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Rodney's Ramblings: The A5 Kid

"I awoke early one recent morning and started to think about London scenes,'' writes Rodney Gascoyne.

I awoke early one recent morning and started to think about London scenes. Then it hit me, most of my early memories were fixed around the parts of the Capital through which the old A5 ran, starting at Marble Arch and flowing northwest past Edgware and to the open fields around Elstree. I say old because the M1 and other newer arteries relegated the A5 to become the A5183 or worse in places. Once it had been a major road that led all the way to Holyhead and the ferries to Dublin. It was created in pre Roman times by ancient Britons, but then paved and expanded ever since, being known first as Watling Street, the main road connecting many Roman settlements and then the link from Dover to Wales.

London was not my birthplace but it was my main home for decades before I eventually escaped its gravity, although it took two episodes to finally release me from its iron grip. A large part of that history started in the Kingsbury area, to the west side of the road, close to Wembley Park. Our family returned over the years to reside in this area, including my last nest just to the east of the road in Mill Hill, still within about a five mile radius.

We moved south to Willesden Green for much of my childhood and my first jobs were on the Edgware Road in Cricklewood, on the A5 itself, close by. Prior to that I was at school a short while just east of the road in South Hampstead, but then it moved to Elstree and a country estate that was connected to the A5 by an old carriage drive. The first house I owned was back on the Wembley Park/Kingsbury border, and not much later my mother moved to the end of the Welsh Harp, at the meeting of the North Circular Road and the A5.

Memories are also linked to inner London in the Paddington area, where I volunteered first in community work, around Little Venice. This district is close to Marble Arch, near the start of the Harrow Road that branches off the Edgware Road to the west at the same point the Marylebone and Euston roads lead east towards Baker Street and the three big railway stations, Euston, St. Pancras and finally King’s Cross, all in a line. Now, the junction at the old A5 is the Marylebone Flyover, the final end of an expressway that is the modern A40 route into central London.

This whole section of London has much history and is an interesting part of the City, for those who know or knew it well. The Arch also stands close to the site of the Tyburn gallows (sometimes called 'Tyburn Tree'), a place of public execution from 1388 until 1793. It is the northern focal point to Hyde Park, that runs south and is a close neighbour to Buckingham Palace and the area around Pall Mall, St. James’ Park and eventually Trafalgar Square, on the south side of Piccadilly. The road itself runs to St. Albans, then close to Rugby, north of Birmingham and through Shrewsbury on its way into Wales, but it has been overtaken by modern developments and is now just a shadow of its past importance.


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