Aerial View of Fortune of War Roundabout

Stan Dyson
Overturned lorry 2001
Ann and John Rugg
Roundabout showing traffic lights in operation 1991.
John Rugg

The following two aerial photographs were taken on 12th June 1949.

Photograph showing an overturned lorry in 2001, one of several from around that time.

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  • The old roundabout worked for may years the accidents usually being caused by vehicles travelling too fast from London. These could have been reduced by the provision of a speed limit and earlier notification such as yellow bars on the road (now in place) to indicate the approaching roundabout. There is also a need to enforce a higher standard of driving than has been exhibited in many of the accidents.

    If it is essential to remove the old roundabout to allow traffic travelling to and from London to save a few seconds and the cost could be justify. It would be more sensible to close off the North and South High Road from the A127 and make the traffic join the A127 at the Dunton and Basildon interchanges. This would also eliminate the problem at the existing Willowfield junction caused by the unenforceable turning rules.  These are currently flaunted on a daily basis with total disregard for others.

    However there would also have to be some additional work to provide traffic calming on Dunton Road and the new link from Dunton flyover to the High Road, through the new Dunton Fields Estate, to prevent them becoming rat runs.

    I think that Richard’s suggestion is a little like using a sledge hammer to crack a very small nut. I have found this is typical of solutions put forward by highways planners many of whom I have worked along side for many many years. These planners were involved over the years in the failed attempts to make the Fortune and other roundabouts work. When challenged the comment was “It worked ok when we planned it”.  

    If the intention is to install another useless mini-roundabout, in the High Road, this would be no more effective than the existing junction

    The cost and disruption caused by installing a larger roundabout that could handle the commercial vehicles that enter and leave the High Road would be unacceptable.  And if the alterations are not to make the situation worse by creating tailbacks onto the A127 as already happen at the Dunton and Basildon interchanges, they could well require the realignment of Willowfield and consideration of the impact of the new roundabout on the Holst Avenue junction.

    Why not save the money and just enforce the rules of the road?

    By Ian Mott (28/04/2014)
  • I believe that the last line in the comment of Ian is the key to the problem and that the dangers said to exist are due to incompetent and aggressive drivers who ignore the rules of the road.

    Richard states the Willowfield junction in the High Road south is dangerous due to traffic exiting the A127 at speed in disregard of traffic regulations. Even in the days when the roundabout was derestricted and commercial vehicles overturned, it was only caused by drivers traveling too fast and not in control of their vehicles and being a danger to other road users should have had their HGV licenses suspended.  Motor vehicles in the hands of incompetent or aggressive drivers are lethal weapons if not used with care.

    Accidents will always happen irrespective of road conditions and drivers should never allow their attention to stray and also be ready for the mistakes of others.

    By W.H.Diment (28/04/2014)
  • Hi William, thank you for your comments. My improvement for Willowfield is for Laindon High Road users, wishing to travel to Billericay but not having to use the nasty A127 underpass further up which basically is designed for Basildon traffic.

    It is intended to make better use of existing local road facilities and to utilize existing highway land with minimal costs. A roundabout at Willowfield/High Road would also have two connecting roads to A127 (they would be London bound on and off slips).

    The roundabout would be designed to reduce speeds of traffic in the locality and make all movements easier. Once on Willowfield, traffic would proceed as it does now to Laindon High Road north and thence to an improved Dunton Road/Noak Hill Road layout, possibly another new roundabout, the second part of my scheme, which would replace the existing dangerous junction. I would either close A127/High Road North or replace it with left- in/ left- out slips.

    The existing A127 half roundabouts would be converted back to dual 7.3m wide carriageways on a straight through alignment. No need for massive flyovers which would be visually unacceptable and would require large and costly slip roads and diversion of BT and other kit in the existing road.

    By Richard Haines (27/04/2014)
  • Further to Richard, 27.04.14.    He states that a Willowfied/High Road roundabout would reduce speeds, yet all roads in the vicinity are already restricted. What speed does he suggest? 

    By W.H.Diment (27/04/2014)
  • Hi William, it is well known in the highways engineering world that roundabouts are a speed reducing mechanism. For example, traffic coming off the A127 into Laindon at the moment is often fast moving, certainly faster than 30mph. It is that movement I am talking about. Quite often you can drive along the High Road in the direction of the station and have a youngster in a Clio filling up your rear view mirror. My car is an Audi A3 and I am no slouch on the road.

    I am only talking safety at junctions here and I realise Laindon has its fill of roundabouts already. However the particular existing junction at Willowfield is I feel, not safe because of its proximity to the A127, it is quite common to see near miss situations there because of the conflict of turning vehicles with speeding traffic.

    By Richard Haines (27/04/2014)
  • Responding to Richard 23.04.14, I wish to point out that Willowfifield is at present a two way route between Billericay  and Laindon.  Also that a flyover on the central Fortune island would give a straight route to London. 

    However a roundabout at the Willowfield/High Road junction may not be a good idea as it could induce traffic from Southend to Billericay and north to use the Willowfield route which would involve joining the High Road north with a junction at Dunton Road and then waiting path at the Noak Hill Road junction instead of exiting the A127 at Upper Mayne straight on to the Noak Hill Road which is far better equipped to handle a volume of traffic than a proposed Willowfield route, which cannot be done at present as there is no left turn from the High Road into Willowfield.

    By W.H.Diment (24/04/2014)
  • From Richard’s comments, I am unsure if it was intended to indicate an unfavourable view as to the value, if any, of the  Army and Navy roundabout, as it would seem that his problem was initially caused by an inattentive driver.

    However, Nina is probably correct in stating that the roundabout,which no longer exists as such, should have been removed much earlier,  but as Richard points out that there is a considerable amount of utilities under the central island, but which need not be disturbed if the main route was straightened to fly over the island with slip roads with access to the High Road, both north and south.

    This would, I believe, obviate the rush hour build ups of traffic said to be caused by the present speed restrictions and eliminate the danger of lorries which ignore these restrictions.

    By W.H.Diment (23/04/2014)
  • William, very good, yes I was inattentive that day due to my chatty 20 year old female assistant taking my mind off the route ahead. However, back to the roundabout and the problem in hand. The solution as I see it would be to make the A127 straight through from London to Southend with no turning radii or central roundabout island remaining. The Willowfields road would become the two way local route from Laindon to Billericay with a new roundabout at High Road/Willowfields. This would help the existing dangerous right turn from High Road at the moment which conflicts with traffic fast moving off the A127 coming into Laindon.

    With the large roundabout at last gone from the A127 there would be more room for these improvements and Nina’s plan would be put into practice. I can imagine the local outcry ‘more traffic on Willowfields’. Think of the improved driver comfort, not having to negotiate the A127 reverse curves anymore. It would also be better to close High Road North at A127 and find a better solution for McDonald’s access at the same time.

    By Richard Haines (23/04/2014)
  • This roundabout was badly designed from the start and the problem still continues today. The exit radius out of the roundabout towards Southend (near the Fortune of War) is far too small to allow traffic out smoothly in that direction. When I first started in highway engineering my boss used to say ‘easy out, sharp in’.

    The reason no serious work has been done on the A127 in the way of widening etc is because there is heavy statutory undertakers plant (BT, Gas, Electric etc) in the carriageways which would make diversion or replacement far too costly.

    By Richard Haines (22/04/2014)
  • Agree entirely.  It would have been better as a crossroads rather than a roundabout.  One of the reasons the roundabout was closed off in the mid 1990s was because lorries frequently overturned on the part you mentioned.  One in particular left a large scattering of cucumbers all over the road.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (22/04/2014)
  • I cannot agree with Nina that it would have been better to remain a crossroads as it would need to have been controlled by lights without which given the volume of traffic today would have made impossible to exit the High Rd. south in the morning rush hours and the High Rd north in the evening period.  If traffic lights were installed they would result in huge tailbacks.   Whether or not a flyover similar to that at the Army and Navy in Chelmsford would work, I do not know.  

    By W.H.Diment (22/04/2014)
  • That’s fine William, it was just a thought on my part and I can see your point.  Richard hit the nail on the head when he said it was badly designed from the start.  Maybe in the mid 1990s they should simply have got rid of the roundabout altogether and made it a straight through road with north and south of the High Road being accessed by Willowfield.      

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (22/04/2014)
  • I can say that this is still an annoying junction to travel through. I was coming back along the High Road to Chelmsford recently from our site at London Gateway (Stanford le Hope). I was busy telling my young passenger about Laindon and where our school used to be when I suddenly realised I couldn’t go straight across in the Billericay direction. I ended up turning onto the A127, towards London, turning at Dunton and heading back to the Fortune thence turning left. Nina’s solution is great, lets suggest it to the County Surveyor (if only there was one).

    By Richard Haines (22/04/2014)

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