Spaghetti Junction’s 40th Birthday

Spaghetti Junction

Aerial view of Spaghetti Junction, Gravelly Hill, 1972 (Ref: WK/E2/259)

This May sees the 40th anniversary of the opening of Birmingham’s ‘Spaghetti Junction’.  The name is said to have been coined by Roy Smith, a journalist from the Birmingham Evening Mail in the 1970s and this phrase is now used throughout the world.

Some interesting vital statistics: the engineers had to elevate 21.7 km (13.5 mi) of motorway to accommodate two railway lines, three canals, and two rivers.  The junction covers 30 acres (12 ha), serves 18 routes and includes 4 km (2.5 mi) of slip roads, but only 1 km (0.62 mi) of the M6 itself. Across 5 different levels, it has 559 concrete columns, reaching up to 24.4 m (80 ft). (Wikipedia).  My favorite fact is that in a curious meeting of the ‘old and new’ the pillars supporting the flyovers had to be carefully placed to enable horse-drawn canal boats to pass under the interchange without fouling the tow rope. (The Motorway Archive).

Spaghetti Junction

Aerial view, 1969 (Ref: WK/E2/243)

I like these pictures because they show how something that we take for granted everyday was, at the time of construction, ambitious and innovative and they allow us to see it removed and from a new angle.  The photographs are from the Warwickshire Photographic Survey collection, work on which is currently being undertaken to catalogue and digitize the images. 

Amanda Thomas


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