|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||21.8 miles (35.1 km)|
|Meets:||A5, A41, A411, B5378, B462, B556, A405, A414, B4630, A1081, A4147, B487, M1, B4540, B489, A505|
|Route outline (key)|
The A5183 is the old A5 between the A41 near Elstree and the A5 near Thorn. It was downgraded in the late 1970s in order to avoid routing main road traffic through the centre of St Albans. It was extended through Dunstable in 2017.
Elstree - Thorn
The A5183 starts where the A5 meets the A41 at Centennial Park, immediately south of Elstree. It heads north through Elstree itself and then passes through a succession of small villages (and the town of Radlett), punctuated by woodland. Several coaching inns can be seen by the side of the road, their names (such as the Waggon and Horses) giving away their origin. Eventually, we cross the M25 and reach the Park Street Roundabout, the signing for which may look eerily familiar (it's in the Highway Code, although the place names and road numbers have been changed). We used to meet the M10 here but this was downgraded in 2009.
Crossing straight over the roundabout takes us into St Albans. An abrupt turn to the right at a mini-roundabout by St Stephen's church leads to a steep descent to the River Ver and a climb up again past the Abbey to the crossroads by the Peahen pub in the city centre. This junction always seems to attract large queues of traffic. Imagine how bad things must have been, then, when this junction was the confluence of two of the major routes from the North to London: the road from the West Midlands and the North West, which continued south-eastwards to join the Great North Road at Barnet, and the road from the East Midlands, continuing, back the way we have just come, towards Edgware and Marble Arch. To reflect their importance, the Ministry of Transport designated these two roads as spokes in the numbering scheme in 1922, and they became the A5 and A6 respectively. However, to have these spokes crossing each other would have caused a major inconsistency in the numbering scheme, and so the A5 and A6 were made to cannon off one another. At this point, therefore, numbering zone 5 formed an hourglass shape (and still does, despite the A5 and A6 through the city having been renumbered A5183 and A1081 respectively).
Because of the increasing problems caused by this junction (reportedly one of the busiest in Europe), St Albans had become a prime candidate for a bypass by the 1950s. The Ministry of Transport was able to relieve the pressure in St Albans by constructing the first stage of the London-Birmingham motorway as a St Albans bypass. Although not the first motorway in Britain (the M6 Preston Bypass took that honour), what became the M1 (and the M10 spur) was far longer and ushered in a new age of motoring.
Looking at a map of St Albans, you will see that the A5183 was already a bypass of sorts: for the Roman city of Verulamium, once one of the largest settlements in Britain. Watling Street originally continued past St Stephen's church in a north-westerly direction, through Verulamium and rejoined Telford's Holyhead Road now coincident with A5183, near Shafford Farm.
We continue along the Ver valley, bypassing Redbourn, once a busy coaching town which at one time had 27 pubs. After rejoining the old road we reach the M1 at J9, where the A5183 now continues on into Dunstable to meet the A505 in the town centre.
The A5183 forms the boundary between the 4-zone and 5-zone for A road numbering. At the Peahen junction in St Albans it meets the A1081, which forms the boundary between the 5-zone and the 6-zone. The 5-zone is therefore split into two sections by this junction, and it is possible to use the diagonal crossings at the traffic signals to cross directly from the 4- to 6-zone