A third Spur for London

Published: 28 June 2017

Little things matter. In fact, sometimes the little things are the things you enjoy the most.

A couple of years ago, we published an article on London's Forgotten Arterial Roads which included a fairly lengthy discussion of the B464 Spur Road in Isleworth, which might have one of the shortest-lived heydays and the biggest fall from grace of any new road. Opened in 1925, it connected the A315 to the brand new A4 Great West Road, and became the new main road from Twickenham and a big slice of Surrey towards London. Eight years later, the Great Chertsey Road opened, making it completely redundant, and today its status as an arterial road is completely forgotten.

B464 Spur Road in Isleworth, useful for eight years and forgotten for the following eighty

B464 Spur Road in Isleworth, useful for eight years and forgotten for the following eighty

Spur Road in Isleworth is a little thing that matters - at least, it matters here on CBRD where we rather like the quirky and the overlooked.

Two's company

One of the nicest things about it is that it was built as a spur road from the Great West Road and so the name it was given - perhaps a little tongue in cheek - was Spur Road. The main article gleefully points out that not only is it not a main road any more, but it is not even the most useful or memorable Spur Road in London. That title must surely go to south-east London where the A224 Orpington Bypass, another product of the inter-war Arterial Road programme, has a spur road of its own towards Orpington, which is also called Spur Road, probably for exactly the same reason.

There's something delightful about the idea that the engineers who were responsible for planning and building an incredible array of new highways had such a mischievious sense of humour that they named their spur roads Spur Road, presumably for no better reason than they found it funny. It would be like building a new dual carriageway road and deciding to give it the official name Dual Carriageway Road or ending your road at a terminal roundabout and keeping a straight face while you inform the Ordnance Survey that the new interchange is to be known as Terminal Roundabout.

Three's a crowd

Here is where we need to raise our hands to an oversight. It is delightful enough that the Arterial Road programme of the 1920s and 30s produced two spur roads that both got named Spur Road, but it turns out that the joke didn't stop there, because there's actually three of them.

The A410 Spur Road approaches its parent, the A41 Watford Bypass. Click to enlarge

The A410 Spur Road approaches its parent, the A41 Watford Bypass. Click to enlarge

The third - unknown to us until now - is a short spur from the A41 Watford Bypass, opened in the mid-1920s, towards the A5 at Stanmore. It's part of the A410 and it is called, of course, Spur Road. So let us celebrate this forgotten corner of road history.

The Watford Bypass opened in stages in the 1920s, and the initial section (then called A5088) ran from Hunton Bridge, north of Watford, to the A5 via Spur Road - so for a short period this was one of the main roads north from London and the terminus of a grand new Arterial Road. A couple of years later, the next section opened, carrying the route onwards to Mill Hill where it joined the Barnet Bypass (today the roundabout where the A1 and A41 converge).

It looks fairly unassuming today, in the midst of suburbia, and it's virtually anonymous: there appears to be only one sign giving its name, positioned at the exit from the A41 roundabout where you can't really see it. But the width of the road between its boundaries and the generous layout - a two lane road with wide grass verges, footpaths, and then more grass verges - makes it similar to other Arterial Roads and also very similar in width and style to the single-carriageway section of the A41 Watford Bypass just to the north. Both are probably little changed since they were built in the 1920s.

Plenty of space and lots of grassy verges. Click to enlarge
Plenty of space and lots of grassy verges. Click to enlarge

Since then, Spur Road (or rather, the Edgware Spur Road) has been a link to the local road network from the main road.

Thanks to its location, it's not alone in being a strange relic of post-glory transport infrastructure: on the other side of its roundabout with the A41 stand a row of brick structures that are the pillars of a railway viaduct that was built, never used and then demolished, part of the planned Northern Line extension to Bushey Heath that was started before the Second World War and cancelled just after it.

The remains of Brockley Hill viaduct. Click to enlarge

The remains of Brockley Hill viaduct. Click to enlarge

That's probably all there is to tell about the A410 Spur Road north of Edgware. Its story isn't very long because it's not a long road in itself and not particularly important. But it really is the little things that matter sometimes - the little roads, and getting the facts about them right, no matter how little those facts may be.

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