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

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 91 months ago

Last Updated 19 October 2016

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.