Lancs Roman Roads

The Roman Road from Manchester to Wigan

Margary Number: 702

Distance: 17 miles

This road was proved by Sibson and Watkin (ref: Watkin, 1883) 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 route map reveals. Watkin devotes much attention to this road as he was keen to prove Wigan was Coccium of the Antonine Itinerary, for which a road from Manchester would be essential.

Regent Road/Eccles New Road despite looking Roman does not represent the line but the Roman road crossed it at a shallow angle and headed for the high ground at Hope Hall (near Hope School and Buile Hill Park). From there the line to Wigan is very direct apart from a strange kink to the north at Cleworth Hall, Tyldesley.

 

 

Historic County: Lancashire

Current County: Greater Manchester

HER: Greater Manchester

 

routemap
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map


Roman Manchester Road Map

From the Manchester fort it would appear that the road for Wigan went south-west to Woden Ford (now Woden Street?) before it began its alignment on Wigan. This would appear to be the correct location for Woden Ford at Watkin does place it just downstream of the confluence or the rivers Irwell and Medlock. He remarks the course from this ford to Hope Hall is very direct.

For much of the route to Wigan we are reliant and Watkin and Sibson as the road has only been located in a few sporadic locations. These have however confirmed their route giving us confidence in what they recorded where proof no longer exists.

 

 

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manchester

Route Map - Manchester to Tyldesley

From Woden ford, Watkin/Sibson quote the road crossing Regent Road at a shallow angle and being found when the railway was being constructed. They locate the spot as between Derby Road and Langworthy Road bridges at the western end of Seedley Station. The station is long gone but the crossing point would have been about 150 metres west of Langworthy Road.

They continue this alignment to Hope Hall (near Hope School and Buile Hill Park). From here to Cleworth Hall we do have modern evidence to confirm the line - see next series of images.

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manchester-tyldesley amp

Lidar & Map - Wentworth School and Ellesmere Park Excavations

We are more definite ground now with two modern excavations finding the road. It was not precisely on the line shown on the OS First Edition maps but pretty close giving confidence in Watkin and Sibson assertions as to the course of the road.

The excavation at Ellesmere Park was part of the 2005 Time Team Big Dig - see next image.

The 2013 excavations at nearby Wentworth School were by the Centre for Applied Technology, University of Salford. Again the road was found very close to the OS line. Thanks are due to Norman Redhead for supplying the location map for their trenches.

 

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ellesmerepark

Ellesmere Park Excavation 2005

In July 2005 the road was found in remarkable condition crossing Ellesmere Park by an Ellesmere residents team led by John Rabbitt. It was less than 1 foot below the surface, about 23 feet wide and consisting of small stones with a double ditch on the south side.

Image: DR

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ellesmere-park

Ellesmere Park Excavation 2005

This shows the double ditches on the south side very clearly. Presumably at some time the ditch filled up - a likely common problem with all the Lancashire rain - and it had to be re-cut.

Image: DR

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ditches

Contour Map - Chorlton Fold

The alignment found at Wentworth School and Ellesmere Park doesn't quite align with the route across Worsley Golf Course so there must have been a slight dog-leg between these two sections. The contour map shows a clear hill and the road would likely climb the ridge to its top and then made the turn so we can be reasonably confident of the route here..

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contour map

Lidar Image & Route Map - Chorlton Fold to Worsley

Across Worsley Golf Course the road shows faintly but it is much more obvious west of the old railway crossing Broadoak Park. Wattkin recorded the road crossing the railway at the distance signal for Worsley Station - no GPS in his days and no railway in our days!

The old railway is a public footpath with parking available at the former Worsley station.

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broadoak

3D Oblique Lidar Image - Broadoak Park, Worsley

The Roman road is faint across the golf course but clearer beyond the old railway crossing Broadoak Park. The last visible stretch has a strange little kink to the left (south).

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broadoak

Worsley

Just west of Worsley (SD 743008) the agger with ditches was clear in 1984 but landscaping for a golf course has removed all traces. This is west of Worsley Church and across the road. Thanks to Patrick Maloney, Chairman of Wigan Archaeological Society for bringing this to my attention.

Image: Courtesy Patrick Maloney

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worsley

Lidar Image & Route Map - Worsley to Mosley Common

Across another golf course (Worsley Park) and again traces of our road are very faint.

North of the East Lancs Road then we do have a clear stretch of agger visible across Mosley Common. It is fainter after crossing Honksford Brook and there are perhaps a couple of indications either side of the old railway line - now a guided busway.

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mosleycommon

Lidar Image & Route Map - Cleworth Hall

The kink at Cleworth Hall is strange and a route cutting the corner is possible and is shown dotted. Too much mining activity hereabouts for Lidar to be much help in solving this little puzzle.

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cleworth

Route map - Tyldesley to Wigan

Basically two main alignments with a change of direction at Dangerous Corner.

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routemap wigan

Lidar Image & Route Map - Atherton

Nothing really visible on the Lidar imagery - land reclamation has taken its toll.

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atherton

Lidar Image & Route Map - Dangerous Corner

The A577 is clearly derived from the Roman line here but has drifted off over the centuries.

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dangerous corner

Dangerous Corner - Corner Lane A577

This is about the only piece of modern road that coincides with the Roman Line. The Roman alignment is shown lightly shaded on top of this Google Earth image.

 

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corner lane

Lidar Image & Route Map - Amberswood Common

Nothing has survived across Amberswood Common where it was recorded in Victorian times but in Walmesley Park a short length of the Roman agger is visible - red arrow. This is where Wigan Archaeological Society excavated it in 2003 - see later.

 

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amberswood

OS First Edition Map - Amberswood Common

The famous stretch across Amberswood Common that is sadly no more. Colliery workings have taken its toll and the former best surviving length of agger in Watkin's day has gone - well apart from the short length in Walmesley Park that is - see below.

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amberswood os

Walmesley Park

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

Image: DR

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walmesley park

Walmesley Park

Close-up a the section through the Roman road.

Image: DR

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walmesley park

Wigan

Again we are reliant on Watkin/Sibson for the route into Wigan centre with the Roman road making its final turn for the fort site near the canal.

 

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wigan

Contour Map - Wigan Fort

The Roman site at Wigan is now thought to have been a fort (ref: Miller & Aldridge below). It was located somewhere near the top of the hill in central Wigan. Barrack blocks (inside the fort) and a bath house (outside the fort) have been found in excavations and go some way to positioning the fort approximately. What is shown is therefore one of the possible solutions but it does fit the contour map logically. Note the contour map is compromised by the two shopping centres in Wigan - the two blank patches.

For full details of the excavations in Wigan - see Discovering Coccium - the Archaeology of Roman Wigan, by Ian Miller & Bill Aldridge, 2011, Oxford Archaeology (but please ignore their Roman Road map of Lancashire!)

 

 

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wigan contours

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Last update: April 2018

© David Ratledge