Trap Streets Are Real, And Here Are Some Of London's

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 10 months ago
Trap Streets Are Real, And Here Are Some Of London's

Calling Doctor Who fans: if you thought the conversation about trap streets was a wonderful bit of invention from writer Sarah Dollard, think again. Trap streets are real. (Quantum shades are not.)

A trap street is a fake street that a cartographer inserts into a map, or a street wrongly named, to expose anyone copying the work. And there are some in London.

Moat Lane

There's a crossing over the North Circular at the end of Clandon Gardens, but no Moat Lane.

This fictitious street in Finchley is probably the most well known. Gizmodo has evidence of Google Maps showing Moat Lane taking a right angle north-east from the end of Clandon Gardens as recently as 2012; in reality there's no such place. Google Maps is based on the TeleAtlas Directory, which apparently slipped in this little Easter Egg to mark its copyright.

Torrington Place

We reckon someone at TeleAtlas Directory lived in Finchley, because there was (according to various sources around the internet) another trap street at the end of Arcadia Avenue in N3. This one's been cleared up from Google Maps now and we can't find anyone who took a screengrab.

Bartlett Place

A BBC TV show called Map Man, broadcast in 2005, claimed the London A-Z contains about 100 trap streets. The one cited was Bartlett Place — actually Broadway Walk. A-Z said they'd call it by its proper name in future editions; the one sitting on our desk right now was published in 2005 and contains no Bartlett Place but does have a Broadway Walk, a tiny street between Alpha Grove and Casslis Road on the Isle of Dogs. We reckon the Google Streetview grab above is it.

Whitfield Road

Maisie Ann Bowes found this one in 2013 as part of her London College of Communication course. Whitfield Road supposedly crosses Blackheath, running on from General Wolfe Road over Shooters Hill Road and connecting to Hare and Billet Road. Except, here's Google Streetview at that very spot:

General Wolfe Road is off to the right.

In our 2005 A-Z, Whitfield Road is clearly marked — and in purple to denote 'restricted access'. We should coco.

Brook Mews

Photo by Matt Brown.

London tour guide Peter Berthoud cottoned onto this one. Book Mews, just off Denmark Street, is actually listed as Brook Mews in the A-Z. Subtle, but useful for catching copycats. If you want other interesting secrets of the city, try one of Peter's Discovering London tours.

Doctor Who

So where is the trap street supposedly found by The Doctor and Clara? Well, it's not in London — because these scenes were filmed in Cardiff. Sorry.

Clara pacing the streets of 'London'.
Actually Westgate Street in Cardiff.

Know of any other London trap streets? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 19 October 2016

Jim

I went on an Autumn Amble a few weeks back (h/t Londonist for the recommendation) and I vaguely remember the guide saying that the painful-sounding Ball Court off Cornhill in the City is a trap street.

hostile_17

Why was a kids TV show on about trap streets... that's got me curious!

And not heard of these before, Londonist as informative as always!

Darran.

The real telltale sign it's in Cardiff are all different coloured buses you can see in the scenes, like the one reflected in the windows by Clara.

glagolik

"Book Mews, just off Denmark Street" - either it's Davies Street or I'm looking a whole trap map! :)

Alistair Twiname

"what, we made a mistake on our maps... umm .. er... NO ti was ummm deliberate to catch out people copying them... sure..."

Dave Bryant

I was fascinated with exploring different streets in London when I was a kid, so became aware of Trap Streets before I'd even hit adulthood. In my neighbourhood of Hainault, Ilford there were a few in the London A-Z in the early 80s - one showed a huge unmade road leading a diagonal route from the roundabout at Forest Road and Hainault Road and down through to Billet Road - this never existed.

Kennylands Road is still marked on a lot of maps of the area as well (Google Maps, for example), despite this being nothing more than a path through the park these days (gated off at both ends). There is no vehicle access there. It used to be a street with prefab houses on it after World War II, but these were demolished in the late sixties, residents were housed elsewhere in the borough, and nothing really remains. Mistake or Trap Street? You be the judge. You can get more on that particular "street" here: http://hainaultprefabs.blogspo...

catmachine

A few years ago I found a whole collection of Oxygen Streets around the UK in Google Maps (one in London SE8) - all of which have now vanished! They were all cul-de-sacs of the same length. Further info here:

http://www.catmachine.eu/2010/...
http://catmachine.tumblr.com/p...

Dave Bryant

Ambleside Gardens in Streatham, South London is another one on some maps, but not all. On my Nokia mobile phone's "Here" map it's shown as a short cul-de-sac. In reality, it's simply a small collection of flats with that name alongside Ambleside Avenue. I found this out the hard way while doing a leaflet drop last year and relying on my app to find my way around, walking three times past a street that wasn't there while it rained. "Trap Streets" indeed!

Bruce Perkins

Re Whitfield Road on Blackheath: Google Earth shows a very definite line exactly corresponding to this supposed non-road. My guess is that there was a path/lane/track/road there in the not too distant past. I'm glad it's gone - far too many roads crossing the heath!

hzd

There is a trap street at Tottenham Hotspur, maps says it runs into the stadium but the stadium is there

Squiz

Not so much a Trap Street but the old hard copy A-Z didn't used to feature St James' Walk or Sans Road in Clerkenwell just blank unnamed streets. This is no longer the case.

Andrew Williams

About 12 years ago I was looking to rent a flat in Wembley and whilst walking the streets in a week I came across so many "mistakes" in my new London A-Z that I started to doubt my sanity, or at least my map reading skills (which are excellent). I knew I hadn't experienced this as a flat-hunting student in Liverpool and assumed that London was too big to map accurately. I didn't know about trap streets back then but I'm sure that's what they must've been. Sadly I don't remember any. Incidentally I had lived in a cul-de-sac in Liverpool which was marked as a through street and they'd marked the next street as a cul-de-sac.