Top or bottom

Following on from last week’s post, discussing the highs and lows, and giving you an insight to my shortest and longest (journeys that is), we now come to this tricky question: Is a destination at the top or bottom of a street?

If a street actually does, you know, climb a hill then the top is just naturally the top.

Or does top or bottom refer to the street’s numbering?

The British Postal Museum and Archive claim the first recorded instance of a street being numbered is Prescot Street in Goodmans Fields around 1708. Regulation did not take place until 1855 with the passing of the Metropolitan Management Act, by that time there were different numbering systems even in the same street, for example in 1780 Craven Street near Strand had three sets of numbers.

But where does the numbering start?

Odd numbers are usually assigned to the left side of the street and even numbers to the right side, commencing heading out of the town centre from the town hall or other civic building, or even numbers can be placed on the north and west sides and odd numbers on the south and east sides of streets. I hope that clears up some of the confusion.

I was once asked by a customer to go to an annexe of the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place. I asked, quite reasonably I thought, as the road is a dual carriageway, which side of the street is number 66. Her reply the north side, oh dear, the road runs north to south. Now armed with this new information makes the Chinese annexe on the same side as the embassy – possibly.

When asked to go to a destination your passenger expects, quite rightly, to be taken via the shortest route. But when someone does say “I’m at the top of the road”, what do you think they mean?

Portobello Road, with its two postcodes of W10 and W11, is mainly one way (sometimes in different directions) for its entire length of over a mile and travels in an S(E) to N(W) direction, I would think that it’s a no brainer that the Notting Hill end was the bottom, wouldn’t you? After all, that end is its most southern extremity, but, spoiler alert, Notting Hill is on a hill, thus making it the top end. But wait it also starts to rise at its westerly end and is 6ft. higher than Notting Hill.

According to the previously described numbering regulations surely its numbering should start in Notting Hill (nearest to central London), but its located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea whose town hall is directly south of Portobello Road.

Some of you might think this slight nit-picking, or perhaps slightly obsessional, but when your job is to get people as efficiently as possible to their destination, these things really are important.

Incidentally, the numbering of Portobello Road starts at the eastern end at Notting Hill with the odds on the left.

So it would appear, the top of the road has the bottom numbers, with the odds on the left. There I’m glad I’ve cleared that up.

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