diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Yesterday we looked at the first and last London postcodes, alphabetically speaking, that's E1 0AA and WC2R 3XP. Today let's look at the first and last postcodes in London, alphabetically speaking, because they're very much not the same thing.

The London postal district consists of eight postcode areas, namely E, EC, N, NW, SE, SW, W and WC. But they by no means cover the whole of Greater London, with another thirteen postcode areas used on post delivered in the capital. There's HA for Harrow, for example,and KT for Kingston and RM for Romford. Most importantly, for our purposes, some of these outer London postcode areas come before E in the alphabet. Take DA for Dartford, for example, which covers parts of Bexley. Or CR for Croydon, which would be fun because Croydon is another of those rare postcode areas with a district zero. But one other area beats the lot of them, alphabetically speaking, and that's BR for Bromley.

London's first postcode (alphabetically speaking)
BR1 1AA: Ask Italian, 3 East Street, Bromley

Yes, the very first postcode in Greater London belongs to an Italian restaurant. It's not even a proper Italian restaurant, but a chain, but then that's precisely what you'd expect in the middle of a large town centre. If you fancy a Pronto Lunch or a Ravioli Marittimi then this Bromley North Village eaterie is the place to be, but maybe give the outside tables a miss until the weather gets a little warmer. There is of course a very good reason why a pizza outlet should be top of the list, and that's because up until ten years ago the building it occupies was Bromley's main Post Office. This opened in 1897, with the slightly less ornate extension where Ask Italian now trades added in 1913. As this was the location of the district head office it was central Bromley which won the designation BR1, back when all of this was in Kent, with this pre-eminent building allocated the postcode BR1 1AA in the 1970s.

But there is a postcode mystery bubbling here. The restaurant nextdoor at 3a East Street is a Tex-Mex eaterie called Chimichanga, whose copywriters promise buzz and zing and dazzle should you choose to dine within. Look up above its three arched windows and you can see the words 'Post Office' beautifully carved into the stonework, confirming the building's original tenure. But Chimichanga has the postcode BR1 1AB, despite being the older and more important bit of the former Post Office, and it's not alone. Eight luxury flats were carved out of the upper storeys after counter services moved to the local W H Smith, and they all have the postcode BR1 1AB too. Only Ask Italian appears to have kept the top prize of BR1 1AA... and the only convincing evidence for this is on the restaurant's website.

So maybe it's not Ask. A number of online services peddle postcode information, and if you ask them where BR1 1AA is located they don't mention East Street at all. Instead they suggest that this super-postcode is to be found a quarter of a mile down the High Street, up a rather less important sideroad, in a newbuild block...

London's first postcode (alphabetically speaking)
BR1 1AA: Henry House, Ringers Road, Bromley

Ringers Road is a short sharply-descending street, tumbling down from Laura Ashley and TK Maxx on Bromley High Street to a small Quaker meeting hall at the bottom. It's the road where the 126 bus parks up before heading off to Eltham with a hill start, and where you come for your dialysis appointment if your kidneys are dodgy. The site of a former department store on the southern side had been lying dormant for a while, with a footbridge that needed demolition, and a sequence of redevelopment plans were drawn up and referred to the Mayor because they proposed building at height.

A pair of nine-/ten-storey blocks is the result, recently completed and awkwardly laid out thanks to the sloping ground. The toppermost tower is Henry House, presumably named after somebody locally relevant, and it's here that our postcode of interest unexpectedly appears. Several flats in the block have been awarded the postcode BR1 1AA, maybe all 30-odd of them, or maybe only a selection - the internet again refuses to provide rock-solid evidence. But if you've snapped up a starter home here in the last few months then you have the very first postcode in Greater London. You and maybe an Italian restaurant.

Surely there'll be greater certainty regarding the last postcode in Greater London? Well, don't be so sure. What's definite is that we need to cross town to the Watford area, because WD is the only postcode area which lines up alphabetically after WC. Intriguingly only a tiny, tiny fraction of the Watford postcode area falls within the boundaries of Greater London, and deliberately so. There's a patch north of Harefield along Springwell Lane, where very few people live, which is part of WD3. There's a smidgeon of land by Stirling Corner, outside Borehamwood, which is part of WD6. And there's a row of cottages in Bushey Heath, near Bentley Priory, which is part of WD23. It should be obvious which of these comes last, alphabetically speaking.

London's last postcode (alphabetically speaking)
WD23 1NX: Magpie Hall Lane, Bushey Heath

Let's start with a bit of Watford's postcode history. Watford used to have seven postcode districts, numbered 1 to 7, but the first two of these became subject to "postcode exhaustion" and were redesignated in September 2000. WD1 was split into WD17, WD18 and WD19, managing to make all of central Watford sound less significant overnight, while WD2 was subdivided into WD23, WD24 and WD25. The new postcode district for Bushey was WD23, and it's this which nudges over the Greater London boundary at Bushey Heath. Magpie Hall Lane is the exact dividing line where Herts meets London, but it makes sense for letters on either side to be delivered from the same van, so a handful of properties in the borough of Harrow have a Watford address.

The only two Bushey postcodes within Greater London are WD23 1NT and WD23 1NX. The first of these contains three detached properties, two currently shrouded in scaffolding so that builders can swarm all over them. It's a shame this isn't the last postcode, because one of the houses is apparently the address of 'The Bag Factory Limited', and it would have been interesting to dig up what that's about. Meanwhile WD23 1NX contains six residences, half of which are substantial modern detached homes set back in their own secluded cul-de-sac. This trio are called Ashdown, Woodland and Fernwood, because house-builders always reckon tree-related names have a classy suburban cachet. More full of character are the three homes known as Heathfield Cottages, which are older conjoined stock with front-facing gables. Number 1 is the poshest, or likes to think it is, hence the lions on the gateposts and the sharply-pointed conifers. Numbers 2 and 3 are plainer, but none the less desirable, plus they had their bins out which is always the best way to confirm that this is Harrow not Hertsmere. Definitely the last unit in London's postcode list, this, unless...

There's one last problem to consider, and that's what 'alphabetical order' really means. You'd think WD3 comes before WD6 comes before WD23, because that's the way the numbers run, but a computer would see things rather differently. The generally accepted convention for sorting an alphanumeric list is that spaces come before numbers come before letters, which means WD23 isn't at the bottom of the list. It has a '2' as its 3rd character, whereas WD3 has a '3' as its third character and WD6 has a '6', so they both appear after WD23. Indeed if you try sorting these three strings in a spreadsheet, it will confirm the correct order as WD23, WD3, WD6. And if you accept that, then we need to travel four miles east to a roundabout on the Barnet Bypass.

London's last postcode (alphanumerically speaking)
WD6 2RW: Elstree Park, Stirling Corner, Borehamwood

Stirling Corner is a ridiculously busy roundabout where the A1 crosses the A411, and sits on the very edge of the capital. Two of the surrounding quadrants are wholly in London (the Shell garage and the Harvester) and one is wholly in Hertfordshire (the Morrisons). It's the southwest quadrant that's the problem, because that's a bit of both. This didn't matter when the Greater London boundary was drawn up in 1965, but in 1990 the Berkeley Leisure Group came along and built a retirement park. Specifically they swirled two looping roads around a field, called it Elstree Park and added approximately 150 mobile homes. Some of these lie in Hertfordshire and some in London, and some in both because you can plonk a chalet anywhere. But the whole park is in the WD6 postcode, and all the tenants pay council tax at Barnet rates, making this one crazy mixed-up location.

I really wanted to go inside Elstree Park and have a look, but a sign at the entrance pointed out that this was private property and so I chickened out. In particular the park office is located in the first cottage past the white posts, and they'd no doubt have been peering out, plus a number of residents were walking back from Morrisons with their shopping and they'd soon have spotted I didn't fit in. A shame, because I would have loved to try and locate one of the chalets that straddles the unseen line, and to be able to show you a proper photograph from within. Instead I got no further than the park noticeboard, where I learned that milk is delivered daily, parking a boat is forbidden, and the only permitted pet is one cat per chalet. I am now old enough to move in, however, should I ever decide that a geographically schizophrenic location at the foot of London's postcode pecking order is for me.

Clear as mud.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream