diamond geezer

 Monday, November 21, 2022

A reader emailed with this fascinating question.
Hi Mr Diamond Geezer

I have a question I would like answered. What is the longest road in London that does not have any roads coming off it ie: a single named road with no junctions except at each end? The reason for asking this question is that I was born in Elgin Road in Seven Kings IG3 and a friend told me this was the longest road in London without a junction and I did not know whether to believe him or how he knew. I thought you might be the one to answer this.

Thanks for your most interesting blog site.

Best wishes
Well now, London's longest unbroken road. A road with a junction at one end, a junction at the other end and no junctions inbetween. And yes, it could be Elgin Road.

Here it is on a map, just north of Seven Kings station in Redbridge. This slice of town (Ilford, Forest Gate, Manor Park) has a lot of long straight Victorian streets spreading out from the Romford Road and railway. The chunk containing Elgin Road used to be a field until 1898 when developer Cameron Corbett laid out the Downshall estate. He targeted the lower middle classes with large good quality homes, and built so fast that the area became known as “the town built in a year". The new streets ran parallel to a river called the Seven Kings Water, just to the east, and the resultant "egg-slicer" street pattern ensured as many homes as possible were crammed in. Three roads stretched south without any interruption, Elgin Road being the longest of these, hence the focus of our interest.

Elgin Road is an impressive 710m long and arrow straight, with no road junctions nor break for any kind of footpath along its length. Its 120 houses are mostly in good nick and basically all the same, with a central porch, bay windows to either side and twiddles on the plasterwork. By modern standards these are big houses, four bedrooms apiece, which perhaps helps to explain the going rate being about £700,000. Some owners have blinged up their porches, some have subdivided into flats and almost everyone's erased their front garden to make space for parking. All these houses measure up at three cars wide, and several have the full complement out front which helps to explain why the road itself is mostly free from parked vehicles.

What's missing from Elgin Road are trees, other than a couple of specimens on the pavement and a few in choice front gardens where parking was less important. I particularly liked the monkey puzzle at number [redacted], which is why I stopped to take an admiring photo and then got shouted at by the owner who was sitting incognito in his car. A more surprising front garden tableau was the toilet dumped beside a Rolls Royce at number [also redacted] and my snob award goes to number [redacted, ditto], the only house in the street to have added security gates. At almost half a mile long with no intermediate means of escape, Elgin Road may well be London's longest unbroken street.

But it might not be. To check I scoured maps of the capital and tried to spot streets that might be longer. A few looked promising but, on zooming in, turned out to have minor junctions after all. A few looked promising but, on zooming in, kept their name beyond the unbroken section. A few looked promising but, on getting the electronic ruler out, couldn't quite beat 710m. It seems developers can't resist adding connecting roads or cul-de-sacs to make the optimum use of available land. But I did find one street in outer London which might have a better claim to Elgin Road's crown...

This is Hillcrest Road in Orpington and it's 800m long. It's very close to the town centre - if you continue south past the war memorial it's the first road on the left. It first appeared in the late 1920s as a road which, as you might expect, climbed gently to the crest of a hill. In the beginning it was a quiet cul-de-sac which was some way off record-breaking, before being extended further east to reach Felstead Road in the 1950s. And because it was surrounded by existing houses they couldn't add any intermediate roads and so Hillcrest Road tops out at the full half-mile.

Like Elgin Road these are biggish houses, but this time proper suburban castles with better looking front gardens. Most residents have kept a bit of shrubbery, lawn or flowerbed out front, because that's the difference having your own garage makes. There are also little front walls two bricks high, plus dropped kerbs with homogeneous paving and a decent number of trees along the pavement. It's a lot more Metroland below the crest of the hill with pitched tiles and whitewashed gables, and I could easily imagine streams of bowler-hatted gents once set off from here on their morning commute, it being only a ten minute walk to the station.

But what Hillcrest Road has that Elgin Road didn't is intermediate footpaths. One alleyway cuts through to Felstead Road and another to Park Avenue, approximately from the point that used to be the end of the street. This 'crossroads' isn't somewhere you could turn off a car, only a bike, but the centre of Hillcrest Avenue isn't as perfectly isolated as Elgin Road.

And then there's Higher Drive.

This is a well-to-do crescent in Cuddington, close to Banstead station. It's in Sutton but on the very edge of the capital, indeed Surrey starts just over the back fence. It's 1200m long, a full three quarters of a mile without a single intervening road or path, so if you live in the middle of the street it's a long hike to either end. I bet everyone here drives. Its claim looks good until you notice the little keyhole close at one end which serves eight of the detached houses. This cul-de-sac is part of the same road because it's also called Higher Drive, which arguably is OK, but technically it's a road junction so technically it breaks the rules.

In the end it all comes down to definitions. If you're looking for the longest single named road with no junctions except at each end, I think that's Hillcrest Road in Orpington (800m). If you're looking for the longest single named road with no junctions or any way out except at each end, I think that's Elgin Road in Seven Kings (710m). And I worry I'm wrong, because despite scouring maps for hours I've probably missed a residential road somewhere in London that meets all the criteria, which'd mean I totally wasted my time by trekking out to Orpington. I live in fear of your comments today, just in case.

And many thanks to my reader for their fascinating email... which they actually sent in May 2020, but that was mid-lockdown and it's taken me 2½ years to finally answer their question. I hope I've uncovered the right answer.

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