What is a C-road?

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Everyone knows what A-roads and B-roads are. But if you look on a map, the red, yellow and green A and B lines don't cover most of the roads - the majority are unclassified. How on earth does a local authority keep track of them all? Most of them have similar names - "High Street", "Station Road" and so on. The answer is that they aren't really unclassified - it's just that their numbers aren't public.

C-roads are the typical classification, with some authorities having a second even less important class of D-roads, and others have U-roads (for 'unclassified' - which is slightly oxymoronic if you ask me).

How do they work in practice?

Steven Jukes wrote to his local council in Wolverhampton and asked them very nicely for a list of all their classified roads. The list they wrote back includes all the roads around Wolverhampton that are unclassified on the ground, but are nevertheless well-used through routes. Wolverhampton has quite a dense network of hidden U-roads.

Compare the (partial) list below with the map of Wolverhampton, where U-roads are marked in red.

U-roads in Wolverhampton

Number Location
U110 Church Hill, Sedgeley Road in Penn
U111 Springhill Lane in Penn
U112 Bath Road, Bradmore Road, Merridale Road, Oxbarn Avenue, Trysull Road, Warstones Road from Whitmore Reans to Penn
U113 Coalway Road, Langley Road in Merry Hill
U114 Bhylls Lane, Windmill Lane in Wightwick
U115 Castlecroft Lane in Wightwick
U116 Pattingham Road, Tinacre Road in Wightwick
U117 Codsall Road, Lower Street in Tettenhall
U118 Aldersley Avenue, Oxley Moor Road
U119 Wobaston Road

It's quite clear that the U-road network complements the rest of the classified roads - two provide unofficial bypasses of the town centre, presumably well used by locals. Several provide routes between the city's radial roads. Many more are smaller radials themselves, terminating on the city's local authority boundary.

The system uncovered

Chris S was responsible for introducing C-roads to Reading Borough Council's roads in 2007, and in true road enthusiast fashion, allocated them in zones, with 1 in the north, 2 in the east, etc. They were approved by the Council's Cabinet on July 7th 2007 and are now used for maintenance purposes. You can see the full list in the PDF file below, or download a map of the whole scheme, courtesy of Reading Borough Council.

PDF document

List of all C-roads in Reading Borough
PDF document (24 Kb) reading.pdf

JPEG image

Map showing C-roads in Reading Borough
JPEG image (296 Kb) reading.jpg

Right to reply

Dave Bell adds:

I have vague recollections of seeing this classification on old maps, possibly Ordnance Survey, from the WW2 era. If so, it may have been a map on display in some museum.

James Purkiss knows where to find them:

Maps do exist outlining the C-roads - at least in Dorset! There's one in a corridor at County Hall which shows them in orange and the D roads in blue. Some of the C classifications are quite important roads - the Higher Sherborne Road between Dorchester and Sherborne (parallel to the A352) is the C12 and the C13 is the Higher Shaftesbury Road between Blandford and Shaftesbury.

On the other hand, Gloucestershire CC have categorised roads into Classes 1 to 6, known as red, blue, yellow, green, brown and black roads respectively - see this page for more info.

Geoff Knott has inside information:

In the early part of my career (1964-1994) in Hampshire Constabulary, almost every Road Traffic Accident that came to police notice was classed as 'recordable', (whether or not it was classed under the Road Traffic Act as 'reportable' - i.e. one of which the police must be informed). Part of the recording procedure included the road number and classification - A, B, C or U - which we took from a map, at least one copy of which was held in every police station. This map was basically a black and white version of the 1" to 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map, with the roads overmarked in colours according to classification, and with the road numbers alongside.

Stuart works in a Scottish highway department:

When I worked in Lanarkshire I came across C-roads for numbering roads without a national designation. We used them to identify our bridges, for example C123/4 was the fourth bridge on the C123. C-roads should not appear on direction signs as the designation is only unique within a particular county and do not appear on maps.

Kevan Fleckney used to allocate the numbers in Devon:

C-roads are officially called "Classified Un-numbered Roads" as opposed to B- and A-roads which are "Classified Numbered Roads". Back in the 90s when I worked for Devon County Council, an inherited duty was to update the classified road map and make changes to the classified road network as were required. Devon has 3000 miles more roads than any other county, so it was a long job!

The route description, length, start point, end point and a map were required along with an application form by the DfT (or whatever they were called in those days) to request a road number change. Devon had a continuous list and new C-roads were just added to fill the gaps or to the end of the list, so the old A30 between Exeter and Merrymeet is C50 (gap-filled in about 1980) and the same road between Sourton Cross and Liftondown is C722 (as far as I remember) by me in the mid 90s.

C-roads, sometimes referred to as County roads, frequently change at County Boundaries. This was the case between Devon and it's neighbours. There was no regional pattern to Devon's C-roads. For example, the C91 is from Pen Inn in Newton Abbot to Barton in Torquay and Longford Lane in nearby Kingsteignton is the C400.

Can anyone else add to this information? Were maps ever published with C-roads on, and if so, when? Answers on a postcard...

With thanks to Toby Speight, Nick Gough and Lee Stanley for information on this page.