Where east meets west

The International Reference Meridian plaque on the pavement in Highams Park
The International Reference Meridian plaque on the pavement in Highams Park

Report by Judith Burnett

A unique plaque which marks the spot where “east meets west” has been unveiled in Highams Park.

The plaque, set into the pavement on the corner of Hale End Road and Beech Hall Road, marks the point of zero longitude. Mayor of Waltham Forest, Chris Robbins, unveiled the plaque and joked: “After all these years, I’m finally going to find out where I am!”

A brainchild of local resident Mike Payne and organised with help from Highams Park Planning Group, the plaque is believed to be the first of its type in the world.

The International Reference Meridian (IRM) lies 102 metres to the east of the Greenwich Meridian, which it replaced in 1984. “This is a little-known fact,” said Mike. “It means that Highams Park is framed by both Meridian lines – the original one from Greenwich is marked at the top of Selwyn Avenue and now we have this one.”

Zero longitude crosses Beech Hall Road, through Jee’s Dry Cleaning, continuing across The Avenue and through Highams Park Station’s garden. The new bronze plaque was made by Peak District foundry Leander Architectural and is engraved with the east-west line as well as a warning that the Earth’s tectonic plates “will slowly move this plaque eastwards of the IRM”.

This movement can be tracked with modern technology, making it “an invitation to the curious” according to Mike.

Hale End and Highams Park councillor Tony Bell said: “We hope that local schools will be able to bring classes here and do some work with it.”

The plaque was funded as part of the London Borough of Culture celebrations. Fellow ward councillor Zia-Ur Rehman added: “It’s a great legacy and I hope that it inspires local people to find out more.”