Roundabouts are sublime

First things first: even before Hendon Central has been built, in 1923, hardcore has been piled for the foundation of the roundabout facing the tube station

The first ever version was built at Letchworth in Hertfordshire, 25 miles from the county line, but the roundabout has become to Middlesex what traffic lights are to central London.  Some are anonymous but there’s a fashion for the authorities to invent names for them, to sprinkle on a little of the stardust of the Hangar Lane Giratory System (whose name recalls ‘giratory circuses’ which is what roundabouts were originally called,) : the Target roundabout, the Hogarth roundabout,

Chiswick Flyover, 1959, before the M4 was built or the central reservation planted with trees. The North Circular leaves to the top of the picture, and the flyover carries the Great West Road towards Brentford's Golden Mile.

Chiswick roundabout (soon to be the site of a supposedly octopus-like building by the architect of the Gherkin Ken Shuttleworth), the Great Cambridge Interchange, the Denham roundabout .. There’s the  strange case of Savoy Circus — a junction in East Acton that made the reverse journey from roundabout to traffic lights but whose name recalls a grander past. Roundabout fans can stay at the Brent Cross Holiday Inn near Staples Corner, where as at Shepherds Bush a larger and a smaller traffic interchange are linked; or, for more modest budgets, there’s the Kingsland Hotel which looks straight onto Kingsbury Circle, the busy intersection of the A4140 (Honeypot Lane/Fryent Way) and the A4006 (Kenton Road/Kingsbury Road). Roundabouts are bleak places, with something of the quality Freud called unheimlichkeit; crossroads (places of public hangings, gibbets, where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul in return for mastering the guitar)  seem cosy in comparison.

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