A36(M) Ower Spur

Comments Archive (updated September 07):

Johnny starts us off:

"Wow, I have driven up and down there countless times and never noticed that, apart from maybe commenting on the hard shoulder once or twice!

Anyway, if it was (and it looks that way) a motorway then it was probably removed because this and the M271 were the main routes from Romsey to Southampton City Centre - both motorway!

It would be quite nice to go bike riding in Southampton if you lived in Romsey (you still have to cross the M27) and goods on a tractor are often carried, but none of this would have been possible if this was motorway!"

Jonathan Smith has a bit of information about my "suspicious-looking gap":

If you look here (at 1:25000 level) you can see that it indicates a railway line on the ordnance survey map crossing the motorway - so I assume this is an old track that is no longer. If you zoom in to 1:10000 or 1:5000 and look at the ariel photograph, you can see it quite clearly.

Simon Hollett's been out checking!

As a student in Southampton, I tried to find any evidence of the A36(M) in the archive and public records section in the uni library. There was nothing there, though the Government Orders (Special Road, etc) on the M27 in that area were supposedly there. Maybe one of the librarians reads PM and was scanning over it at the time, or, more likely, these single sheets and a complex sorting system mean that those copies are somewhere hidden or lost. I found a contemporary Phillips/OS atlas which had M27 along the spur. I think the A36(M) never officially existed, even secretly, though the search continues!

One odd thing about the A36(M) is that it's called A36(M). The A3090 meets the far end of it, and that was A31. the A31 also meets the M27 at j1, or one junction down. Why was it A36(M), rather than A31(M) as the latter is more suitable - both roads were major, and the A31 was bypassed by the M27 from the spur to j1. However, the M27 and M271 formed a bypass of Totton for the A36 (the A36 going into Southampton in those days), and Totton is larger than Copythorne (Village on the A31). Also I suspect that the numbering was also due the the A31 traffic being routed down the M3 (when completed) and M27, which is the case now.

Going back to the library, there were two schemes east of j4 on the M27. Cadnam-Ower (j1-j2) and Ower-Chilworth (j2-4), the former opened a few months before, so the road opened as M27 and still is M27, much like the Huntercombe spur from j7 of the M4.

Jonathan Abbot has some information on the downgrading:

The A36(M) lost its M in the early nineties I believe when the A326 (Fawley to Totton dual carriageway), extension from the A35 to the M27 Jct2 was built and the A36(M) ceased to just be a motorway spur. The A326 extension stopped lorries from the Esso refinery at Fawley having to jam up the A35 on their way to another pathetic motorway the M271 at Redbridge Roundabout It had to be downgraded to allow the Fawley traffic access to the A36. It was about this time that the old A31 from Winchester to Romsey was downgrade to the A3090, as the M3 missing link was completed thorugh Twyford Down (definately not a pathetic motorway).

Simon Hardy shares his findings:

I have an old map dated approx 1991 and it does have this as Blue indicating a motorway. It doesn't list it as the A36(M) though so, according to that, it's just a spur off the M27 (like the A339 one is off the M3 at junc 6)

Ricky Wyeth:

I was quite shocked to see the "A36(M)" on your site, as I had never really thought about it being a motorway, but you have jogged my memory a little. Where you say the start of motorway restrictions sign would have been - I can say that I am 95% sure it was there, but I am certain that the end of motorway regs signs were where the signs are in picture 13.

However, I distinctly remember that it was signposted M27, as back then the A326 Totton Western Bypass did not exist, and there was only a Works Unit over there (I believe it is for the road gritters?), when you joined the road, you had no other option than to go onto the M27, short of coming back round the roundabout and back down again. The A36 itself went (coming from the motorway) left at the roundabout, and looped round in a big arc to go into Totton.

The hard shoulders on the roundabout are a blessing - there are quite often shunts that happen on the run up to the main motorway junction, so it gives the shunted cars ample room to be moved off of the carriageway, not to mention in the opposite direction extra room for fast cornering off of the roundabout! Not that you would catch me doing that, in a 1.3 Maestro......"

Mark Grindon has a reponse to Jonathan Smith's point above:

"Hate to be the bringer of banality but this “track” is just the shadow from the electricity pylons which are labelled on the OS map and show up in your photos. The gap through the trees could also be linked to this, but I don’t think the pylons go far enough in that direction, so that will remain a mystery!"

Roger Buckingham has done some serious research:

"First off, I remember reading up on the so-called A36(M) on your site a while back with interest as it is fairly local to me. I personally don’t remember any other numbering than A36 since I’ve only been driving for 5 years, but recently I have been driving round that way. I notice that many of the signs (bar those on it as many of them were replaced when it was re-surfaced last year) have A36 in a little plaque stuck over whatever was originally on the sign, the same way as A336 and A326 are stuck over other signs (approach, turn-off and route confirmation signs). I can only assume that this re-numbering took place when the A326 was extended to this point.

Any way, back to the matter in hand…I’ve done some digging and I have 2 scans of national grid survey sheets, one from 1977 and one from 1992. Both clearly show the now A36 dual-carriageway link to the M27 as the M27, i.e. an M27 spur, supporting what many other contributors have said. Unfortunatley there is no evidence that I can find of it ever being called the A36(M)…maybe this was a new-build with the M27 as it appears to me that the A36 always used to be the “loop-back and over” route, hence it could never had the (M) suffix as this was not an upgrade to the existing A36. This was until the A326 was built…now the former M27 spur, the northern-most end of the A326 and the original A36 are all called the A36…how useful!

Hope this evidence helps answer the mystery.

Tim Vince:

Lived in Salisbury for 18 years - used to go this way to the beach. I remember when the road was motorway, but, it was always one of those nameless motorways - the sign at one end said A36, and the other M27. The A36 itself always took the route via Ower. Although the old "A36(M)" is probably erroniously called the A36, when in fact it should be more accurately termed the A326, I suspect the HA thought it sensible to keep the A36 monkier at least as far as the M27, so as to dissuade long distance traffic from getting lost.

A31(M) would never have been applied to this road either, as the A31 multiplexed with the A36 through Ower, and de-multiplex at the X-roads just after, with the A31 following the M27 (or should that be M27 following A31!)

As an aside, I remember when the A31 became A3090, and although I mourn its passing, as it is a fine old-fashioned D2, its probably a good idea to lose the number, because Romsey, and its truly pitiful "by-pass" that, um, barely bypasses anything, would not cope with through traffic. The A31 had ceased to be the through route for years prior to the renumbering anyway, as through traffic went M27-M3-A33-A31 (before Twyford Down).


Ower Spur




0.5 miles

0.9 km





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