Hemel Hempstead's 'Magic Roundabout'Hemel Hempstead's 'Magic Roundabout'
Hemel Hempstead's 'Magic Roundabout'

The Magic Roundabout: The story of Hemel Hempstead's iconic - and confusing - landmark

Roy Wood of the Hemel Hempstead Local History & Museum Society looks back at the town’s history

Hemel Hempstead’s ‘Magic Roundabout’ was actually the second of its kind in Britain – the first being in Swindon – and was erected and opened in 1973.

The roundabout was unusual in that traffic flowed both clockwise (the standard flow direction of British roundabouts) and anticlockwise. Drivers approaching the roundabout from any junction can choose to turn left or right, and they are free to make U-turns using any of the mini roundabouts at the junction.

Effectively, the junction should be treated as six individual roundabouts - right of way must be given on the approach of each new mini roundabout.

But what of the other names we hear the roundabout called? There is The Moor End Roundabout and The Plough Roundabout as well.

Both of these names have a very broad connection in that they could be said to have run pretty much over a shared period.

‘Moor End’ refers back to the times when landowners would be expected to pay ‘tithes’ or rental to the local Church Hierarchy for their fields, and Moor End Road was named from ‘Moor End Meadow’, Field Number 1105CH as can be seen within the tithings records for Hemel Hempstead (Circa 1840-44).

For the record so many of our road names are also derived from this same source.

And the site was once home to The Plough public house that closed in 1955 to make way for the new roundabout, which took its name.

Here we take a look at how the site may have looked back at the beginning of the 20th Century – as well as some of the businesses that have surrounded the roundabout since those days.