Thomas Codrington.

Roman roads in Britain online

. (page 1 of 28)
Online LibraryThomas CodringtonRoman roads in Britain → online text (page 1 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN



c < t < r c



ROMAN ROADS IN
BRITAIN



BY THE LATE

THOMAS CODRINGTON

M, INST.C. E., F. G S.



fFITH LARGE CHART OF THE ROMAN ROADS
AND SMALL MAPS IN THE TEXT



REPRINT OF THIRD EDITION



LONDON

SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING
CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1919



• r r

* ' .



11 'X/^i-r



Ci



First Edition^ 1903
Second Edition, Revised, 1905
Tliird Edition, Revised, 1918
„ ,, (.Reprint), 19 19



PREFACE

The following attempt to describe the Roman roads of
Britain originated in observations made in all parts of the
country as opportunities presented themselves to me from
time to time. On turning to other sources of information,
the curious fact appeared that for a century past the litera-
ture of the subject has been widely influenced by the
spurious Itinerary attributed to Richard of Cirencester.
Though that was long ago shown to be a forgery, statements
derived from it, and suppositions founded upon them, are
continually repeated, casting suspicion sometimes unde-
served on accounts which prove to be otherwise accurate.
A wide publicity, and some semblance of authority, have
been given to imaginary roads and stations by the new
Ordnance maps.

Those who early in the last century, under the influence
of the new Itinerary, traced the Roman roads, unfortunately
left but scanty accounts of the remains which came under
their notice, many of which have since been destroyed or
covered up in the making of modern roads; and with the
evidence now available few Roman roads can be traced
continuously. The gaps can often be filled with reasonable
certainty, but more often the precise course is doubtful,
and the entire course of some roads connecting known
stations of the Itinerary of Antonine can only be guessed
at. All vestiges may have been destroyed, but chance
discoveries show' that much may yet be learned from
remains buried beneath the soil.

The network of roads might easily be made more com-
plete, as a glance at the map will show ; but it seems best
,to refrain from conjecture as much as possible, and to
follow the roads only so far as there is evidence avail-
able for tracing them. Where routes of the Itinerary of
Antonine can be identified, the position of the stations will
be fixed by distances, or other evidence, and the dimensions



??4500



p**



VI



PREFACE



of camps and walled stations on the courses of the roads
will be given ; but no attempt will be made to describe the
remains of towns and stations.

To no one can the imperfection of this attempt to describe
the Roman roads of the country be more evident than it
is to myself. The materials available are incomplete, and
though I am indebted for information to many under whose
notice remains have come in recent years, it must happen
that, in so wide a field, vestiges known locally, and perhaps
described, have been overlooked.

My acknowledgments are due for the facilities for refer-
ence which have been afforded me in the library of the
Society of Antiquaries with the ready help of Mr. George
Clinch. My thanks are also due to the Rev. E. McClure for
his valuable advice, and especially to the Rev. George
Herbert for undertaking much troublesome work in looking
through the proofs, and aiding in the preparation of the
map.

T. C.



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

A SECOND edition, issued in 1905, was a reprint of the
first with an appendix containing some additional par-
ticulars which had come under my notice. These have now
been embodied in the text with others matters, which have
been since published, or have been courteously communicated
by correspondents, or are the result of my own observation.
Very few roads have been added. Claims of others to
be considered Roman roads have been made, and further
examination may strengthen these claims, but at present
they do not seem to me to be conclusive.

While fresh remains and traces of Roman roads have
been brought to light, some of those which were visible
fourteen years ago ma}^ be so no longer. I am unable to
verify how far that is the case, and it seems best to leave
the record of traces as it was in 1903.

T. C.

Twickenham, 1918.



vn



CONTENTS



CHAP.

I. INTRODUCTION .....

II. WATLING STREET .....

III. WATLING STREET — Continued

IV. ERMING STREET .....

V. ERMING STREET — continued

VI. EAST ANGLIA, IKNILD STREET, AND AKEMAN
STREET ......

VII. THE FOSS WAY .....

VIII. RIKNILD STREET .....

IX. ROMAN ROADS FROM LONDON TO SILCIIESTER AND
' THE SOUTH-WEST ....

X. ROMAN ROADS FROM SILCHESTER TO THE WEST

XI. CONCLUSION . . . ...

INDEX .......



PAGE
II

36

72

III

177

222

266
301

3-^3



IX



MAPS



PAGE

GENERAL MAP . . . . , In PoucJl



WATLING STREET, SOUTH . . . . . • 3^

WATLING STREET, NORTH . . . . . '73

ERMING STREET, SOUTH . . . . . -113

ERMING STREET, NORTH . . . . . . 147

EAST ANGLIA, IKNILD STREET AND AKEMAN STREET . 1 79

FOSS WAY ........ 205

RIKNILD STREET ....... 223

LONDON TO SILCHESTER AND THE SOUTH-WEST . . 237

SILCHESTER TO THE WEST . . ... . 267



ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

The roads constructed during the Roman occupation
do not appeal to the imagination hke such remains as the
Wall of Hadrian, or the ruins of an ancient city ; but when
the extent and the permanent nature and effect of them
are considered, they may claim a foremost place among
the remains of Roman work in the country. They were
part of the network of roads that covered the Roman world ;
for many centuries they continued to be the chief means
of communication within the island; and while some of
them are still to be seen in almost perfect condition, portions
of many more form part of the foundations of roads now
in use.

The course of the roads was evidently planned with skill,
and laid out with a complete grasp of the general features
of the country to be passed through ; the work of construc-
tion, however, was probably carried out under many
masters, and perhaps not at the same time.

The method of construction followed by the Roman
road-makers has unfortunately not been investigated with
any thoroughness in this country. What we do know of
it has generally been learned from sections made by chance,
and too often not carefully described, and in the absence
of ascertained facts writers have fallen back on the descrip-
tions of ancient authors, as given by Nicholas Bergier in
1622.^ Vitruvius, who wrote about the time of the Christian

^ Histoire des Grands Chemins de V Empire Romain, 1622.

II



12 ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN

era, is often cited as having described the manner in which
the Romans made their roads, but he was really describing
the making of pavements in connexion with architectural
works.^ Bergier states that as he found no ancient author
who had described clearly the interior parts of paved
Roman roads, he was led to go to descriptions of the manner
of constructing pavements in connexion with buildings,
and he opened Roman roads near Rheims to see how far
they corresponded with Vitruvius' description. He gives
the results, which show that neither the number of the
layers which he found, nor their order, agreed with this
description, or with each other. He however adopted
Vitruvius' names for the several layers, and this is the only
authority from which later writers give those names,
Stratum, Rndits, Nucleus, and Pavimcntum, to layers found
in Roman roads.

A quotation from the poet Statins^ (a.d. 81-96), with
the explanation given by Bergier, has often been made
use of since. It relates to the making of the Via Domitiana,
but Statins was more concerned with flattering Domitian
than with precise description, and he affords only a very
general and poetical sketch of marking out the road,
excavating the ground, and filling in other material to form
a bed for the pavement or other surface layer.

Palladio ^ (1570) gives an account of two methods of
making Roman roads in Italy. One is described as simply
a mound of sand or gravel raised somewhat in the middle ;
the description of the other seems to have been based on
remains of roads then existing, and a plan is given in illus-
tration. The road consisted of three divisions, the middle

1 De Architectuva, lib. vii. cap. i,
» 2 Silvarum, lib. iv. iii.

Hie primus labor inchoare sulcos,
Et rescindere limites; et alto
Egestu penitus cavare terras.
Mox haustas aliter rep] ere fossas,
Et summo gremium parare dorso ;
Ne nutent sola, ne maligna sedes,
Et pressis dubium cubile saxis.
Tunc umbonibus hinc et hinc coactis,
Et crebris iter alligare gomphis.

" I quaiiro lihri dell' Architectura, lib, iii, cap. iii.



INTRODUCTION 13

paved with flat stones of irregular shape, closely jointed;
and two sides somewhat lower separated from the middle
by stones set on edge. The sides, which were half the
width of the middle, were covered with sand and small
gravel. According to Palladio those on foot travelled on
the paved road, and horses on the side roads, and he does
not mention whe^ed traffic.

In France remains of Roman roads with a middle and
two side spaces have been found. Bergier unfortunately
tells us nothing about the transverse section of the roads
which he opened near Rheims, but Gautier, a century later,
describes ^ such roads, of which he had seen many remains.
The materials composing the middle portion of the road
were in a trench as much as three feet deep, from which the
earth had been taken to form the side roads. At the
bottom of the trench was a pavement of stones on edge,
five or six inches thick, and a little rounded, over which
was a bed two or three feet thick of stones of about the
size of eggs. The middle road was separated from the side
roads by flat stones set on edge, and appeared to have been
used by wheeled vehicles The side roads, which were
made much in the same manner, might, he thought, have
served for foot passengers and perhaps for horsemen, and
were wide enough to allow a horseman and a man on foot
to pass easily. No mention is made of a paved surface.

Of such roads there are still remains, which are called
Chaussees de Brunhaut, and the middle and side roads
seem to survive in the chaussees and accotements of modern
French roads. The evidences of similar roads in Britain
are few and doubtful.

It is evident from remains which have been described,
and others which still exist, that the Romans followed no
hard-and-fast rule, but made their roads according to the
situation and to the materials available, and perhaps in a
different manner at different times.

In Britain we find considerable variation in the Roman
method of construction. An embankment is a very usual
feature, and, constructed with the utmost care on a solid
foundation with suitable materials, it constitutes the ridge
of the road, which often remains almost unchanged by time
when man has not disturbed it.

^ Traits de la construction des Chemins, p. j, 1721.



14 • ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN

The height of the embankment or ridge was sometimes
considerable, not only where a low place had to be crossed,
but on high ground. Perhaps the most striking example
remaining is the embankment called Atchhng Ditch or
Dyke to the south-west of SaHsbury, which for four miles
runs across the high open down almost unchanged in
profile, five yards across the top and fiv^ to six feet high.
Another example may be seen between Doncaster and
Pontefract, where for several miles there is an embankment
four, six, and eight feet high, and six yards wide, on high
ground with a rock subsoil. In some places the Roman
road has been removed for the sake of the materials, so
that instead of a ridge, a wide shallow trench remains. In
other places the paved foundation is found a foot or more
below the level of the ground without a trace of the road
on the surface. This has arisen from the removal of the
upper part in the interests of cultivation, the portion
beyond the reach of the plough having been left; deeper
ploughing has caused this process to be repeated in recent
years. It is, however, difficult to suppose that the roads
were in all cases raised. On the Foss Way, between Bath
and Cirencester, where it is a wide, grass-grown, deserted
road on a high ooHtic plateau, there is, to the south of
Jackments Bottom, a ridge in the middle four to six feet
high ; but not much further south there are no traces of a
ridge for miles. The same thing is to be observed on the
deserted part of Watling Street north of Watford Gap,
where the green road shows no sign of a ridge for several
miles until low ground is crossed, and then the ridge appears
as much as five feet high, where it has not been removed
for the sake of the materials.

The width of the embankment appears to have varied
from six or seven feet, as at Radstock, to six or seven yards
south of Jackments Bottom, both of these places being on
the Foss Way. Deep trenches were commonly dug on
the sides of the road, the material from which, when suit-
able, went to raise the ridge, but in soft places it appears
to have been cast outwards. The side ditches can now
generally only be traced by digging, but they sometimes
remain, as on the chalk down between Vernditch Chase and
Woodyates. Where Roman roads have been modernized
the side ditches have become the natural receptacles of



INTRODUCTION 15

mud, etc., from the road surface, with which they are filled
up.

Perhaps in this country the surface of the roads was
more generally made of gravel or stone, sometimes grouted
with lime or coarse mortar, and of a considerable thickness.
Camden describes roads which in his time were of gravel, as in
the case of Kind Street between Middlewich and North wich,
made of gravel brought from a distance. The Sussex Stane
Street when it was cut through early in the last century,
in a situation where previous disturbance was unlikely,
was found to consist of " four and a half feet thick of flints
and other stones laid alternately and bedded in sand or
fine gravel." ^ The Roman road near Woodyates, between
Old Sarum and Dorchester, appears to have been of gravel.
The ridge on the chalk down is as much as six or seven feet
high, and where it is away from a modern road appears to
be in its original state. Where it has been cut through
for a drove-way, a coating of tertiary gravel two and a
half to three feet thick is exposed that must have been
brought four or five miles, and any material for a paving
was probably not to be got. Evidence of the same sort is
to be seen for several miles further on.

The original structure of Watling Street may be seen
near Kilsby, where no modem road has taken its place,
and a brook on one side has cut into it. The ridge across
the low ground close by is five feet high where it has not
been dug away, but there is little or no ridge where the
stream has made a section of the grass-grown road, and
there is a thickness of about a yard of gravel with a layer
of pebbles or cobbles at the base on a clayey subsoil.

The surface was certainly sometimes paved. Camden
describes the Kentish Stone Street as being paved with
stone. 2 Stukeley found part of Erming Street north of
Huntingdon still paved, 'and describes the paving of the
Foss Road south of Ilchester as consisting of the flat quarry
stone of the country, of a good breadth, laid edgeways,
and so close that it looked like the side of a wall fallen down,^
and the road remained much in its original state up to
the beginning of the last century. Near Radstock the

1 Manning's History of Surrey, vol. iii, p. xlv.

2 Britannia, vol. i. p. 321. (Gough's edition.)
^ Itinerarium Curiosum, p. 155.



i6 ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN

paving of the Foss Road still remains on the top of a hill
where it has been deserted. Stiikeley saw a paving for
several miles on the Foss near Willoughby-in-the-Wolds ^
— some of which still remains near Six Hills; and he
described Leeming Lane ^ on Erming Street as paved with
large coggles which were being taken away for building,
and they are still to be seen in adjacent walls and buildings.
The original paving of Watling Street has been discovered
of late years in Rochester, Stroud, Dartford, and in London.
Wade's causeway remains paved on the Yorkshire moors,
where the stones have not been removed for building fence
walls. Maiden Way still retains its paved surface on the
Cumberland Fells, and part of Dean road remains paved.

The destruction of the Roman roads for the sake of their
materials began long ago, as Camden, Stukeley, and others
testify, but their wholesale obliteration took place when
turnpike roads were constructed along them or near them,
in the latter part of the eighteenth, and the beginning of
the nineteenth century. It would appear that the more
usual plan was to use the materials of the old embankment
to make a wider road, the height being reduced to insignifi-
cance in the process, and in time still further reduced by
wear. Thus, the Sahsbury and Blandford road, where it
takes the line of the Roman road near Woodyates, is not
sensibly raised above the surface of the ground, while
beyond, in both directions, where it has not been destroyed
for the sake of the materials, the narrower embankment
of the Roman road remains five or six feet high. Some-
times the Roman embankment was widened, generally on
one side, and if it was reduced in height at all it was still
elevated considerably above the ground at the sides. This
is well seen along the Erming Street between Castleford and
Aberford.

The so-called milliaries afford very little infonnation
about the roads. With very few exceptions those that have
been preserved onl}^ bear inscriptions to emperors, and it
may be doubted if many can properly be called milestones.
They consisted of a short column on a square base, or of a
flat stone set upright, and their fate has been to be used
for garden-rollers, posts, grottoes, . gravestones, building,

^ Itinerariufyi Curiosuin, p. io6.
2 Iter Boreale, p. 72.



INTRODUCTION 17

and the like purposes. The inscriptions are nearly always
of too late a date to be evidence for that of the roads, and
the original position of the stones, which might sometimes
determine the course of a road, is often unknown.

Almost the only contemporary information of the Roman
roads of this country is furnished by the Itinerary of
Antonine (Itinerariiim Antonini Augusti). This work is
generally considered to date from the end of the second,
or the beginning of the third century ; it embraces the whole
Roman Empire, giving routes from one place to another,
and the total distances, with the names and distances apart
of intermediate stations. It was first printed in 15 12, and
not long after a part of it was brought to notice with
annotations by Talbot, and was afterwards printed by
Hearne in Leland's Itinerary. Camden's many references
to Antonine show that the Itinerary was well known to
him. Roger Gale in 1709 pubhshed at length that part
of it relating to Britain, with a commentary, in which,
taking Iter by Iter, he suggested localities for the stations,
and proposed emendations in the distances in the Itinerary
to suit those locaUties. Horsley in 1732 ^ followed Gale
in the text of the Itinerary as printed by him at length,
and also in most of his alterations of the numerals, and
added others of his own to suit his locahties. Unfortunately
in his essay, taking Iter by Iter, and localizing the stations,
he prints the numerals as if the proposed emendations
were of equal authority with the originals in the Itinerary.
Thus he prints " XIII. al. XVI. & XVIII.," " XX. al.
XXX.," " XVIII. al. XIII.," and so forth, and Gough, in
his edition of Camden's Britannia, prints the Itinerary
consecutively with Horsley's emendations in this manner.
Reynolds, in a commentary pubhshed in 1799, with far
less information or local knowledge than Gale or Horsley,
makes much more free with the distances to suit his locali-
ties, and then prints his version of the Itinerary, " with the
numerals in their corrected state, and in words to secure
them from alteration." It seems to have been considered
that the Itinerary had been so much corrupted by copyists
that any emendation that fitted a writer's speculations
was allowable.

In 1735 an edition of the Itinerary by Wesseling was

1 Britannia Romana.
B



i8 ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN

published.^ giving the result of a comparison of various
MSS., but without reference to the locaHties of the stations,
except that supposed sites are given in the notes. Another
edition by Parthey and Pinder was pubHshed at BerHn in
1848. These authors state that out of a large number of
codices they selected twenty for comparison. On compar-
ing the text of the Iter Britannianim thus arrived at with
that of Wesseling, and with that used by Gale and Horsley,
it is found that witH some variations of speUingj the
differences in the distances are few. Thus out of 176
distances in the Iter Britanniarum, there are 16 differences
between the text of Parthey and Pinder and that of Wessel-
ing, of which 10 are of one and two miles; 12 differences
between Parthey and Pinder's text and that used by Gale
and Horsley, of which seven are of one and two miles;
and eight differences between Wesseling's text and that
used by Gale and Horsley, of which four are of one and two
miles. There are no doubt errors in all three texts, but
there is no indication of such general corruption by copyists
as to warrant the alteration of the numerals to suit mere
guesses as to the sites of stations.

The Iter BrUanniarum is here given from Parthey and
Pinder's edition. It is prefaced by a statement of the
distance from Gessoriacum (Boulogne) to Portus Ritupis
(Richborough), which was apparently the place to which
the sea was generally crossed. At Gessoriacum an Iter of
Antonine ends which begins at Lugdunum (Lyons) and
communicated thence with Rome by a road over the
Cottian Alps. The Iter Britanniaram contains fifteen
Itinera, which are not numbered in the original, but they
have been so long known as Iter I. to Iter XV., that they
have been here so numbered. The word " Item " which
appears at the beginning of Iter II. and each succeeding
Iter is printed by Wesseling and others " Iter," and the
" mpm " before the numbers is printed by Wessehng M. p.
In the first entry of the Itinerary " milia plus minus " in
Parthey and Pinder's edition is printed at length, with a
note to the effect that " mpm " is so explained in several
codices. There can be no doubt that the figures signify
Roman miles (milia passttum), and they are conveniently
indicated by the abbreviation M. p.

^ Antonini Augusti Itinerarium. Amsterdam, 1735.



INTRODUCTION



19



ITINERARIUM ANTONINI AUGUSTI.
ITER BRITANNIARUM.

A Gessoriaco de Galliis Ritupis in portu Britanniarum.
Stadia numero CCCCL.





(Iter I.


)








A limite, id est a vallo, Praetorio usque mpm. clvi


A Bremenio Corstopitum


XX


Vindomora








viiii


Vinovia


. a








xviiii


Cataractoni










xxii


Isurium










xxiiii


Eburacum, leg. v


I victrix








xvii


Derventione










vii


Delgovicia .


.








xiii


Prsetorio .


> • <








xxv


^ (Total 156)


(Iter II.)


Item a vallo ad portum Ritupis . . mpm. cccclxxxi sic


A Blato Bulgio Castra exploratorum . . xii


Luguvallo .....




. xii


Voreda












. xiiii


Brovonacis .












xiii


Verteris












xiii


Lavatris












xiiii


Cataractone












xvi


Isurium












xxiiii


Eburacum .












. xvii


Calcaria












, viiii


Camboduno












XX


Mamucio .












xviii


Condate












. xviii


Deva, leg. xx vie


t










. XX


Bovio












X


Mediolano .












XX


Rutunio












. xii


Urioconio .












xi


Uxacona












xi


Pennocrucio












. xii


Etoceto












, xii


Manduesedo












xvi


Venonis












xii


Bannaventa












xvii


Lactodoro .












xii


Magiovinto












xvii



20



ROMAN ROADS IN BRITAIN



(Iter II.) — continued.



Durocobrivis










xii


Verolamio .










xii


Sulloniacis .










viiii


Londinio










xii


Noviomago










X


Vagniacis .










xviii


Durobrivis










viiii


Durolevo .










xiii


Duroverno










xii


Ad portum Ritupis








xii






(Total 501)



Online LibraryThomas CodringtonRoman roads in Britain → online text (page 1 of 28)