A1: The Road Itself

Readers from England might well know about the A1 road depicted in this months book (Paul Graham’s ‘A1: The Great North Road’), but for those who don’t, here is just a little information on the road to help with you reading of the book.

the A1 Great North Road

The route was originally used by coaches from the 17th Century (aprox) who were traveling between London, York and on to Edinburgh, Scotland. Since it’s birth it has been constantly changing route. Due to the nature of the transportation and that both horses and workers were in regular need of water, food and sleep, the early route passed through many more small towns than it’s modern day counterpart.

With the wonders of technology we can see exactly where the new ‘Great North Road’ travels, and despite it’s bypassing a great deal of towns, it is still perhaps the most interesting road to travel in the UK, not just for it’s size but for it’s uncompromising straight line through wildly disparate towns and regions.

In the 19th Century the route took around 45 hours by coach, today only 7

The modern day A1(M)

The most important information regarding the road, at least for the reading of the book is the text accompanying the book itself as it gives a few clues as to what Graham was looking out for on his trips.

From the blurb on the back cover:

The A1 was the first major road to run the entire length of England, linking the ‘two nations’ of North and South. Conceived as the central artery of the 1930’s trunk road system, the A1 travels from the Bank of England, in the very centre of London, up through the industrial midlands, North East England and the East coast of Scotland, to finish in Princess Street, Edinburgh. The 400 mile route was the busiest road in the country and quickly became known as the ‘Great North Road’, a title it aptly deserved until the late 1950’s, when it was usurped by the fast and efficient motorway system, which left the A1 in a state of atrophy, underused and decaying.

The modern day A1(M)

– Matt
And if you haven’t seen the book yet…

Paul Graham: Some Food for Thought #2

Food for Thought #1 looked broadly at Graham and his extensive archive with some videos, interviews and reviews. This second version is more focused on the ‘A1: The Great North Road’ publication in particular.

Firstly, while it is no substitute for the real thing, you can see a selection of images from this book on the Paul Graham Archive website. Seeing as this book is upward of £350 I will be uploading a video of the book shortly (I have it on loan from the local Uni Library and as a warning, let’s just say it has been ‘well loved’).

You might also want to check out a few of the links below:

Simon Roberts references the book when he heads back down the A1 after his ‘We English’ project in 2008.
“The photographs are a mournful document of a grey nowhere land in a country moving too fast to stop for a cup of tea”

David Chandler wrote a nice little piece on the book found at the bottom of this page on ‘Self Publish be Happy’.
“And it represents what Paul acknowledges as the spirit of new wave, the punk ethos that enabled young people to create things for themselves, on their own terms…”


On the road itself there is a site dedicated to all things ‘A1’ run by Biff Vernon here. It’s quite niche and a little geeky – but I like that.

There are also a few quotes regarding the road on this page by Oliver Merrington.
“Now let me make a statement, in plain truth, of this road – betwixt Biggleswade and Buckden. As a road of fine gravel it is unequalled” (John Byng 1974)

Plenty more comment and inspiration coming, if you want to add your thoughts on the book, or any of the links and thoughts shared, do so in the comments section or via email (matt@photobookclub.org)

And if you haven’t seen the book yet…

– Matt