A41/Central London - Watford
|To:||Hunton Bridge (TQ084995)|
|Meets:||A40, A5204, B524, A501, A5205, B509, B525, B511, B510, A598, A407, A406, B551, A504, A5150, A1, A5109, A410, M1, A5, A5183, A411, B462, A4008, A412, A405, M25, A41|
|Old route now:||A410, A4140, A411|
|Route outline (key)|
The A41 begins as two one-way streets off Oxford Street: Portman Street (northbound), which turns into Gloucester Place; and Baker Street (southbound). The A41 starts in the wrong zone, the A40 forming the boundary between zones 4 and 5 at this point, and it also finishes in the 5-zone. This is actually legitimate: the number is taken from the furthest anticlockwise zone entered—in this case the 4-zone.
We run on top of the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street to Finchley Road Stations, passing Swiss Cottage en route. After a mile or two, we get to a TOTSO where the 1930s bypass of Watford turns off the Finchley Road, which heads north to Golders Green. Hendon Way (for this is what we're on) is one of those classic 30s radial roads, like Great Cambridge Road, Great West Road etc: nice and wide, and lined with 30s semis. We skirt the eastern fringe of Cricklewood and make it to the North Circular (A406). There's a fully grade separated junction (although with a very tight roundabout) with the A41 continuing over a flyover. Leave here for access to the M1.
We continue through Hendon Central then end up running parallel to the M1. We meet the A1 at Fiveways Corner, the location of M1 J2. However, only A1 traffic can get onto the M1 at this point. Now the A41 multiplexes the A1, as the Hendon/Edgware and Barnet bypasses converge. They split again at Apex Corner and we get our A41 number back. Eventually, we emerge out of suburbia, and get faced with M1 J4 (watch the tight bends on the slip roads). This time there's access to/from the southern A41 and northern M1 only.
We can start feeling less naughty now we're in the correct numbering zone, having crossed the A5 (well, sort of) and the A41 travels parallel to the M1 in a north-westerly direction. It's a wide single carriageway, one lane each way, and looks like it was once a 'suicide alley' S3 stretch. We cross the M1 on an overbridge, then the road becomes dual carriageway at the Hartspring Roundabout - this is for another junction, our last, with our friend the M1 at Berrygrove - the original southern terminus of the M1. This junction is a large roundabout over the top of both roads, and slip roads up from each road. Also here is the A4008 into Watford town centre. The road changes back to the original wide single carriageway with houses set back from the road for a bit - upgrades were piecemeal to this bit of the Watford bypass.
We pass the large printing works on St Albans Road as we interchange with it at a signalised roundabout. Then, after a set of traffic lights for a Supermarket and Hypermarket (one on each side of the road), the road improves again, becoming a dual carriageway once more and then we have a grade-separated roundabout junction with the A405 North Orbital Road at Leavesden Green - the home of the film studios. Shortly after that, we meet a spur from M25 J19 (the spur used to be part of the A405) at the Hunton Bridge roundabout, where the Watford Bypass finally ends and we are finally on the original road.
Finchley Road was built during the 19th century to provide a decent route from London's West End to Finchley, and the Great North Road. When the numbering system was introduced in 1922, the whole of this route from Oxford Street to Tally-Ho Corner in North Finchley (junction with the Great North Road) was numbered the A500. Meanwhile, the A41 began at a junction with the A5 north of Edgware (the current A410) and went through Stanmore (current A4140) and Watford (current A411). Now, in the 1920s and '30s many radial roads had become congested because north London suburbs were spreading to the extremities of the Underground network, so bypasses were needed for Watford and Barnet. These were duly built and by the mid-1930s were numbered A500/A555 respectively (early bypasses tended not to assume the route numbers of the roads they bypassed).
The Watford bypass was opened in the mid twenties, and was firstly called the A5088, then the A500 and was only renumbered A41 in the 1950s. The Watford bypass also linked, to the south-east across the A5, with bypasses for Edgware and Hendon, to meet the Finchley Road. So, the best way to get to Aylesbury, etc. was to use these new bypasses, rather than the A5 and A41. By 1961 the chain of bypasses had been sensibly renumbered to the A41, hence the discrepancy. What I don't understand, however, is why the A5 wasn't renumbered up as far as Edgware, as it was well and truly bypassed by these roads. Indeed, the Edgware and Hendon bypasses (and the southern bit of Finchley Road) could just as well have been numbered the A5.