Thinking of ring roads led me to neatly to Wolverhampton’s own ring road. Wolverhampton, perhaps even more so than Birmingham, is a town built around roads: as a medieval market town it received traffic on substantial roads from Bridgnorth, Stafford, Cannock, Bilston, Dudley and Kidderminster, ending up by the time of Isaac Taylor’s town plan of 1750, with a radial pattern of entry and egress. As the town grew, so the roads improved – most notable here is Thomas Telford’s Holyhead Road – in effect an early bypass, creating or renewing Cleveland Road and Tettenhall Road into major thoroughfares along the southern edge of town.
But the most noticeable road of the present age is one that is actually not nearly as impressive as it should have been. Difficulties in securing central government funding over the twenty or so years that it was built means that the Wolverhampton Ring Road is today another semi-isolated section of road – fully ready for grade separation which never came, leaving plenty of space for greenery. Today, the roady fraternity know it as a distributor, fanning traffic from all directions around the city centre rather than straight through. In this way all those historical roads are still served, and on many journeys in the region, it’s hard to avoid a segment of ring road.
As with all similar schemes, there was definitely significant destruction involved in the building process. Wolverhampton’s layout actually changed very little between Telford’s highway and the 1960s, so the various streets that were bulldozed were pretty well established. It would make an interesting study in itself to study the displacement of individuals in such schemes – and there’s always something like this going on somewhere.