|Location Map ( geo)
|Ross on Wye (SO588244)
|Bamber Bridge (SD562251)
|Leominster, Shrewsbury, Warrington, Wigan
|158 miles (254.3 km)
|A40, A44, A5, A53, A41, A51, A54, M56, A57, A50, M62, M6, A58, A6
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A49 can be divided into two distinct sections. The first runs from Ross-on-Wye to Warrington, all primary, and is a country drive alongside the hills that run all the way along the English / Welsh borders. It is famous with SABRE for never quite entering Wales though, usually running around ten miles away from the border as it winds its way up through Herefordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire, although it comes within a couple of miles near Whitchurch. It is also mainly single carriageway, which means it can be a slow drive in the likely event that you come across a tractor.
The second section runs from Warrington through Wigan to Bamber Bridge near Preston and is mostly a non primary road for local traffic, largely superseded by the M6.
Section 1: Ross-on-Wye - Shrewsbury
The A49 begins at a roundabout with the A40 at the end of the Ross-on-Wye bypass. It starts off heading westward before it picks up traffic from the A4137 and heads round to its more usual northbound route. The A466 joins on as we sweep past the woodland of Aconbury Hill to the right.
Into Hereford, the A49 picks up the A465 at a roundabout and briefly becomes dual carriageway as it crosses the River Wye and runs to the west of the town centre. After this brief interlude, we resume single carriageway status, running past Hereford United football ground and the racecourse. This part of the road up to Shrewsbury closely follows the course of the main line railway.
Past Hereford, the A49 runs along the Lugg valley towards Leominster. About five miles along, coming out of a patch of woodland, there's a straight T-junction with the A417 - only the second main road crossing the A49 not to enter Wales! Just beyond this, we reach the Leominster bypass / relief road at a somewhat oversized roundabout. This bit is noticeably straighter than previous sections, and there are several long stretches suitable for overtaking (though it wouldn't surprise me if the centre line was hatched over by now...). Towards the end of this part, the A44 is briefly multiplexed, coming in from Worcester on the right, and leaves us at the terminal roundabout going left, with the A49 heading to the right.
The A49 carries along the valley as it leaves Herefordshire and crosses into Shropshire at a junction with the A456. It then heads up to Ludlow, which it swings round to the east of. This was bypassed in the early 1980s, and originally it ran through the middle of the town on very narrow streets indeed! Past Ludlow it heads along Wenlock Edge, a range of hills popular with hikers and full of ancient monuments and stones. I know this section best as I've been on several hiking weekends around the area. It's a lovely part of the country and well worth exploring.
Heading into Shrewsbury, the A49 meets the A5 at the 1990s bypass, replacing the much congested ring road built in the 1930s. It multiplexes with the A5 to the east of the town, passing under the A458 and along the edge of the River Severn. The A5 leaves at a roundabout bound for Telford, while we carry on north, back to wide single carriageway and with two crossings of the River Severn. The A53 then branches off to the right at the Battlefield Roundabout, with the A49 bearing left towards Whitchurch.
Section 2: Shrewsbury - Warrington
The view to the left of the A49/A41 roundabout is anything but rural and the general dereliction around here depressing. But at least you've now got enough dual carriageway to get past what you've been stuck behind, seemingly for an eternity. After a mile, a slip lane enables a speedy transfer onto the Whitchurch by-pass. This is generously wide but only marked two lane - overtaking can thus be hairy, especially southbound, up the hill. The first roundabout collects the B5476 (Wem road) and A525 (the eastern part of the by-pass), now merging with the A41 until it heads west into Wales at the next roundabout (services here). As you leave this roundabout, steal a quick glance on the left at the tranquil Llangollen Canal.
The A41 departs to the left at the next roundabout. From this point the A41 takes over from the A49 in shadowing the Welsh border, less than a mile from here. However, although between them they shadow the entire length of the border so closely, neither the A41 nor the A49 ever actually crosses it. The A49 now heads off to Tarporley where there is a multiplex with the A51 along the town's bypass and across the Cheshire Plain to the M56 (junction 10) and Warrington.
Section 3: Warrington - Bamber Bridge
The A49 heads north out of Warrington and soon meets the M62 (junction 9) and Winwick, where a spur leads to the M6 (junction 22). Beyond here the A49 remains intimate with the M6 all the way to Preston. The A49 loses its primary status at Winwick, continuing parallel to the M6 through Newton le Willows to Junction 23 where it crossed the motorway, Ashton in Makerfield (junction 24 via A58) and Bryn (junction 25) where primary status is resumed. The road continues through Wigan where there is a one-way system through the town and Standish, where primary status is ceded to the A5209 (linking to the M6 at junction 27), and on through Euxton and Leyland (junction 28) before passing under the complex M6/M65 junction. The road terminates on the A6 at Bamber Bridge, south of Preston, where that road allows access to both motorways.
The present A49 follows the 1922/3 route very closely, with only a handful of major re-routeings. There have also been many on-line improvements where bends have been straightened out. The historic route map on the right illustrates the 1922 route.
Until the 1935 road-numbering revision – when the A40 was re-routed to run via Monmouth – the A49 began at a point on the original A40 known as Old Pike, lying some four kilometres further west of Ross than the present junction between the two roads; the old A40 west of here is now numbered B4521.
In Hereford, Greyfriars Bridge was opened in 1966, replacing the original A49 which crossed the River Wye via the old narrow stone arched bridge at Bridge Street before continuing northwards through the heart of the city centre. The new route rejoined the old route at the north end of Edgar Street. For the Inner Relief Road changes see the Hereford page.
When the Leominster bypass opened in 1988, the original A49 became part of the B4361, with Mill Street forming part of the A44. A little further north, the small village of Brinfield is now bypassed, with the original A49 now unclassified. Ludlow is also bypassed, with much of the original A49 here also being designated as B4361, though even that now diverts around the edge of the town centre, unlike the 1922 A49 which ran through the market place.
Church Stretton is also now bypassed, this time the original route is designated B5477, a curious choice given that there is another B5477 in the Wirral, and the B5477 number is out-of-zone in Church Stretton as it is south of the A5.
The original A49 followed a short section of the A5112 into Shrewsbury before following the now-unclassified Hereford Road, then crossing the Severn on the present A458 English Bridge. It then ran north along the present A528 Ellesmere Road before following the B5476 through Wem to Whitchurch. The present, more easterly route is a post-war change.
The next significant deviation from the 1923 route is the Tarporley bypass which dates from 1986. North of here, Weaverham was bypassed in the early 1990s, with the old A49 becoming the B5144. That scheme also included straightening of the bends south of the railway.
Bartington and Lower Whiteley each have short bypasses, and there is also a short deviation from the 1922 route to accommodate M56 Junction 10 (Stretton Interchange (Warrington)). Through Warrington itself the A49 remains faithful to its 1922 route, except for a short deviation to the east of the town centre, the original route following Horsemarket Street and Bridge Street, now pedestrianised.
The next significant diversion is where the A49 crosses the A580 East Lancs Road, something that it managed without difficulty when the East Lancs Road originally opened in 1934. All this changed in the early 1960s when the M6 was driven through the area, and the A49 was pushed to one side to accommodate Junction 23. The A49, once the most important road at this point, now plays third fiddle to both the M6 and the East Lancs Road.
In Wigan the present A49 takes a new line to bypass the town to the southt, which opened on 26 June 2020. Prior to this, it took a line along Warrington Road and Wallgate, but bypassed the centre to the south and east. The original route ploughs through the middle via Wallgate and Standishgate, another pedestrianised road.
|Ludlow: Burway Bridge
|0.25 mile bypass for the narrow Corve Street and Corve Bridge. Opened on 20 February 1931 by Sir Henry Maybury. The bridge collapsed in floods on 27 June 2007. The replacement was completed in January 2009 (with a bailey bridge in the interim). Later renumbered as B4361.
|Acton Swing Bridge and Diversions
|Opened in 1933 per Moveable Bridges website derived from Waterways Archives. Replacement swing bridge over River Weaver on alignment to north-west of earlier bridge, and diversion northwards at Bartington Farm with new canal bridge. Tenders were invited in May 1932. Described as "new" in a Huddersfield Daily Examiner touring article of 7 November 1934.
|Church Stretton Bypass
|Work on the 4.5 mile road from Little Stretton to Dudgeley Bridge began in February 1939 and was still ongoing in May 1941. It was stated in The Sphere of 26 July 1941 that the bypass had been opened a few days beforehand. It was still reported as open in an October 1941 Lichfield Mercury cycle ride report. There is one reference on the web to say that the opening was brief before being closed to allow parking for wartime military vehicles and guns. The August 1947 OS New Popular Edition map shows the line of the bypass, but it is not marked as a classified road.
|Lower Whitley Bypass
|Shown on 1952 OS 1:25000 inch map. Not on 1951 OS One inch map. It may have opened in 1951.
|Lee Brockhurst Diversion
|The 0.75 mile straightening and a new type of reinforced concrete bridge over Rover Roden was expected to be completed by Whitsun 1962. Estimated cost £61,000. Several vehicles had plunged into the river previously at one of Shropshire’s worst places for accidents.
|Hereford Inner Relief Road
|Stage 1: Greyfriars Bridge was completed in October 1966 but the official opening was delayed to allow refacing after vandals poured black paint over the white side facings of the bridge. The official opening was on 19 January 1967 by Peter Carter, Mayor. It was a prestressed concrete bridge with a 200 foot span. The dual carriageway section of the North-South Relief Road was from St Nicholas Street to Belmont Roundabout (A465) Contractor was Cementation Construction Ltd.
|Hereford Inner Relief Road
|The last section on the A49 North-South Relief Road from St Nicholas Street to Edgar Street was to be opened to two way traffic on 12 October 1969. The last section of the A438 East-West Relief Road, (possibly Newmarket Street) was due to open two weeks later. The official opening was on 11 December 1969 by David Gibson-Watt, MP for Hereford. Both were dual carriageway upgrades to existing roads.
|Leominster Inner Relief Road
|The 0.5 mile road was reported as opening at the weekend of 25 / 26 May 1974 (per Birmingham Evening Mail of 23 May 1974). An upgrade to existing streets with some re-alignment and 24 foot carriageway. Cost £122,000. Later renumbered A44 / B4361.
|Stretton Roundabout Diversion
|Diversion for M56 J10 (J9 to J11 opened on 16 July 1975). The diversion would have opened earlier during the motorway construction.
|Officially opened on 4 February 1980. The original contractor, Mears construction company, collapsed in early 1979 and Edmund Nuttall's took over to complete the road.
|Callow Hill Improvement
|The realignment of the existing road was completed in February 1980 per a 2018 NAO Quality Control report. Work had been due to start in November 1978 per Hansard of 2 August 1978. It had asphalt slippage and cracking, due to the use of wet mix, in the year it opened and required major reconstruction between then and 1985 costing £0.7 million.
|The 1 mile S2 road was completed in March 1983 per the Policy for Roads in England: 1983 Report. Outturn works cost £1.4 million.
|The 2.3 mile road was opened on 10 September 1986 per the Land Compensation Act notice. Cost £3 million. Part was A51.
|The 4 mile road was completed in November 1988 (per the Trunk Roads, England, into the 1990's Report). Outturn works cost £9 million.
|Opened on 18 November 1988. 1 mile. Contractor was C. J. Pearce Ltd., contract price £1,193,125.
|Opened on 4 March 1992 by Christopher Chope, Minister for Roads and Transport. There may have been further works since the completion date was July 1992 per Hansard. Tender cost £8.95 million, outturn cost £13.7 million. Part was A41 and A525.
|Shrewsbury 2nd Bypass
|Official opening was on 11 August 1992. Part was A5.
|The bypass was completed in September 1992 per Hansard. Tender cost £4.2 million, outturn cost £6.33 million.
|Wigan : Westwood Way
|The 1.5 mile dual carriageway from Warrington Road to the Poolstock / Chapel Lane junction was opened on 26 June 2020 by David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Borough Council. Contractor was Jones Bros. Civil Engineering UK, cost £20 million. It was the first section of a projected route linking the M6 / M58 to M61.
- The A49 Trunk Road in Shropshire (A49/A5 Preston Roundabout to A49/A41 Prees Heath Roundabout and A49/A41 Chester Road Roundabout to the County of Cheshire Border) (Detrunking) Order 2002 - This is one of three orders removing trunk status from sections of the A49 following the 1998 review A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England
- The A49 Trunk Road (County of Cheshire Border and Borough of Warrington Border to the A49/M56 Roundabout at Stretton) (Detrunking) Order 2001 - This is one of three orders removing trunk status from sections of the A49 following the 1998 review A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England
- The A49 Trunk Road in Cheshire (County of Shropshire Border to the Borough of Warrington Border) (Detrunking) Order 2001 - This is one of three orders removing trunk status from sections of the A49 following the 1998 review A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England