MT 106/297

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Safeguarding `motorway box', east cross route: Greater London Council's urban motorway plan; Bow Bridge to Hackney Wick

Date range1964-1969
LocationNational Archives (see all files stored here)
CatalogueSee entry
File baseSeries MT, subseries MT 106

Thumbs up.png This file is truly delightful.
It is likely to bring a smile to your face, probably because it contains the sort of thing that makes trawling through dusty archive documents worthwhile. The thing in this file that makes your day might actually have nothing to do with its subject matter.


Have you ever wanted to get hold of something very badly, and for a very long time? And then actually got it? Here's a story for you. In 2004 I moved into a student house and went off to Ikea with all my new housemates. I bought a comfy chair for my room. It was fabulously comfortable and it swivelled and it was blue. I could also have got a matching footrest, but there was no room. I'll get it later, I thought.

A year later I went back for the footstool, but they no longer sold the chair or the footstool in blue, and a year after that they stopped selling that product line altogether. So I started looking at eBay and Gumtree and places like that. Nothing: nobody ever even had a blue chair for sale, let alone the footstool I was missing.

Eventually I found one. The holy grail. A blue footstool, of exactly the type I should have bought in 2004, in excellent condition, on its own, £20, collection only. I've never bought anything so quickly in all my life. That was in 2018. I had been searching for that elusive footstool for a full 14 years. And it was totally worth it.

This file is very nearly the blue footstool of archive documents. In 2005, you see, we started searching archives for information on the Ringways and one of our first questions was what Hackney Wick interchange was supposed to look like. In early 2019, I stumbled on this file, and found the answer.

Enough chatter, now let's actually do the context

The East Cross Route, from Hackney Wick down to the A11 at Bow, was an old London County Council scheme for improving roads in industrial East London that predated the Ringways so it was ready to build when the rest of the network was still being planned. This file has some information about safeguarding bits of Ringway 1, but it's mostly about correspondence between the brand-new GLC and the MOT as work began in earnest on this road scheme.

Of interest is the MOT's response to the initial GLC designs, which were for a more modest road than the one that was built - it was, in fact, every bit the post-war LCC road proposal, with three ten-foot lanes each way and no hard shoulders. The MOT persuaded them to redesign it to something nearer motorway standards, with full-width lanes. They also insisted on the underpass at Bow being part of the scheme, rather than a later development. The GLC's original drawings show it simply stopping at the roundabout under the Bow flyover.

In the back are very large plan sheets in a folder. They plot out the whole road scheme as envisaged by the GLC, and very nearly as built, except for the omission of the underpass at Bow. The northernmost plan sheet includes a full drawing of Hackney Wick Interchange, with colour coding to indicate the various stages of development - equating to what was built as a first stage, a second stage to incorporate the North Cross Route, a third stage for the Eastern Avenue Extension, and the local sliproads marked as "temporary works".

What it does not show, sadly, is anything of the road away to the north east - be it M11 or Eastern Avenue. All the sliproads pointing that way are cut very short.

It is not the done thing to punch the air and shout YES YES YES in the National Archives reading rooms, which is literally the only reason I didn't do that when reading this file.

People with camera copies

Chris Marshall has a partial copy.