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Staples Corner. The reservoir can be seen on the right hand edge. The thin blue (then red) line shows the location of the River Brent.

Staples Corner Flyover, the A406 North Circular, the M1 Junction 1, the A5 Edgware Roadah the sylvan joys of names that conjure up thoughts of country rambles, a lazy days fishing, perhaps a picnic under a shady tree by the water’s edge – or perhaps not…

Staples Corner is a frantic interchange. A complex junction. The point where the M1 stops (despite the original grand design for the motorway to leap Staples Corner on it’s own flyover and connect with the A41 Finchley Road to continue into the heart of London via a series of subterranean tunnels and futuristic flyovers…).

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And yet Staples Corner was once very different.

As the 1895 1:25000 Ordnance Survey map below shows:

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The map is dominated by the waters of Welsh Harp that would have submerged the busy roundabouts of Staples Corner and the sprawl of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre; whilst traffic pouring off the tail of the M1 would have been plunged into a wide flooded valley.


The Welsh Harp viaduct (marked on the map) and carrying the Midland Railway main line (there’s Welsh Harp station) crossed the water.

The image below shows an overlay of the approximate location of the current road junctions in relation to the reservoir.

The 1936 1:25000 OS map (below) of the same location shows the degree of urbanisation that had taken place as London sprawled north and west in the first decades of the twentieth century. It also shows the much reduced reservoir.

The River Brent is now culverted to make space for the North Circular Road that has been squeezed beneath the last two arches of the viaduct.

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The Welsh Harp Viaduct, once such a dominant feature in the landscape, is now all but lost beneath a plethora of signage and street lamps, and overshadowed by the looming presence of the Staples Corner flyover that now carried the North Circular over rather than through the viaduct’s arches. There’s no sign at all of either the reservoir or river.

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