to cope with traffic and congestion before finally being replaced by motorway.
The A33 is split into two distinct sections - the first is the main cross country route from Reading to Basingstoke, and the second the ancient Roman road from Popham, through Winchester, to Southampton.
Reading - Basingstoke
Originally the A33 started at Southampton Street in Reading but now starts on the A329 Reading Inner Distribution Road (IDR) at a set of traffic lights. It then passes through a series of roundabouts and retail parks before meeting the M4. Over this, the road continues on a dual carriageway section built in the 1970s - the old road can be seen branching off to the left. There have been some improvements here, as pretty much all of the gaps for side roads have been closed off.
We then join up with the old road just after leaving Berkshire (and, incidentally, the B3349 - the A32 as was, on the left), where we're back to two lanes through the north Hampshire countryside and the wonderfully named village of Sherfield on Loddon. Much of this section down to Basingstoke is no overtaking, and there are numerous twists and turns in the road, meaning you're almost certain to get stuck behind a lorry somewhere. And anyway, a 50mph speed limit takes up much of this part.
A series of roundabouts bypasses the old Reading Road at Chineham and lets you know you're getting close to Basingstoke, second only to Milton Keynes as the country's largest national roundabout museum, which culminates in a roundabout with the A339 and the Basingstoke Ring Road. And here's where the first half of the A33 finishes, and, bar a short section at the end, gives up its primary status.
Basingstoke - Winchester
From the end of the primary section, we turn left onto the sliproad to the A339, and just before the M3 junction, turn right onto the A30 around the Basingstoke ring road. Carrying on round the ring road on the A30 (which the A33 multiplexes with), we head off southwest.
Difficult to pick out, the old route can just be traced on a local map. The A33 would have carried on down Norn Hill, past the recently renovated "Poison" bar - an obvious old coaching inn - to the centre of town. From the Lower Brook, the route would have climbed up to the Market Square along Wote Street, before turning sharply right to find Winchester Street/Road. Following the Winchester Road out of town takes us to the south-eastern corner of the ring road where the new route finds us at the obviously named "Winchester Road Roundabout" to start a multiplex with the A30.
Before the coming of the M3 in the 1970s, this would have been A33, since the A30 bypassed the town using the Harrow Way, and so met the current route at the White House junction, now the Brighton Hill Roundabout, ¾ mile further west. The White House, now a Pizza Express, is another coaching inn on the route. Again, a slight deviation from the original route is easy to see by looking for the Stag and Hounds inn on the old Winchester Road.
The road duals as we come out of the southwestern corner of Basingstoke, and comes to an interesting TOTSO. The A33 and A30 both turn off about ½ mile before M3 junction 7, but both are signposted onto it. The old blocked right turn has been reopened, however, and, fortunately there's a signpost "King's Worthy - A33" to help. (Though given that King's Worthy is just north of Winchester, it seems a bit silly to signpost this when you could just head down the M3 instead - maybe there isn't anything else worth signposting the A33 for?)
A mile or so ahead, the multiplex ends as the A33 leads straight at a TOTSO where the A30 traffic heads to the right. This emphasises that the A33 was originally the main road here. In fact, the multiplex has only existed since 1933; before then the A30 left Basingstoke to the west. Immediately after this junction, we cross over the ex-A30, now-A303, spur from the M3, and then a side road to the left is clearly visible as being a former sliproad. This was where the non-primary A33 joined onto the M3 traffic to the primary A33 towards Winchester. You can see a large wooden fence put up where the main carriageway obviously went. Just past here is the original site of the Popham services (the current site is further west on the A303).
The A33 from here down to Winchester is still quite a fast road with large sections of dual carriageway, as befits what was once the "London to Southampton Trunk Road". Most of the dualling and widening took place in the late 1960s, before a final decision had been made to extend the M3 towards Winchester. There's a hump-backed bridge (over the old Winchester to Alton railway) as the road approaches King's Worthy.
A turning on the right leads off to the B3047, formerly the original site of the A3090, and even more formerly than that, the original A33 Roman road into the centre of Winchester. Instead, we swing round to the left where the road duals with hedges as the central reservation. This short section for the next mile or so is all that's left of the classic Winchester Bypass, built in the 1930s and opened in 1940.
We link in via now very faded "Don't change lane" signs with the A34 (which assumes priority here), and head up to the M3 junction. We won't see the A33 number again till the suburbs of Southampton as it happens. The original route carried straight on towards the original Spitfire Bridge under the A31 (now the B3404) and is now partly swallowed up by a Tesco car park as we head towards Bar End. (You can make out the old route by following the path the hedges take, best done from atop the bridge.) The original bridge was demolished to allow a new road to run parallel to the old bypass, now the M3. We pass straight on at the M3 roundabout now onto this new road (now the A272) towards the roundabout with the A31. The road from there was demolished in 1994 when the final section of M3 was completed over Twyford Down to the west. The course of it can partially be followed on foot.
Winchester - Southampton
The original course of the A33 reappears at a roundabout with the A3090 just north of Compton, though at this point it has been downgraded to a local road. At the bottom, we can clearly see the site of the original Winchester bypass cross our path. The road now swings up over the motorway and carries on on the left. This was once the south terminus of the Winchester Bypass, but now all that exists is a solitary bridge. We head south through shaded road towards Otterbourne, before beginning the climb back up the other side. This road was partially 3 lane, but has now been trimmed back to 2 to make way for a traffic "calming" scheme.
At the roundabout, we head right and then left on towards Chandler's Ford. We're now effectively entering suburban Southampton so the road is fairly busy with local traffic. After the roundabout with a Asda, we briefly head back up into the woodlands before finally joining back up with the modern A33 at the Chilworth roundabout. The A27 also joins here.
From here the A33 heads down the four lane traffic of The Avenue past Southampton Common and head into the city centre. At the Six Dials crossroads (once six roads meeting at a point, now a large multi-way junction with traffic lights in a slightly different location) we proceed down the A33 to the docks, where its traditional end appears at the seafront, next to the now defunct Southampton Terminus Station.
In recent times, however, the A33 now has a short epilogue, heading right down the seafront, along the new West Quay shopping area, out on the dual 3 lane road towards Milbrook which was originally part of the A36, and finally comes to a halt with the M271, the route ahead being assumed by the A35.
Reading - Basingstoke
The A33 originally started at Riseley Common, on the Berkshire / Hampshire Border. The road to the north was then a continuation of the A32 to Reading and beyond.
In January 1934, the Eastern Division Regional Road Engineering department informed the Ministry of Transport it would be ideal to have a continual Reading - Southampton route, and so the A33 was extended back to the A4 in Reading. As of April 1935, therefore, its start point was at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Reading, running south along Bridge Street, Southampton Street and Whitley Street. It then followed the Basingstoke Road through Riseley and Sherfield into Basingstoke itself, arriving into town via Norn Hill and Wote Street to meet what was the A30 in the market square.
The arrival of the M4 south of Reading in 1971 brought more traffic along the A33 corridor, and proposals were put in place to fully dual the route towards the M3 in Basingstoke, which opened the same year. Berkshire County Council constructed a new offline route south of M4 J11 to just beyond the county boundary, which opened in 1978. Hampshire County Council did not want to take up the offer of extending the route towards the M3 due to a lack of available funds, hence why the dual carriageway suddenly stops just south of Riseley and reverts to the historical coaching route.
The Chineham Bypass opened in 1974. The A339 Ringway opened in 1976, which diverted A33 traffic away from the town centre and around the ringway. The transformation of Basingstoke into a new town in the late 1960s transformed the road network, including the A33. Most of the original line of the road between the railway and market has now been demolished to make way for the modern shopping centre.
The A33 was rerouted further west in Reading onto a new relief road, allowing easier access from the M4 into the town centre. In 1994 the first section opened between Rose Kiln Lane and the IDR in Reading. The new road ended in the middle of the IDR, which was once planned to be a high speed urban motorway but has since been redeveloped as a more appropriate urban ring road. The second section between Rose Kiln Lane and junction 11 of the M4 opened in 1998 and during the 4 year gap the A33 remained on its original route along Basingstoke Road in South Reading.
Though the A33 remains a primary route between Reading and Basingstoke, it has never been a trunk road along this stretch. Trunking was briefly proposed in 1987 and rejected because of insufficient traffic.
Basingstoke - Winchester
Most of the A33 southwest of Basingstoke is part of the historic Roman Road from Silchester to Winchester. However, by the 17th century, it had fallen out of favour as a through route. John Ogilby's 1675 map of Hampshire shows the main route from London to Winchester to be via the A30 as far as the Jolly Farmer, the A325 to the Shepherd and Flock, then the A31. The Silchester - Winchester Road began to be marked on road maps from the 1750s onwards.
At the time of classification, the A33 left Basingstoke via the appropriately named Winchester Road and joined the route of the Roman Road near Kempshott, following it into Winchester via Micheldever and King's Worthy. On 1 April 1933, the recent construction of the Basingstoke Bypass caused the A30 to be routed along part of the A33 as far as Popham, away from its original coaching route via Overton. The A33 continued to run through Basingstoke and as far as the end of the original bypass; the original signs at M3 J7 correctly read "Basingstoke A30 (A33)". The section inside Basingstoke was downgraded following the construction of the Ringways in the late 1970s. It continued on its original route south of Popham - the TOTSO with the A30 here is a remnant of when it was the original through route.
The A33 south of Basingstoke became one of the first roads to be trunked in the 1930s, and became the main route from London to Southampton and the central south coast. In 1950, the road became part of European Route E1. Though the M3 had been planned since this time, it was originally only a London - Basingstoke motorway, with the intention to simply upgrade the A33. (In 1962, Transport Minister Ernest Marples said "I have at present no plans for extending the motorway beyond ... Popham Corner, the junction with the A33 and A30"). The first sections of dual carriageway between Basingstoke and Winchester were built in 1965. The M3 was completed to Popham in 1971; the motorway mainline simply merged into the existing road.
The M3 was extended south towards Winchester in the early 1980s, opening in May 1985. Access from the A33 to J8 was stopped up and the road was detrunked, though it still retains dual carriageway in places. Unlike the route further south, it has kept its number. Primary "London A33 (M3)" signs were still present on the road as late as 1995.
The original route into Winchester was via Worthy Road, Hyde Street and Jewry Street, meeting the A31 at the top of the High Street. (At classification, the A33 and A34 did not meet but ran parallel to each other to the west of the city centre). Construction of the Winchester Bypass began in the early 1930s, but completion was continually delayed and it was quietly opened without fanfare in 1940. The old road became the A3090 as far as the High Street, then an extended A34 along the southern section through St Cross.
Winchester - Southampton
The A33 originally left Winchester via Southgate Street and St Cross Road and followed the Roman Road as far as Otterbourne, where it diverged to run further west up Otterbourne Hill and Winchester Road to the A27. (The original Roman settlement of Clausentum is further east of the modern city centre).
The Winchester Bypass ended at Compton via a simple fork junction. The Chandler's Ford Bypass opened in December 1967, replacing the original route with a fully grade separated junction. The bypass in turn was upgraded to motorway in 1992 and become a detatched southern section of the M3. The completion of the M3 over Twyford Down in 1995 more or less obliterated the original Winchester Bypass junction, which does not survive beyond a small stub at its northern end.
The original route in Southampton was via the Avenue (as today), then London Road and Above Bar Street to the Bargate, then along the High Street. It ended at the junction with Bernard Street (then the A3025) and became the B3041 as far as the town quay. It changed to its current route when Kingsway was built in the early 1970s, leading to the pedestrianisation of Above Bar Street. The extension westwards to the M271 occurred when the missing part of West Quay Road opened in 2000, allowing traffic to bypass Western Esplanade and accommodate the West Quay shopping centre. The rest of the road had previously been the A36, then the A3024.