diamond geezer

 Friday, July 10, 2020

One of the quirks of living on Bow Road is that Bow Road is also the A11.

I wondered whether any of you live on an A road...
...and in particular whether any of you live on an A road with a lower number than me.

This comments box is just for people who live on A roads. A road comments
Not near an A road, or round the corner from an A road, but properly on one.
All other comments at the foot of today's post, thanks.

Road classification was introduced in the UK in the early 1920s. A roads were the major through-routes at the heart of the road network, B roads weren't quite so important and the vast majority of roads were unclassified. If you'd like to read about how it happened, try here. For a road numbering FAQ, try here. For official government guidance, try here. If you'd like to see a map of the road network in 1956 try here.

There are nine one-digit A roads, the most important of all. Six of them head out radially from London and the other three from Edinburgh. If you live on one of these then you have beaten me in today's challenge.
A1 London to Edinburgh (409 miles, originally the Great North Road)
A2 London to Dover (77 miles, originally Watling Street)
A3 London to Portsmouth (74 miles)
A4 London to Bristol (130 miles, originally the Great West Road)
A5 London to Holyhead (270 miles, originally Watling Street)
A6 London to Carlisle (282 miles, actually started in Barnet)
A7 Edinburgh to Carlisle (101 miles)
A8 Edinburgh to Gourock (67 miles, via Glasgow)
A9 Edinburgh to Wick (273 miles, via Inverness)
Most of the A1 is dual carriageway, but a few stretches at either end are ordinary single carriageway roads. From St Paul's Cathedral to Hendon and across the eastern suburbs of Edinburgh, for example, several sections of the A1 are faced by housing. If your flat merely overlooks the A1, or your postal address isn't the A1 but a separate access road, I'm going to claim that I still beat you anyway.

The A2 includes the Old Kent Road and New Cross Road as well as a thin slice of the Medway region. The A3 kicks off from London Bridge, so you might well live on it in Kennington, Clapham or Wandsworth before it goes all arterial. The A4 is possibly your best chance to beat me because much of it follows its original route, the M4 having taken most of the traffic. If you live on the Great West Road through west London, or on main streets in Slough, Reading, Bath or Bristol, then I have lost.

I'm less worried about you living on the the A5, which heads to Holyhead without troubling too many houses, but the A6 hits some meaty chunks of the Midlands and North West on its way to Carlisle. I used to live two streets away from the A6 when i lived in Bedford, but as we've already ascertained two streets away doesn't count. As for the As 7, 8 and 9, they may run for miles across Scotland but again it's Edinburgh where the highest chance of residential readers exists.

I live on a double-digit A road. Double-digit A roads fill in the gaps between the spokes of the single-digiters. Officially they're less important, although the A34 is considerably busier than the A7 so that doesn't always work.

More to the point, I live on a very low numbered double-digit A road. This is because I am fortuitous enough to live in Sector 1, between the A1 and the A2.
The Numbering of Roads (Michelin Guide, 1921)
For the purpose of numbering the roads, Great Britain has been divided into nine sectors, six of which radiate in clockwise order from London, and the remaining three similarly from Edinburgh. Sector I includes all the roads situated between roads A1 and A2, and so on clockwise for the remaining sectors. Note: an exception occurs between road A2 and the estuary of the Thames which is part of sector II and not sector I. All roads take their initial number from the sector in which they start, eg A12 and A17 start in Sector I, A36 and A310 start in sector III. A road does not necessarily terminate in the same sector in which it begins. The commencement of a road is determined by the end of it which would be reached first by the hands of a clock radiating from London.
Sector 1 covers England east of the A1 and includes most of East Anglia, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. Within this zone the lowest one-something A roads stretch out radially from London and are numbered in a clockwise direction.
A10 London to King's Lynn (90 miles)
A11 London to Norwich (112 miles)
A12 London to Lowestoft (129 miles)
A13 London to Southend (42 miles)
I nearly live on the A12, because the A11 meets the A12 at the Bow Roundabout. It didn't always, they used to split in Leytonstone, but the road was renumbered following completion of the A12 extension in 1999. The A11 now has a whopping 40 mile hiatus between Bow and Great Chesterford in Cambridgeshire, with the M11 nominally plugging the gap.

The remainder of the teens are further from London and were originally numbered according to how far away they were.
A14 Felixstowe to Rugby (127 miles, previously Royston to Alconbury)
A15 Peterborough to the Humber Bridge (96 miles)
A16 Peterborough to Grimsby (78 miles)
A17 Newark to King's Lynn (62 miles)
A18 Doncaster to Louth (58 miles)
A19 Doncaster to Newcastle (124 miles)
After the A19 come eighty other double digit A roads. They range (clockwise) from the A20 in Kent to the A69 out of Carlisle, then from the A70 to Ayr to the A99 to John O'Groats. If you live on any of those, I win.

The A road system continues to three- and four-digit numbers. If you live on one of those then you beat most people, but I still thrash you by living on the A11.

The A11 is beatable. My mum's aunt had a house on the Great Cambridge Road opposite the Spurs training ground, for example, so she lived on the A10 which trumps me. But whichever A road you live on, if you do, let me know in the comments box at the start of the post. The rest of you on your B roads or (more likely) unclassifieds, if you have any comments then they need to go in the usual box below.

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