Southend Arterial Road
Before the arterial road, travellers from London had to negotiate a tortuous zig-zag route of rutted, unmade roads, on the eight miles of old road between Billericay and Wickford there were 29 changes of direction. The lack of a more direct route into the borough was blamed on the Romans, who failed to discover Southend, and the consistency of the local soil, described as ‘Essex Custard’. In 1920, British Prime Minister Lloyd George had announced plans for a programme of new roads to be built around London to create jobs for former soldiers from the Great War. One of these was Eastern Avenue, from Wanstead to Hare Hall near Romford (or known today as Gallows Corner). In 1921, plans were announced for addition to this, a new 21 mile single lane extension, the first road in this country built specifically for motorised vehicles rather than horse drawn as before, to run in almost a straight line (where possible) from Hare Hall Romford to Southend which was not normal for the time.

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The road was officially opened on 25th March 1925 by HRH Prince Henry the third son and fourth child of King George V and Queen Mary, who had great interest in the ‘new fangled motorised vehicles’ at Wanstead, he drove sedately the entire length in a long line of shining cars until he reached Southend where Councillor R. Tweedy Smith, the Mayor, read the address of the welcome. HRH Prince Henry, watched by over 1,000 local residents, praised the largest road building project ever undertaken since the Romans and warned that traffic to the borough would that year increase by 1,000 per cent. In the long run it will repay Southend handsomely for its contribution. Part of the road leading into the town was named Prince Avenue (formerly Eastwood Road) in his honour.
Southend Corporation was keen to improve economic development in Southend. 1947 saw Progress Road being built off the A127, close to the town's border; and the seeds were planted for the borough's first industrial estate. Which in it's time has hosted some of the town's most important employers including Mercedes-Benz of Southend, MK Electric and JEGS. This site is still considered to be very important in the town's future business plans.
Reinforced Concrete Street Lights
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1925 Stretch of the new Southend Arterial Road
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Work started on the on 8th December 1921. Unlike many roads of the time which were built on former Roman roads, the A127 was a new structure and had to be dug out of the virgin Essex clay, the road was largely built by hand which was no mean feat, except just west of the weir Rayleigh, a chase 34 ft deep was cut by steam diggers through a clay ridge, and here 160,000 cubic yards of clay was removed. The new road touched the Borough boundary at Eastwood, near the Waterworks Station. The total cost of the road was £1.250,000, Southend Corporation which was eager for the borough to become a key destination for people and business paid £100,000 towards the cost, an official from the Ministry of Transport described this as “The shrewdest investment Southend has ever made.”
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Southend Borough Boundary Westbound
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Southend Borough Boundary Eastbound
Rayleigh Weir first started as a road junction in 1925, with increasing traffic it was upgraded to a roundabout in 1967, between the dates of December 1989 to 1992 the A127 underpass was built with local traffic able to use a roundabout on top. Unfortunately with heavy rain the underpass is liable to flooding and has to be closed. A Heritage Plaque was placed by the Rayleigh Town Council, and unveiled on the 23rd November 2010 near the entrance to the Rayleigh Weir Public House (The Harvester), to celebrate the opening in 1925 of the Southend Arterial Road (A127).
Dashcam Feb 2022, Rayleigh Weir Roundabout Northbound from Rayleigh Road, Rayleigh Weir Harvester in the Distance
The closing of three dangerous intersections In the 1980s access and the middle intersections along the Southend Arterial Road A127 at Belgrave Road, Grovewood Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and Eastwood old Road/Wayletts were closed. Increasing traffic and constant accidents deemed these junctions too dangerous. As you can see from the rough drawings below you played Russian Roulette to navigate these junctions, if you put the three diagrams together, the scenario of vehicles crossing the path of other vehicles was an accident waiting to happen, with no traffic control systems ie traffic lights in place you can understand how busy and dangerous the road layout became.
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Rayleigh Weir Underpass Eastbound
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Rayleigh Weir underpass Eastbound
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Rayleigh Weir Cutting Westbound
Dashcam Feb 2022, A127 Rayleigh Weir Cutting Eastbound
Vehicle access to the Southend Arterial Road A127. To make these junctions more dangerous, drivers sometimes would decide to make a ‘U’ turn from east to west or vice-versa
Vehicle exits from the Southend Arterial Road A127
Using the intersections to cross the Southend Arterial Road A127 from north to south or vice-versa
Dashcam: Glenwood Avenue
Dashcam: Grovewood Avenue
Dashcam: Belgrave Road
Dashcam: Belgrave Road
Map of closed roads & intersections
Dashcam: Progress Road
By the summer of 1935, the single-lane Southend Arterial Road was so congested that motorists avoided it. In 1939 the A127 was dualled. The effect of the new direct road linking Wansted to Southend was to inspire other major road developments elsewhere in the town. For many years the road was only lit up to the borough boundary the next area of lighting was the Rayleigh Weir roundabout where the road again plunged into darkness. The street lights were made from reinforced concrete, the design was poor, if a vehicle struck the post the top oval part would break and come crashing to ground below.
Progress Road
Dashcam: Eastwood Old Road/Wayletts
A127 Borough Boundary
1930 Kent Elm's Corner. An area of Eastwood that meets up with the A127, housing in this area started to be developed this year. This land area included the Devonshire Gardens estate. To be continued…….
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