Lancs Roman Roads

The Roman Road from Wigan to Walton-le-Dale

Margary Number: 70c

Distance: 14.75 miles

This road is never far from the A49 which is clearly derived from it although with many diversions over the centuries. The Roman road from Wigan fort seems to initially head for Prospect Hill, Standish. Here it would regain the same alignment as the Roman road south of Wigan. This is a fairly common arrangement and the road layout at Ribchester is very similar. From Standish the route heads pretty directly for Leyland before a slight turn for Walton-le-Dale.

Note the route of this road was "officially" assumed for many years to have gone via Meanygate at Lostock Hall, i.e. about one mile further east than that showjn here. The route via Leyland-Stanifield Lane-Todd Lane was first posulated on these page 20 years ago and with the 2018 excavation at Stanifield Lane this has been confirmed as correct.



Historic County: Lancashire

Current Counties: Greater Manchester & Lancashire

HER: Greater Manchester & Lancashire


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Wigan to Walton-le-Dale - Detail Route Map

The alignment from south of Wigan is shown dashed and is an extension of the southern approach to Wigan. This is purely a Roman setting-out line and there is no evidence for a road bypassing Wigan on this line.



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detail map

Contour Map - Wigan Fort

The Roman site at Wigan is now thought to have been a fort (ref: Miller & Aldridge). 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.

The road north to Walton-le-Dale has been located centrally to the fort and aligned with where Wigan Archeological Society located the road at Brimlow Farm (see later).



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wigan contours

3D Lidar view from above Wigan

The first alignment point for the road to Walton-le-Dale appears to have been on Prospect Hill at Standish. As we have seen above the exact location of the road at the Wigan end is somewhat subjective but it probably crosses Mesnes Park heading for Brimelow Farm and the high ground of Prospect Hill at Standish.



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Road excavation at Brimlow Farm

Wigan Archaeological Society have found the link road from Wigan to Standish near Brimelow Farm heading towards Prospect Hill, almost certainly to return to the main north-south alignment. Subsequent exacavations including those in 2018 have confirmed the road and its probable width of 10 metres. It was constructed of what appears to be river sorced pebbles/stones. As there is no big river in the vicinity it would mean they were transported a considerable distance.

Image courtesy of Bill Aldridge, WAS.

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Hic Bibi Lane - OS First Edition Map & Aerial Photograph c.1947

Having regained the north-south alignment in the vicinity of Prospect Hill, the road would have turned to the north.

North of Standish, Hic Bibi Lane is generally taken to be the line and would fit with that turn at Prospect Hill. Unfortunately the Hic Bibi area has been much devastated by mining. Note the stone cross indicating that is an ancient route.

The Hic Bibi Well is supposedly where Oliver Cromwell drank. Perhaps just folklore but again it indicates that this was the old road line here.

The field where Chorley Historical Society carried out two excavations is shown - see below.

No lidar for this stretch yet - so an aerial photograph from around 1947.


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Coppull Moor Lane Excavation

Chorley and District Historical and Archaeological Society carried out excavations in 1959 or 1963? and 1985 in the field just south of where Hic Bibi Lane reaches Coppull Moor Lane. The photo below is believed to be of the road at the north end of the field just south of Coppull Moor Lane.

A geophysical survey was carried out by Archaeological Services WYAS (Leeds) in 2011 on the same field where Chorley excavated the road but failed to detect the road.

Image copyright Chorley and District Historical and Archaeological Society

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Coppull Moor Lane Excavation - Cross Section

Chorley and District Historical and Archaeological Society's excavation (dated 1963) has a16 feet wide agger with ditches. Perhaps it was 1963 not 1959? This cross section is believed to be at the south end of the field but recorded details are somewhat vague on this.

Section copyright Chorley and District Historical and Archaeological Society

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Route Map & Lidar Image - Row High Wood Coppull

Projecting the Hic Bibi alignment to the north of Coppull then Lidar has revealed probable traces across Row High Wood approaching Clancut Brook and perhaps a dogleg to cross the valley. This is a critical piece of evidence in extending the Hic Bibi alignment northwards.

Beyond here for the next 3 kilometres clues become scarce but as this last alignment appears to be aligned with the A49 at Euxton it probably safe to assume it did continue on a straight course. There is no obstacle or difficult ground to warrant a deviation.



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3D Lidar View - looking north from Pack Saddle Bridge

The Roman road therefore and the A49 probably coincide passing Euxton Park and Hall. Further on, where the A49 turns sharply to go under Pack Saddle Bridge, new Lidar evidence indicates that it almost certainly carried straight on (see Lidar image right). There are signs both before and after the railway but the clearest is just beyond the M6 motorway.



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Leyland-Farington - OS First Edition Map & Aerial Photo c.1947

All built over here now but a field boundary near Turpin Green and a straight old parish boundary heading to Farington probably marks the Roman road north of Tree Farm on Moss Lane. Note the stone cross site too. Tree Farm has long gone and our road probably goes through St. Ambrose Church, which was built on the site of the cross.

The Parish boundary has survived as the back boundary of the houses on the west side of St. Annes Road.



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Stanifield Lane - Rescue Excavation May 2018

This was the absolute confirmation that the Leyland-Stanifield Lane-Todd Lane was the correct route although it was pretty obvious well before this. Stanifield was always a clue - meaning of course stoney field and how true this turned out to be!

This rescue excavation at Cuerden Green, to the east of Stanifield Lane, was a result of the Lancashire Central development. Part way through the excavation the development collapsed due to Ikea pulling out and an application for an extension withdrawn. However, there was enough time to prove the road line - 25 metres to the east of Stanifield Lane. This lines in well with Stanifield Lane to the south and Todd Lane to the north.



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Stanifield Lane - Rescue Excavation 2018 - looking North

The road consisted of rammed gravel/pebbles but the big surprise was its width - up to 11 metres at its widest point. A ditch on its east side veered off the road line - see right - which was somewhat puzzling.

To the right of the 3 people in the picture was a roundhouse. This was very clear in the clay with an entrance facing the road. This would appear unlikely to be just a coincidence and perhaps represents a local entrepreneur setting up business alongside the road.

Image: DR


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looking n

Stanifield Lane - Rescue Excavation 2018

The east ditch was evident but the west ditch appeared to have been disturbed by later activity and was not as obvious. The cambered road edges were both clear however.

It was planned to cut a cross section through the road but the collapse of the development brought a hasty end to the excavation which was back-filled before this could take place. The foundation makeup of the road is therefore unknown.

Image: DR


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road edges

Stanifield Lane - Rescue Excavation 2018 - looking South

This was as far the excavation went before it was back-filled. The road was in remarkably good condition. The straight raised features over the road were unexcavated strips for access without walking on the surface. As the clay ground was baked hard during a dry spell this was perhaps unnecessary.

The excavation was carried out by Oxford Archaeology (North) based at Salford University under the direction of Ian Miller.

Image: DR



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Todd Lane - OS First Edition Map & Aerial Photo c.1947

Stanifield Lane alignment fits perfectly with Todd Lane. The latter wanders around today but old field field boundaries across two of the bends probably mark the original straight line. Todd Lane also has old crosses indicating some age. The alignment also fits well with that of the road found in the Walton-le-Dale excavations.



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Walton-le-Dale Excavation, 1996

This was the critical excavation that showed the accepted line (via Meanygate) was incorrect and the actual line must lie further west.

The excavation was in advance the the Capitol Centre Development and exposed the road. It had been re-surfaced many times in its (Roman0 existence. It can be seen pointing south in the direction of the new road - visible over the hedge.

It was this excavation that prompted the search for a more westerly route and this was first suggested on the forerunner of these web pages 20 years ago. The line suggested turned out to be correct - see next image.

Image courtesy of Bill Aldridge, Wigan AS. For Wigan Archaeology's newsletter covering the excavations - follow link

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walton excavation

Clues approaching Walton-le-Dale

Taken altogether then then there is sufficient proof to confident that this is indeed the course of the road heading for the Walton-le-Dale site. The High Gate name appears on the 1931 OS map but did someone know something? The Cuerden Green Excavation alongside Stanifield Lane in 2018 was the final proof - if proof were still needed.

The Walton-le-Dale Roman site is still very much a puzzle despite those rescue excavations in advance of the Capital Centre development. Clearly an important Roman site but no sign of an actual fort. It would be a logical location for one but the evidence points to a military supply base and workshops alongside a probable river port. This is likely about as far upstream as supply boats could practicably reach for Ribchester.



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walton south

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Last update: July 2018

© David Ratledge