London has many major junctions with folkloric names, I should know I had to learn them. Many recall past businesses, ancient coaching inns or an association with local characters. Here are five of those often heard on radio’s traffic reports.
Henleys Corner, at the junction of the North Circular Road and the A1 gets its name from the Henleys Group garage which sat at the junction from 1935 to 1989. In October 2011, Britain’s first ‘hands-free’ pedestrian crossing here so that the local Jewish community did not have to use electricity or operate machinery. Traffic is held every 90 seconds over this duration (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday), with foot traffic principally to and from the Kinloss Synagogue.
Francis Berrington Crittall started his eponymous company in 1849, but it wasn’t until 1884 they started making their famous metal windows which even found their way on to the Titanic. The company has always been based around Braintree in Essex, so it is a bit of a mystery why a roundabout on the A20 near Sidcup where one of their factories stood on its north-west corner should have been given the accolade of Crittalls Corner.
To kill a cow
Gallows Corner is named after a nearby execution spot, not far from a notorious spot frequented by highwaymen, which ably served the local community’s hanging needs from the 16th to 18th century. The ‘temporary’ flyover here was erected in just five nights in January 1970 it’s still in use. In 1932, a Metropolitan Police car collided with a cow at the junction. The animal was so badly injured it had to be destroyed. It was, in all probability, the last time the authorities had to sanction an execution at Gallows Corner.
By any stretch of the imagination, you couldn’t call Staples Corner, a corner. It has two linked roundabouts and flyovers connecting the North Circular Road, Edgware Road and M1, between the two roundabouts are the Midland Main Line and Thameslink, with Dollis Brook running underneath towards the Brent Reservoir. In the past, a B&Q store here has been blown up by the IRA and once had two runaway trains crashing down onto the North Circular Road. The junction is named after a mattress factory, which lasted from 1926 until 1986, then improbably, it’s since been replaced by another Staples, this time a vendor of office supplies.
At the top of Putney Hill is a sign depicting a skulking highwayman wearing a long-brimmed hat and brandishing a pistol, obviously intent on surprising his next victim, celebrating the memory of a famous highwayman who used to frequent the then lonely wastes of Putney Heath. While Tibbets Corner was the haunt of criminal ne’er-do-wells and malcontents eager to relieve wealthy road users of their valuables there is no record of a highwayman by that name operating anywhere near the spot. Prosaically Tibbet was the name of the gate-keeper at the entrance to Lord Spencer’s estate.
Hyde Park Corner
Featured image: Tibbet’s Corner Sign by Tristan Forward (CC BY-SA 2.0)