7 Great Facts About London Roads

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 28 months ago
7 Great Facts About London Roads

The London road network began in 50 AD, back when the city was the small Roman port town of Londinium. London is now laced with roughly 9,197 miles of road. Here are some of our favourite facts about them.

Savoy Court. Photo: DB007

To start, have a gander at a visual representation of London's road network's evolution:

Drive on the right

It's pretty common knowledge that on Savoy Court you drive on the right, contradicting the rest of left-leaning London. What might be less known is that it's not alone.

There are actually at least two more roads in London where you drive on the right; we've covered one before: Hammersmith Bus Station. Another is Victoria Station's Eccleston Bridge entrance, which functions as a drop off point/car park and has its driving directions reversed.

Not a single road in the City

The idea that there are no roads in the City of London is technically incorrect. But the fact that there's not a single road in the City is right. 'Road' wasn't coined until the 16th century and as the City predates that, none of the thoroughfares were roads. This remained true up until 1994 when the boundaries of the City were redrawn. These new boundaries nicked half of Goswell Road from Islington, meaning there is (half of) one road in the City.

Leigh Hunt Road in all its glory. Photo: Google Maps ©

Shortest road

Leigh Hunt Street is London's shortest thoroughfare. It's just 11 metres long, before it gets cut off by a park. Leigh Hunt was a writer, a contemporary and friend of many better-remembered greats such as John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Hunt might not be as well known as those two, yet he boasts two London roads named after him; there's also a Leigh Hunt Drive in Enfield.

Photo: Dave McGowan

Longest road

The longest road in Britain begins in London: the A1. It starts just by St Paul's and you can take it all the way up to Edinburgh, all 410 miles of it. The fact it linked London to the rest of the country used to be marked by an iconic Banksy piece on the Holloway Road (pictured above) that's unfortunately now gone.

Batman Close

It has nothing to do with Gotham's caped crusader. Batman Close in White City might instead refer to when a batman was an officer's assistant. Read more London streets inspired by fictional characters.

Photo: Wendy Dobing

The Royal Mail saved London's roads

The Romans did a great job with London's roads, but after they left, London's thoroughfares were widely neglected. Apart from the City's cobbled streets, a lot of roads were little more than open sewers.

Hannah Renier from London Historians tells us that it was actually the Royal Mail who were the impetus for most London roads to step up their game. Teams of men from the Post Office inspected each road from end to end, and if it wasn't deemed in good enough nick for the Royal Mail, they'd simply refuse to deliver mail there until it was improved. This would have a huge effect on the local economy, as coaching inns would lose business if the mail coaches didn't come — putting bar staff, housekeepers and stable workers out of work. The Royal Mail therefore had huge control over the coach company who owned the road.

Wooden paving?

Most of London's original paving was wooden, and even into the 1950s, some London sidewalks were made with that material. After that, the asphalt of today came into vogue. In the odd spot, you can still see the original wooden paving, like the pictured manhole cover on Farringdon Street.

Last Updated 14 November 2016