Roman Roads in Lancashire - Page 3

Lancs Roman Roads

East-West Road via Ribchester

Ribchester to Kirkham (14.3 miles) - Margary 703

This road is well recorded on O.S. maps, at least from where it left the valley bottoms at Hothersall onwards to Kirkham. This general route to Kirkham deviates from a straight course presumably to serve the Walton-le-Dale site as well. Ben Edwards had suggested an alternative direct route via Preston Road in Grimsargh and Lightfoot Lane in Fulwood. However, the OS course has been confirmed by excavation (Red Scar) and by both aerial photography and now Lidar.


The road left the fort area (1990 excavations), in an approximately east-west direction, aligned with the existing lane to Parsonage Farm. The known route to Kirkham does not begin until Hothersall with a gap for the first 2 miles from the fort. Lidar has been able to fill most of this gap. Interestingly, two roads from Ribchester appear to converge onto this alignment.

Roman Road from Ribchester
Roman Road west of Ribchester - the new Lidar route. Click for larger view

The initial alignment of the road is marked by the existing lane to Parsonage Farm (SD6486 3506) which sits on a very prominent agger - much bigger than the modern track warrants. The Roman line diverges off this track at SD6468 3502 and Lidar shows faint traces of the agger as far as SD6441 3498, where the evidence becomes less obvious. There are two possible route here. If we continue the initial line forward then there are very clear traces beyond a modern landslip at Red Bank (SD6346 3492) but not much in between. However, Lidar does show some evidence for the southern option and this has been walked by my collegue Ian Milnes and on balance the southern route seems favourite. From Hothersall Hall westwards there is sufficient Lidar evidence to complete the course to the previously known stretch beginning at Hothersall top (SD6231 3474). This route is approximately 100 metres to the north of the current Hothersall Lane (SD6274 3474).

After Hothersall 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/was 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.

Roman Road Red Scar
Roman Road, Red Scar. Since this image was taken, the display board has disappeared and the weeds grown considerably higher!

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. From here to Kirkham there is little trace to be seen on the ground but at Lund Church (near Salwick) there is a Roman Altar, reputedly found under the road - map. This stretch of the road is labeled Dane's Pad on the OS 1845 map but this name is normally reserved for west of Kirkham. There is good grounds for believing the road to Kirkham was commonly known as Watling Street - not only on the basis the stretch in Fulwood but a field in Lea was also known as Wattelingstrete in a charter dated to 1285.

The fort at Kirkham was in the vicinity of Carr Hill near to the windmill. There is a theory that the River Dow could have been navigable in Roman times - see below.

Dowbridge Lidar
The approach to Dowbridge, Kirkham. Lidar confirms the OS First Edition map route. Note the turn to Dowbridge is not obvious in this image but is clear in other images. However, it has been destroyed by a recent development. Click to enlarge map.

Kirkham to the Wyre or Coast?
The Danes Pad

Probably the most debated road in Lancashire - the fabled Dane's Pad! Beyond Kirkham, the First Edition OS 6" & 25" maps showed a line, on a somewhat curving course, as far as Puddle House. The ultimate destination has often been claimed to be Portus Setantiorum listed by Ptolemy as located in the north-west. This "road" disappeared off most subsequent OS maps but made a reappearance on modern maps around 40 years ago.

Dane's pad
The route (in red) of the fabled Dane's Pad - from Westby Reservoir to Puddle House. In this relief and Lidar composite, low areas are coloured blue and higher ground brown. In Roman times the blue areas would be ones to avoid and yet the Danes Pad heads inexplicably towards Puddle House. Click to enlarge

The greatest protagonist for the Dane's Pad road was the Reverend Thornber (1837) and it was likely through his efforts that the first OS surveyors showed the road (ref. Ted Lightbown). Using the latest Lidar imagery what is revealed? In short, I could find nothing at all supporting this route. I have searched from Westby to Puddle House using different illumination directions for the Lidar - all to no avail. Bearing in mind that the road east of Kirkham does show up in Lidar then finding nothing at all west of Kirkham is very disappointing. Below is typical of what is (not) revealed where the alignment passes Great Plumpton. Here Margary reported seeing an agger but nothing supports that.

Gt Plumpton
The OS alignment near Great Plumpton.
Note the Lidar illumination angle has been set at right angles to the supposed line to maximise the shading effect - but still nothing shows!

What Lidar did reveal was the remains of the gravel embankment across the Main Dyke channel at Mythop (SD371350). This embankment was a huge feature in Thornber's day but gravel robbing has rendered it all but invisible today. It would appear that this embankment was probably the source of the Dane's Pad "road" - extensions in both directions were imagined by Thornber and his contemporaries creating a "Roman" road but currently there is no evidence to support this.

The location of the embankment across the Main Dyke known in Thornber's time. Lidar reveals a very faint surviving trace.
Note it doesn't reveal any evidence of a connecting Roman road.

The reappearance of the road west of Kirkham on modern maps appears to be down to rescue excavations on the route of the M55 Motorway carried out by Professor Barri Jones in 1973. The surviving report (not written by Jones) is very basic and has an erroneous grid reference but claimed to have found the road "30 metres west of the OS line". This would make it the only successful case where the road has been located by excavation. However, a possible explanation for what was found could be that, in this vicinity (SD378341), there was an old field boundary on the OS 6" First Edition, which had disappeared by the time of the 25" First Edition (c.1890). Perhaps it was this lost field boundary that was excavated? But I guess the speculation on the Dane's Pad and Portus Setantiorum will continue for many years to come!

Ribchester to Elslack (20 miles) - Margary 72

NEW VIDEO - 3D Lidar fly-over along the line of this road into Ribchester from Dinckley i.e. east to west.

This road linked the fort to York via Elslack and Ilkley. The direct line to Elslack (fort) is blocked by Pendle so a route skirting around it was devised. Lidar has revealed its route out of the valley bottom near Salesbury Hall.

aerial photo
The course of the road looking towards the east. The route out to the Ribble bridge site goes via Beech House - see Page 2. Click to enlarge.

On the east bank of the river towards Salesbury, the actual line is revealed by Lidar to be further south than the OS route and diverging from it. For conjecture on where the Roman bridge may have been then please see our page 2. East of Salesbury Hall, the Lidar agger is slightly further north than the OS line and fits well with where the road was found when a car park was constructed (SD6764 3560).

The next trace visible on an aerial photo is near Fencegate Farm. For the crossing of the Calder, near Whalley, the OS line is not quite correct - there is a slight dogleg. I was surprised to see the agger leading to the crossing had survived so well and it shows clearly on the Lidar imagery.

The alignment is now south of Clitheroe and is well marked by field boundaries and shows up well in the aerial photograph below

aerial photo
The course of the road passing Clitheroe Golf Course - looking east. Not the best quality image but the hedgerows marking the line show up well.

The alignment changes just west of Downham aiming more directly towards Elslack. The new alignment is the one shown below and is part of a local walk (Downham Circular) and is highly recommended.

Roman Agger above Downham looking east towards Elslack. The agger is disturbed but still very prominent

The section between Downham and Rimington is one of the finest in the County. The engineering is superb as it angles down to cross the valley of Ings Beck and the route shows up very clearly in the Lidar image below.

Downham Lidar
The superb section from Downham to Rimington. Click on image for larger version.

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). Hugh Toller, using Lidar imagery, has discovered a fortlet inside the north-east corner of the fort - see below. The fortlet has an entrance in the corner so is presumably not Roman(?) but later.

Elslack 3D
Click for larger view


Ribchester to Lancaster via , Beacon Fell, Oakenclough & Street (Margary 704)

Note this section of the web page has been kept for historical reasons. This road almost certainly does not exist
For the correct route see the
Ribchester to Catterall Road.

Undoubtedly there would have been a Roman road between these two important centres. The search for it has been going on for over 150 years. To quote Ben Edwards, the former County Archaeologist, "It was inevitable that, in the search for a Roman road between Ribchester and Lancaster, the existence of a farm and bridge called Street should be noticed and pressed into service as evidence". From the publication of the OS First Edition Maps (c. 1846) showing a "supposed Roman Road" heading over Longridge Fell in the direction of Beacon Fell and Street then all manner or routes have been postulated.

However, no hard evidence was ever found. As long ago as 1897, S Jackson (Secret. of Garstang Antiquarian Society) of Calder Vale, spent 10 years looking for the road without success. That search continued with various routes proposed either side of Beacon Fell but all going onwards via Street.

Ribchester to Lancaster
Relief map showing just some of the options that have been suggested over the years for getting as far as Stang Yule.
It turns out it went via the newly discovered green route - the Ribchester to Catterall road!

The B6243 indicates the line initially from Ribchester and there are traces of an agger slightly to the west of the modern road near Singleton House. It is straight to Pinfold Farm & Cottages. Here the OS First Edition of 1846 doglegs to the East and is marked up and over the fell as "Supposed Roman Road" and "Ancient Causeway". The evidence for the OS dogleg seems to be solely based on the "agger" at Ward Green (image below). In hindsight, on a recent visit it now begins to look more like a depression than an agger.

Ward Green, Nr Cross Keys
Feature at Ward Green, near former Cross Keys Pub. Is an agger or depression?

Lidar coverage goes as far as the crest of Longridge Fell, but whereas the green route has evidence there is nothing supporting the OS route. In addition, Margary very much doubted the OS route across the fell. He pointed out "these roads run slantwise" across steep slopes where as the OS route has a very steep drop off on the north-side of the fell. Note the "new" green route does exactly what Margary said - it runs slantwise to get up the fell side.

Lidar - Fleet Street
Lidar imagery around Ward Green. Evidence for the green route is clear (particularly at Stonelands) but evidence for the old OS route is non-existent.

So what was the evidence at Street - does it stand up? To quote Ben Edwards again " valid evidence has yet been produced for the existence of a Roman road or bridge at Street".

In summary:

  • Agger at Ward Green - possibly/probably not an agger.
  • Lidar evidence as far as Longridge Fell - no real support for the OS route.
  • Descent on the north side of Longrdge most unlikely - far too steep. Margary "these roads run slantwise".
  • No conclusive evidence forthcoming between Longridge Fell and Street despite 150 years of searches.
  • Street - "no valid evidence" - Ben Edwards

The discovery of the road from Ribchester to Catterall (for Lancaster) has rendered the need for this road obsolete. On balance it must be concluded that Margary 704 does not exist.


Lancaster to Over Burrow (Margary 705)

Distance: 21.25 miles

NEW VIDEO: For a fly-over along the this Roman road from Lancaster Fort as far as Caton Green click on the video below. For full screen then click on the icon bottom right.

The Lune Valley forts of Lancaster and Burrow-in-Lonsdale were obviously connected by a road but evidence on the ground for its route has been difficult to pin down until the recent arrival of Lidar. Much of its route can now be postulated with reasonable certainty.

Lancaster Burrow
Route of the road to Burrow - Click on map for larger version

Because of a milestone found at Artle Beck, Caton, the existence of this road was always deemed highly likely. Not only that, it placed strict limitations as to the route it must have taken from Lancaster, at least for its first stretch. The find spot appears to have been in the vicinity of Milestone Place. However, Andrew White place the find spot at SD53256427 at 245 yards upstream of bridge - this is somewhat further south than shown on the OS map - see (Modern map + OS 25" First Edition). 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, which is not the case. The important clue is that the milestone records the distance as 4 (Roman) miles - presumably from Lancaster. 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 to Caton must therefore have been very direct. Despite that milestone clue, a route via Quernmore Road had traditionally been assumed to be its probable course. However, this would invalidate the milestone distance being around a kilometre longer but traces of a road were found south of Caton (near Gresgarth Hall) in 1992 and the indications were of a South-West to North-East alignment (ref. Shotter & White). In the light of what has now been discovered, this is perhaps best explained as a branch road to the Quernmore kilns.

Parkside Lidar
The direct route over the Ridge and Parkside revealed by Lidar. Click for larger image

What Lidar has revealed most convincingly is the route to Caton and possibly through Brookhouse too. It does indeed follow a very direct route. Its initial route is marked by Crag Road before ascending via the Ridge and north of Old Parkside Farm.

Crag Road
The alignment leaving Crag Road heading over the Ridge towards Parkside

Although it took Lidar to reveal the rote, there are some traces visible on Google Earth aerial photography with probably the most obvious a parch mark across a field near Old Parkside Farm.

Oblique aerial photograph looking back towards Lancaster from over Old Parkside. The parch mark in the field is clear as well another trace further back.
Copyright Google Earth. Click on image for larger version.

Continuing on, it passes north of a OS triangulation column before turning southwards to angle down the slope - descending to just south of the new Pumping Station. There are a couple of apparent variations visible on the Lidar here so the exact descent is open to debate but the one shown below is perhaps favourite.

The faint traces of the descent from Parkside down to just south of a new pumping station. Escowbeck House is visible in the trees.
Click on image for full size.

It then follows a slightly different alignment south of Escowbeck House but beyond here, because of modern development, there is only sporadic evidence. Projecting the alignment from Escowbeck House to the east seems logical but it would mean crossing Artle Beck (close to Artle Bridge). which is 200 metres downstream of the milestone location. This seems somewhat unlikely. However, there is lidar evidence that the road turned slightly and passed very close to the find spot of the milestone. I had found this route before i learnt of the exact find spot of the milestone. There are some more traces supporting this line visible just east of St Paul's School (Lidar image). Which ever way the Roman road took through Brookhouse, it probably coincides with Caton Green road beyond the eastern edge of the village.

Caton map
Map of the route over the Ridge and Parkside. Click for larger view
Map of the route at Caton And Brookside. M marks the findspot of the milestone according to Andrew White. Click for larger view

Beyond Caton Green, there are visible indications of the agger east of Rose Bank at SD559660, just south of the the A683. It also shows clearly on the Lidar, either side of Rose Bank house.

East of Rose Bank
Beyond Rose Bank and easily visible from the A683, are the clear signs of the road. Click for full size

At Farleton, possible Lidar traces are evident between Claughton Bridge and Toll Cottage, where the modern road diverges off to the north side.

Approaching Melling, Lidar has revealed the road's possible course north of the modern road. This fits well with the evidence at Sockburn House (see below)

Melling Lidar

Beyond Melling, there are traces of an agger east of the A683 opposite Sockburn House (aerial-photo), which line-in with the final stretch to Burrow and Lidar imagery supports this.

Sockburn House

The last mile from Tunstall to Burrow coincides with the A683. Approaching the fort the A683 again seems to coincide with the Roman road and the layout here appears to been arranged to skirt around the corner of an annex (see below). The main north-south Roman road from Ribchester passes about 1 mile to the East of Burrow and Lidar has revealed the probable linking road(s) - see our Page 2 for details. Lidar has revealed not only the link road but what appears to a large vicus on the west side of the fort alongside a road leading to the river.

Over Burrow
The road system around Burrow Fort and the western annex . The link road to the Ribchester road is top right. Click for larger image.

There would probably have been a branch off the Lancaster to Burrow road to Bainbridge via Ingleton probably near Hornby (see below).

A possible watch tower for Burrow fort has been identified on Lidar imagery.

Possible Watchtower
Panorama from the west gate of Burrow Fort showing the location of the possible watch tower and its superb view up and down the Lune valley. This is the highest spot easily visible from the fort. Click on image for close up view.


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 (Margary 73)

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. Lidar has not turned up any evidence for this road.

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, or his representative, would have been met) and Wennington. This presumably refers to the minor road from Wennington to Ravens Close Wood known as Ravens Close Brow. So far no Lidar supporting evidence for this route has been spotted. At Wennington, the river Wenning would have to be crossed 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.


Lancaster - Lune Valley North Bank

A road on the north bank of the Lune from Lancaster would make sense and has been suggested before. Lidar has provided some evidence for a short section of just such a road at Oaken Head on Kirkby Lonsdale Road.

Oakenhead Lidar
The possible road is running vertically through the centre of this 3D Lidar view

The road can be surmised to extend a little bit further north east on the basis of field boudaries perhaps aa fars as Sidegarth Gate. However linking it up to Burrow Fort then Lidar has not shown any evidence. So if it is Roman then its destination is unknown.

Oaken Head Map


Over Burrow to the North-West (Margary 706)

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 very 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 have some Roman characteristics and has often been suggested as part of a Roman road from York/Ilkley through the Aire Gap towards the Lake District. But again Lidar has not turned up any evidence.



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Last update: January 2018

© David Ratledge