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Magic Roundabout , looking south with mini roundabouts 1 (nearest), 2 and 3 in view.
The grassy bank at the centre of the picture is part of the central hub roundabout.
Taken from part of the new Riverside development
Road sign showing the official name Plough Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempsteadmarker, Hertfordshiremarker, Englandmarker is the familiar name given to a complex road junction also known as the Moor End or Plough roundabout. The name comes from a similar junctionmarker in Swindonmarker, whose name is derived from the children's television series The Magic Roundabout.


It was constructed in 1973 to reduce the congestion at the original standard layout roundabout where seven roads intersected, it was one of the first bi-directional roundabouts to be constructed in the UK. At the junction of each road with the roundabout a mini-roundabout is present and subject to the normal clockwise direction of travel for all traffic. Between these mini-roundabouts however traffic is permitted to travel clockwise or anti-clockwise around the larger roundabout, the expectation being that drivers would choose the shorter route with less stationary traffic.

The Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempstead was voted the UK's second-worst roundabout in a 2005 poll held by an insurance company (the winner being its Swindon counterpart).

Early history

The original magic roundabout had six exits in total, with the British Petroleum building spanning "Marlowes", the road leading to the town centre, in the approximate position of the earlier railway Viaduct. The BP building was found to be unstable due to defective reinforced concrete and the exit had to be closed. This building was later demolished and the original route not restored, although a newer side exit from the roundabout replaced the junction with Marlowes of a side road.

Prior to this design, a spiral roundabout had been trialled. The idea behind this scheme was that drivers were supposed to enter the clockwise only roundabout and get into a lane that would spiral them off. The spiral idea failed, as drivers ignored the lane markings.

The present scheme opened in June 1973 and caused tailbacks allegedly to Berkhamsted. A police officer had to be stationed at each of the mini roundabouts to prevent chaos.

When the new junction was first opened, a camera was placed overlooking the roundabout on the roof of the adjacent Kodak HQ building. It was noted many drivers would get 'lost' and make repeated reversals of direction between joining the roundabout and eventually leaving it.

Shortly after the opening the driver of an articulated lorry ended up in the River Gade in the centre of the roundabout after brakes failed while travelling down St Albans Road.

Other complex roundabouts


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