A1 road (Great Britain)

A1 road (Great Britain)

UK road routebox
road= A1
length-mi= 409
length-km= 658
direction= South - North
start= City of London
destinations= Watford
Hemel Hempstead
St Albans
Scotch Corner
Newcastle upon Tyne
end= Edinburgh
junctions= ukmotorwaysmall|1 ukmotorwaysmall|25
euroroute= European route number small sign|15
The A1 is the longest numbered road in the UK at convert|409|mi long. It connects London, the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England, with Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. For much of its path it follows the historic Great North Road. The modern course of the A1 diverges somewhat, particularly where it passed through a town or village that has subsequently been bypassed, or where new motorway standard road has been constructed on a more direct route. Between its junctions with the M25 (near London) and A696 (near Newcastle upon Tyne) the road forms part of the unsigned Euroroute E15 which runs from Inverness to Algeciras.


The A1 runs from the heart of the City of London at St. Paul's Cathedral to the centre of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh.

The A1 shares its London terminus with the A40, in the City area of Central London. It then runs out of London through Islington (where Upper Street forms part of its route), up Holloway Road, through Barnet, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn, Stevenage, Baldock, Biggleswade, Sandy, St Neots and Peterborough. Continuing north, the A1 runs on modern bypasses around Stamford, Grantham, Newark-on-Trent, Retford, Bawtry, Doncaster, Knottingley, Garforth, Wetherby, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge, Scotch Corner, Darlington, Newton Aycliffe, Durham, Chester-le-Street, past the Angel of the North sculpture and the Metrocentre in Gateshead, around Newcastle upon Tyne, Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, into Scotland, past Dunbar, Haddington and Musselburgh before finally arriving in Edinburgh at the East End of Princes Street near Waverley Station at the junction of the A7, A8 and A900 roads.

Origins and history

The modern A1 mainly follows the route of the Great North Road. This was a major coaching route in Britain and was used by the mail coaches between London, York and Edinburgh. It boasted of many inns used as posting stages. Some of these inns still survive. [Norman W. Webster (1974)" The Great North Road"]

The Great North Road, in part, followed the course of the Roman Ermine Street: from Alconbury as far as Colsterworth (at the A151 junction), and again in the North Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire areas - utilising part of the course of the Roman Rigg or Roman Ridge north of Doncaster. Further north the Great North Road utilised the Roman Dere Street to Boroughbridge from where it went to Northallerton and then up through Darlington and Durham. An older and alternative route to the north from London was the Old North Road. This followed the initial section of Ermine Street and joined the Great North Road at Alconbury where a prominent milestone records the respective mileages from London on both routes: 65 miles on the Old North Road and 68 by the Great North Road. [Norman W. Webster (1974)" The Great North Road": 56-7]

A traditional starting point of the Great North Road was the now demolished Hicks Hall at Smithfield in Central London. Milestones and distances in road atlases were measured from this point. [Norman W. Webster (1974)" The Great North Road": 15-16] The route ran from Smithfield up St John Street to the Angel Islington. However, with the building of the General Post Office at St Martin's-le-Grand in 1829, coaches started using the alternative route used by the modern A1, beginning at the GPO building and following Aldersgate Street and Goswell Road before joining the old route at the Angel. The Angel was originally an inn and an important staging post on the route. [Norman W. Webster (1974)" The Great North Road": 22-23]

The Great North Road is often mentioned in English literature, for example "Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens.

The legendary highwayman Dick Turpin's rapid flight from London to York, in less than 15 hours, on his faithful mare Black Bess, is perhaps the most famous legend of the Great North Road. Various inns that still stand along the A1 claim that Turpin ate his lunch there that night, or stopped off there for a brief respite for his horse. Harrison Ainsworth, in his famous 1834 romance "Rookwood", immortalised this with a spirited account of this wonderful ride by Dick Turpin on his mare, and it is in this connection that Turpin's name has been generally remembered. Historians have frequently argued that Turpin never actually made this speedy journey, and that, as far as Turpin is concerned, the incident is pure fiction. They argue that such a ride was really made by John Nevison, known as "Swift Nick", born and raised at Wortley village near Sheffield and a well-known highwayman in the time of Charles II some 50 years before Turpin, who to establish an alibi rode from Gad's Hill (near Rochester, Kent) to York (some convert|190|mi) in about 15 hours.

Even more unreliable evidence links various highwaymen with the Ram-Jam Inn at Stretton, in Rutland. The A1 passes a few feet from the door. Although the interior of the historic inn was lost to fire in the 1970s, a modern restaurant occupies the building now.

The original Great North Road had a number of Historic Coaching Inns, including the George at Stamford and the Bell Inn at Stilton (hence Stilton cheese, which was first sold from the Inn from about 1730).

Scotch Corner, in North Yorkshire, marks the point where the traffic for Glasgow and the west of Scotland divides from that for Edinburgh, as it has for hundreds of years before motor traffic. As well as a historic hotel there have been a variety of homes for the famous transport café, now subsumed as a motorway services.

The road skirts the remains of Sherwood Forest, and passes the historic Catterick Garrison.

The original A1 route was designated by the Ministry of Transport in 1921

The route was modified in 1927 when bypasses were built around Barnet and Hatfield

In 1960 Stamford and Doncaster were bypassed, as was Retford in 1961 and St Neots in 1971.

During the early 1970s immediate plans to widen the A1 along the Archway Road were abandoned after four public inquiries when, for the first time, road protesters disrupted the process rather than relying on giving evidence in an orderly manner. The scheme was finally dropped in 1990. [cite web|url=http://www.roadblock.org.uk/resources/roadsvictories.pdf|title=Road Victories|format=pdf|work=Road Block|accessdate=2008-01-22]

During the 1980s the Hatfield section was rebuilt in a tunnel.

Recent re-routing required the moving of the memorial at Norman Cross to the Napoleonic prisoners buried there. [cite web|url=http://www.lhi.org.uk/projects_directory/projects_by_region/east_of_england/city_of_peterborough/norman_cross_eagle_appeal/index.html
title=Norman Cross Eagle Appeal|publisher=Local Heritage Initiative|accessdate=2008-01-22

Speed cameras have been introduced on the busy single carriageway section north of Morpeth which is notorious stretch dangerous overtaking and where there is heavy tourist traffic to locations like Alnwick Castle and heavy goods vehicles serving ScotlandFact|date=January 2008. Most of the approaches to the roundabouts between Blyth and London have speed cameras, GATSO or TruVelo about a mile before the roundabout, so that people are doing no more than 70 when the signs announcing the junctions are visible. These are being retained or at the most relocated and recalibrated to control speeds through the roadworks as the roundabouts are bypassed.

Improvements underway

A421 Great Barford Bypass

An upgrade of the Black Cat Roundabout at the junction with the A421 (Bedford Road) is now complete with the Great Barford A421 bypass also finished. 2006. [cite web|url=http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/4610.aspx|title=A421 Great Barford Bypass Scheme Page|publisher=Highways Agency|accessdate=2008-01-20]

A1 Peterborough to Blyth Grade Separated Junctions

Work began in August 2006 to replace the six roundabouts on the A1 between Blyth and the A1(M) section to Alconbury with grade separated junctions. Once complete this will provide a fully grade separated route between the Buckden roundabout (just north of St Neots and approximately convert|4|mi north of the Black Cat roundabout) and just north of Morpeth. [cite web|url=http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/4455.aspx|title=A1 Peterborough to Blyth Grade Separated Junctions Scheme|publisher=Highways Agency|accessdate=2008-01-20]


Doncaster Bypass

UK motorway routebox
motorway= A1(M)
length-mi= 15.0
length-km= 24.1
direction= North - South
start= Blyth
end= Carcroft
opening-date= 1961
completion-date=complete route
junctions= 35 -
euroroute= European route number small sign|15
This section opened in 1961 and is one of the oldest sections of motorwat in Britain.



Dishforth to Barton

Section to be upgraded to dual 3-lane motorway standard, work due to start in late 2008. It will include four new junctions:
* J50 - A61
* J51 - A684
* J52 - A6136
* J53 - Scotch Corner, A66, A6108Due to junction numbers further north being based on older rejected plans which included more planned junctions there will not be a Junction 54 or 55.----

Barton to Gateshead

UK motorway routebox
motorway= A1(M)
length-mi= 30
length-km= 48
direction= North - South
start= Barton
destinations= (Newton) Aycliffe
Scotch Corner
end= Washington
opening-date= 1965
junctions= 57 -
euroroute= European route number small sign|15
This section in stages:
* Junctions 56 to 59 opened in 1965
* Junctions 59 to 63 opened in 1969
* Junctions 63 to 65 opened in 1970


Popular culture

* Part of the J.B. Priestley novel "The Good Companions" features the Great North Road, a representation to the northerner Jess Oakroyd as the gateway to such exotic destinations as Nottingham.
* The Lord Peter Wimsey short story "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag" by Dorothy L. Sayers features a motorcycle chase along the Great North Road.
* Near the southern end are signs saying "Hatfield and the North". These signs gave their name to 70s rock band Hatfield and the North.
* The A1 is mentioned in The Long Blondes' song "Separated By Motorways", along with the A14.
* The A1(M) is mentioned in the song "Gabadon" by Sheffield band Haze.
* The 'Great North Road' is mentioned in Mark Knopfler's song "5:15 AM", from the album "Shangri La".

ee also

* Brampton Hut junction


External links

* [http://www.cbrd.co.uk/motorway/a1m/ CBRD Motorway Database - A1(M)]
* [http://www.biffvernon.freeserve.co.uk/contents.htm BiffVernon: A1-The Great North Road]
* [http://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/roadlists/f99/1.shtml Society for All British Road Enthusiasts entry for the A1]
* [http://www.road-to-nowhere.co.uk/route-guides/A1/ Road to Nowhere: A1]

*The Motorway Archive (A1(M))
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1meast.htm Junctions 1 to 10 & 13 to 17]
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1mdoncaster.htm Junctions 34 to 38]
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1mwaldish.htm Junctions 47 to 49]
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1durdarl.htm Junctions 56 to 59]
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1durdur.htm Junctions 59 to 63]
** [http://www.iht.org/motorway/a1durbbp.htm Junctions 63 to 65]
* [http://pathetic.org.uk/lost/a1m_central_motorway_east/ Pathetic Motorways: A1(M) Central Motorway East]

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