A road with many names

THE WESTERN END of Oxford Street is at Marble Arch. Beyond the latter, its continuation becomes Hyde Park Place and then, after 620 yards it becomes Bayswater Road, before reaching Notting Hill Gate, and then Holland Park Avenue. Oxford Street and its continuation westward follow the probable course of a road or track named by the Romans as Via Trinobantia. It ran from Colchester via London to Silchester (in Hampshire), which was a capital of the Atrebates tribe.  According to Ralph Merrifield in his “Roman London” (published 1969), the Roman thoroughfare ran due west from Oxford Street, along what is now Bayswater Road to Notting Hill Gate. After that, it changed direction so that it headed directly to what is now Staines. Merrifield wrote that its course:

“… is closely followed by Holland Park Avenue and Goldhawk Road, until the latter turns sharply towards Chiswick. The Roman road is then followed by two lesser modern roads, Stamford Brook Road and Bath Road, and crossed Acton Green where it has been obliterated by the railways. Half a mile further west it is represented by Chiswick Road, which leads to Chiswick High Road…”

 On a map drawn by Ralph Agas (c1540-1621) in the 16th century, the part of the Roman highway known now as Oxford Street was marked “The Waye to Uxbridge”. At that distant time (1561), the western edge of London was as far east as Farringdon, which follows part of the now lost Fleet River. This was the case except for riverside strip of buildings along the north bank of the Thames to Westminster.    Oxford Street, so named in the 18th century, has had other names such as the ‘Tyburn Road’, ‘Uxbridge Road’, and ‘Oxford Road’.

A sign on a lamppost on Bayswater Road near to Lancaster Gate Underground station reads “A402 was A40”.  The road running along the northern edge of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens was designated in 1923 as ‘The London to Fishguard Trunk Road (A40)’.  After the A40 was re-routed, part of it running along the elevated Westway (completed in 1970), the section of the original A40 (and much earlier the Roman road), which ran between Marble Arch and the westernmost end of Goldhawk Road was re-designated the A 402.

Until the early 19th century, what is now Bayswater Road and its western continuation ran through open country, passing Hyde Park, a royal hunting ground established by King Henry VIII in 1536 (and opened to the public in 1637). Before the park was established, the journey west of what is now marble Arch would have been through a rustic landscape and travellers would have been at risk from attacks by robbers, Today, the greatest risk faced by users of Bayswater Road is delay caused by traffic congestion.

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