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Roman Roads

Roman Roads in Lancashire

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East-West Road via Ribchester

Ribchester to Kirkham (14.3 miles)

Roman Bath House, Ribchester

Roman Bath House, Ribchester  

This road is also quite well defined and marked on O.S. maps - contour map. The road appears to have left the fort area (1990 excavations), in an approximately east-west direction, aligned with the existing lane to Parsonage Farm from which it diverges and shows on the 1947 photo aerial - see below.

Roman Road from Ribchester
Roman Road west of Ribchester

The climb up from the valley bottom at Red Bank is uncertain but a dog-leg up past Hothersall Hall seems logical. Further on it passes directly under Alston Hall (it was found when an observatory was built) and is visible on the aerial-photo. A section was cut at Red Scar (east of Preston) in 1977 and confirmed the line. This has been put on permanent display and is one of Lancashire's best kept secrets having no road sign indicating its existence. You can actually walk on a 2000 year old road surface and there is an informative display board. Despite being in the middle of an industrial estate it is a delightful location with a landscaped pond adjacent. Look for a pond on the right off Roman Way and the road is behind a hedge aerial-photo.

Roman Road Red Scar
Roman Road, Red Scar

The most well-known section, Watling Street Road in Fulwood is certainly on the line except for the modern kink around the Barracks. However, it was not laid out until Fulwood Moor was enclosed early in the 19th Century and presumably utilised the Roman road as its foundation. The continuation, now Lytham Road, between Withy Trees and Black Bull Lane is of ancient origin and still close to the Roman alignment but Cadley Causeway is not the line. Map. There is little trace either on the ground or in place names to Kirkham where there was a fort. At Lund Church (near Salwick) however, there is a Roman Altar, reputedly found under the road - map. This stretch of the road is labelled Dane's Pad on the OS 1845 map, as it is also called beyond Kirkham. The fort at Kirkham was in the vicinity of Carr Hill and the 1845 OS Map shows two roads, one "supposed" heading north-east - map.

STOP PRESS: Just east of Westleigh, during construction of a new sports arena, this was spotted, on the projected line, aerial photo. It might be a coincidence but is it the ditches of the road? The area has now been covered with a mound of soil and landscaped leaving no trace.

Roman Altar
Roman Altar re-used as a font at Lund Church

Kirkham to the Wyre or Coast?

There is a slight doubt as to whether this is a Roman road but this road was known as Dane's Pad both east (as far east as Ingol) and west of Kirkham so connecting both roads together - so if the east part is Roman then there is a good case for the westerley part too. It is also marked as Roman Road on the latest O.S. 1:10,000 maps (dated 2001). Starting at Kirkham, a Roman fort site (Roman Way, Dowbridge marks the spot) it was prominent enough to be recorded on the first edition O.S. maps of c.1845 and there are reports of flights over the area after the 2nd World War seeing it clearly near Weeton but little trace is visible today. Unusually it follows a curving path (really a series of short straights) but 2000 years ago the Fylde would have been much wetter and its course on slightly higher ground was a sensible route - contour map. It is surely no coincidence that the original railway line to Fleetwood/Blackpool takes a very similar route. The first known section coincides with the A583 - map and Puddle House Farm is the last recorded trace. Click for map or for aerial-photo of the last known stretch.

Its ultimate destination is the puzzle and its common name of Dane’s Pad perhaps indicates that it reached a harbour on the Wyre somewhere. There are at least 3 candidates!
Castle Hill, now lost under the chemical works, is one possibility - note the rectangle in the centre with one rounded corner!
Poulton, under the town centre/church yard is a suggestion by Mary Higham - note the Roman coin finds
Skippool harbour (both sides of the Wyre including Wardleys) is another common suggestion.


Ribchester to Elslack (20 miles)

aerial photo
Passing Clitheroe Golf Course looking NE

Again well marked on modern OS maps, this road follows a series of straight alignments to pass around the north side of Pendle Hill - contour map. The first stretch out of Ribchester in part coincides with the B6245 near Little Town before fording the Ribble downstream of Ribchester Bridge. It then climbs the south bank of the river valley near Salesbury Hall where it was found when a new public car park was made. The course has been marked with stakes near the car park entrance. The first trace visible on an aerial photo is near Fencegate Farm. It changed direction near Hacking Hall just before it forded the Calder - map. The new alignment from here is the one shown in the aerial-photo. A stretch of this Road, near the pretty village of Downham, is part of a local walk (Downham Circular) and is highly recommended. Map. There are traces where it crosses the A682, Barrowford-Gisburn Road - map and aerial. The last stretch in the County passes to the north of Barnoldswick, Brogden Lane marking its approximate line (aerial) on its way to Elslack (map).

Other Routes

Ribchester to Lancaster (20.5 miles)

A road between these two major sites would surely have been a necessity. The evidence for its existence is reasonable (particularly at both ends) but for some reason it is often omitted from Roman road maps of Lancashire. The B6243 indicates the line initially but the line seems to have been slightly to the west of the modern road near Singleton House and to its east at Ward Green (note the name Fleet Street Lane - the lane to Fleet Street?).

Ward Green, Nr Cross Keys
Prominent agger at Ward Green, near former Cross Keys Pub

There was a slight change of direction at Pinfold up to the crest of the fell (near a prominent modern watertank) and the stretch over the fell is marked on the OS first edition of c.1845 as ancient causeway but where the map sheet changes beyond Longridge Fell it is no longer marked. Map. The OS ancient causeway is shown only on the revised first edition maps as continuing by the Derby Arms-Priest Hill-Holwood.

Beyond Beacon Fell, the next major clues are the names Broadgate and Stang Yule (formerly Stangate ie stone road) north of Beacon Fell. Looking from the line on Longridge Fell the route east of the fell is much more direct and wouldn't involve climbing over Beacon Fell - see routes map.

View from Longridge Fell on O.S. Line
View from Longridge Fell on O.S. ancient causeway line (now near a modern watertank).
Why would the road pass west of Beacon Fell when the direct line is not over the fell top as several writers have suggested?

Graystone proposes a route passing to the west of Beacon Fell via Whitechapel, which is a very indirect route, but there are traces of a possible agger near Holwood heading that way so he may well right.

agger near Holwood

Possible agger near Holwood on Graystone's Route looking back to Longridge Fell. The modern road only occupies half the agger.

At Stang Yule the minor road to Oakenclough and across Calderside is likely to be the course. Beyond Grizebeck Lea reservoir older writers traced a route to Street somewhat west of the minor road, prominent towards Fell End Farm. Thanks to Neil and David Thompson for pointing this out (see pic below).

Fell foot
Click for larger image

Nearer Crosshill Four Lane Ends the aerial-photo shows possible traces on the route suggested by Graystone towards Street but the existing highway from the cross roads to Street also looks as possibly the course. The village name Street undoubtedly indicates its presence but according to Edwards the old bridge abutment downstream of the present one is not Roman. The OS 1845 map indicates a track to the abutment and newly scanned 1960 aerial might offer some clues.

The straight minor road passing the Fleece Inn (marked Ancient Causeway on 1st edition map) probably represents the course towards Galgate, where it would join the N-S route - a likely indicator that the N-S route was there first.

Roman Road by Fleece
The Fleece Inn, where travellers have been passing for 2000 years!

Lancaster to Over Burrow (21.25 miles)

Again evidence for this road is patchy but a milestone found at Artle Beck, Caton indicates there must have been a road - not only that it give an important clue to the route of the road from Lancaster. The findspot appears to have been just south of Milestone Place (map) and the good condition of the milestone indicates that it was probably close to its original location as if it had been subject to much river movement it would surely have been much damaged. The important clue is the milepost gives the distance as 4 miles. The straight line distance to Lancaster fort's eastern gate is approximately 6250 metres or just over 4 Roman miles. The initial route out of Lancaster must therefore have been very direct probably passing over the Ridge (contour-map aerial-photo) and near Old Parkgate and Old Hall farms. Talking to the farmers there, they say the route over the Ridge was a stage coach road indicating its former importance. A route via Quernmore would be at least a kilometre longer invalidating the milestone distance and incidently would involve climbing 30 metres higher. However, traces of a road were found at Caton (near Gresgarth Hall) in 1992 and the indications were of a South-West to North-East alignment (ref. Shotter & White) so this may have been a branch to the Quernmore kilns. The Artle Beck milestone also gives a clue to the abbreviation of Lancaster interpreted as L (or possibly IL) but this has only added to the puzzle of what Lancaster’s Roman name really was. The old road via Brookhouse and the A683 beyond Tunstall near to Burrow also perhaps mark its course (aerial-photo). Just north of Melling, there are traces of an old road east of the A683 opposite Sockburn House (aerial-photo), which line-in with the final stretch to Burrow. There would probably have been a branch off this road to Bainbridge via Ingleton somewhere near Hornby. A road to Burrow on the northern bank of the Lune has also been suggested.
For further details on the Burrow site, including an excavation plan, see our Heritage Project page.

Over Burrow
Entrance to Burrow Hall - the Roman west gate probably lies under the modern drive beyond the modern gates

Lancaster to Trough of Bowland?

View back towards Lancaster from above Quernmore

Several writers have suggested that the road from Lancaster towards (or even through) the Trough of Bowland could be Roman. Certainly a road to at least Quernmore and its kilns is highly likely. The existing road does have Roman characteristics - see Map. Across one of the bends is a trace of what appears to be an earlier route - aerial photo.

Lancaster to Bainbridge

A look at our Roman Road map shows that the road from Bainbridge via Ingleton appears to be aligned on Lancaster. The course from Bainbridge to Ingleton is well defined but its course south-west of Ingleton is lost. The first clue appears to be in a medieval reference c. 1290 to the King's Highway from north Yorkshire to Lancaster, which were often based on Roman routes. Higham refers to this route from Bainbridge being via Ravencrosse on the County boundary (where the King would have been met) and Wennington. This presumably refers to the minor road from Wennington to Ravens Close Wood known as Ravens Close Brow. Haigh and Taylor (Britannia 2005) reported finding the road parallel to the modern road just over the boundary so this route to Wennington looks correct. Map. At Wennington, no doubt the river Wenning was crossed and the the Lune valley road joined presumably near Hornby - this route was still in use in Ogilby's time(c.1675) re-crossing the Wenning and passing Tatham Church.

Over Burrow to the North-West

Watkin reported traces of an agger running down to the River Lune from Over Burrow fort, where he thought there were visible remains of Roman bridge piles (Mill Lane ford?). Beyond this the route was extended by Villy in 1936 although the evidence is somewhat slim and his suggested course rather indirect. The first traces he spotted were west of Whittington where the line of an old road makes for Nanny Hall, the modern minor road taking a diversion off the direct route before rejoining the old road. See aerial-photo and 1845 map. Further on, over the county boundary, he suggested the route swung to the north towards Hutton Roof village before swinging back to the north-west through Newbiggin and finally along Puddlemire Lane. The latter lane does look very like a Roman alignment and has often been suggested as part of a Roman road from York/Ilkley through the Aire Gap towards the Lake District.

Manchester Area.

Around Manchester, nearly all are now lost under development and tracing routes now is very conjectoral - see Manchester Roman Road map. Suffice it to say that the A56 to Stretford is close to the line of the road to Chester and the stretch in the county seems to have been set out from Gorse Hill (Old Trafford) where there is a change of alignment (see below on the significance of Gorse Hill). The A57 out through Denton would appear to be the line of road to Melandra Castle and beyond. It is so marked on the the latest OS maps and appears to be a case of a turnpike road being built over the Roman alignment. The road to Buxton via Stockport probably branched off near Ardwick and there is the interesting possiblility that it was on the same alignment as the road to Ribchester as the latter's first alignment to Affetside could have been set-out for the high ground of Hill, Heaton Moor see contour map . The A6 probably overlies much of it now.
The A62 through Failsworth is NOT on the line of the major road, Chester to York (via Castleshaw), but this is preserved in a series of minor roads, Briscoe Lane, Roman Road, The Street, Honeywell Lane (Oldham) etc just to the south of it. This straight alignment appears to have been set out from Gorse Hill all the way to beyond Oldham. The route out of Manchester to join it perhaps would have been close to Whitworth Street and Store Street. The proving of the route of this road is described in "Saddleworth Seven One Two", the number being the reference system used by I.D. Margary, see below. Recent excavations of this road have confirmed the route proposed by the 712 Group, including where they differed from the OS and Margary in the Saddleworth area.
The A6 north-west out of Manchester through Little Hulton and Westhoughton was considered by Watkin to be Roman. The first edition OS maps did mark it as such and there are several street and gate names along it but generally it is not now considered Roman.

The Manchester to Wigan road was proved by Sibson and Watkin and the route they found seems to be an example of excellent engineering being a series of straight alignments between high points on a fairly direct line to Wigan as the contour map reveals. From the Manchester fort it went south-west to Woden Ford (now Woden Street?), crossed Regent Road/Eccles New Road at a shallow angle and headed for the high ground at Hope Hall (near Hope School and Buile Hill Park). More definitely, on a slightly different alignment, it was recorded on first edition OS 6-inch maps from Hope Hall crossing Ellesmere Park to Chorlton Fold.
STOP PRESS July 2005 - The road has been found in remarkable condition, less than 1 foot below the surface about 23 feet wide and consisting of small stones with a double ditch on the south side, crossing Ellesmere Park.
The A577 at Dangerous Corner is taken to be the line, along Corner Lane and then along the first part of Atherton Road before it diverges away to the south side, lining in with where it was recorded crossing Amberswood Common. Wigan Archaeological Society, as part of Time Team's Big Dig 2003, excavated 3 trenches across the line and found the road and its side ditches where it crossed Walmesley Park.

This leaves the somewhat contentious road at Blackstone Edge, Littleborough. This paved road (with a puzzling centre channel) is probably not Roman following research by Maxim (1965) who claimed to have found a medieval pack-horse track passing UNDER part of this road and therefore older than it! A more recent article in the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit's Journal (Pearson et al., 1984/5) tended to agree with Maxim. It is now thought more likely the road was an early turnpike of c.1735. A little late to be Roman! The central trough is now interpreted as possibly being for cables working vehicles up the incline, evidence for this being a circular foundation block at the top and some documentary evidence in the 1734 Turnpike Act hinting at an "extra-ordinary" solution being adopted.


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