London North, South, East & West
Where Do The City’s Extremities Lie?
By Pete Stean
Have you ever thought about London’s farthest reaches?
Where it extends to in the north, how far east it goes, where its centre is?
Well Pete Stean has and writes about it in the Londoneer.
[I]f so, I have the answers to those questions – combining some map study and consulting various online and offline resources I can give you the definitive run-down on London’s exact dimensions:
- London’s northern-most point is in Enfield, on a rather unassuming stretch of the M25 between junctions 24 and 25. It lies just to the west of a feature on the map rather romantically called Tilekiln Osiers
- London’s eastern extent runs as far out as North Ockenden in the London Borough of Havering – specifically, the boundary is about halfway along a charming narrow road lined with trees called Fen Lane.
- To the west, London’s boundary is again marked by the M25 – to add some spice however, the boundary actually runs around Junction 14. This spot lies just to the west of Heathrow Airport in Hillingdon.
- London’s southern boundary can be found in the London Borough of Croydon, and if you want to visit the exact spot it is on Ditches Lane, just to the north of the village of Chaldon in Surrey. The nearest geographical feature happens to be Happy Valley Park – one can only assume that this is so named because you only have to walk a hundred yards further on and you’ll be blissfully happy that you’re no longer in Croydon!
In terms of miles, between its eastern and western extremities London is 35.8 miles across as the crow flies, and 27.9 miles in length from north to south. This brings us to the vexing question of where London’s centre is – in the strictest geographical sense it should be where lines drawn between the four locations I’ve set out intersect which would, surprisingly, make the centre of London the Shell Centre buildings on the Thames riverside just outside Waterloo station.
I don’t have to tackle this problem however, because there’s a long-standing convention when it comes to the geographical point that marks the centre of London. When you’re driving along the motorway and a sign says ‘London – 10 Miles’, what it actually means is that there are 10 miles between your vehicle and the statue of Charles I, who sits on horseback just off Trafalgar Square – this was the original site of the ‘Eleanor Cross’, or ‘Charing Cross’, which were a series of monuments that commemorated Eleanor of Castille, the wife of King Edward I.
Today the Charing Cross is marked by a Victorian confection in the forecourt of Charing Cross railway station, although as we’ve established it isn’t in the right place . . .
Do you disagree with Pete’s calculations? Do you know of another historic centre for London? If so, do feel free to pop any thoughts into the comment section below.
One of the resources Pete has utilised to create this post is an interesting hidden feature of Google Maps – if you go to a UK map and type ‘Greater London’ into the search box at the top, the map will zoom down to London and a thick pink line will appear denoting the boundaries of the city. You can do the same thing with other cities and towns – look at this link to see how it highlights London.