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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Roman Roads in Britain

by Thomas Codrington

published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
London, 1903

Text and maps are in the public domain.


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p174 Chapter V: Ermingº Street — continued.

(12) York to Catterick
(13) Catterick to Kirkby Thore
(14) Kirkby Thore to Brougham
(15) Brougham to Carlisle
(16) Comparison of Itinerary distances and mileage
(17) Carlisle to Netherby
(18) Scots Corner to Lanchester
(19) Lanchester to Chew Green
(20) Comparison of Itinerary distances and mileage
(21) The Devil's Causeway
(22) Chew Green to the Wall of Antonine

(12) York to Catterick

The main line of Ermingº Street from York northwards to Aldborough (Isurium), near Boroughbridge, seems to have branched from the Tadcaster road on the west of the Ouse, and to have taken much the same course as the modern road; but few traces remain of it for seven miles. A parish boundary then joins the road and runs along it for two miles, crossing the river Nidd, and then along a track in the same direction to the cross roads at Providence Green, where a wide hedgerow seems to represent the Roman road near its junction with the road north by St. Helen's Ford.

There appears to be no trace of a Roman road from York, on the east of the Ouse, crossing that river at Aldwark, as suggested by Drake.

From Providence Green the course of Ermingº Street is due north, with two slight turns, for a mile and a half along a wide modern road, and it is then joined by the modern York and Boroughbridge road, and turns 35° towards the west. Thence to Catterick, 29 miles, the general course of the road is so straight that no part of it is more than a mile away from a straight line. Beyond Little Ouseburn the road is embanked to a height of two or p175three feet on the lower side on sloping ground, and on both sides in hollows; further on the ridge is strongly marked, eight yards wide between fences 20 yards apart. Several parish boundaries run along the road. About two miles from Boroughbridge the present road diverges, and the line of the old road on to Aldborough (Isurium) may be traced across the fields to a lane leading towards the Roman station; on approaching which the Roman road turned towards the west, and entered at the middle of the east side. From the remains of walls, and other traces, Isurium appears to have measured about 430 yards from east to west, and extended from ground about 100 feet high on the south, for about 630 yards towards the river Ure. It was a rectangle somewhat wider on the south, and of irregular outline towards the north. The Roman road from the south-west, which has already (pp. 111, 112) been followed from Ilkley to beyond the river Nidd, cannot now be traced towards Aldborough; but in 1712 it was laid open in Roecliff common field, two miles from Aldborough, at two feet below the surface. It was 10 feet wide, and paved with stone.1

Northwards from Aldborough there are now no traces of Ermingº Street for more than two miles. It could be discovered at the end of the seventeenth century through the meadows, bearing the name of Brig-gates, half-a‑mile to the east of the present bridge.2 Drake mentions a tradition of a bridge, and that a beam p176of solid black oak had been taken out of the river not many years before.3 In a mile and three-quarters from the river a parish boundary takes up the line, and in half-a‑mile further Leeming Lane joins it, and for 13 miles is nowhere more than a quarter of a mile out of a straight line between Borough Hill, the highest part of Isurium, and Leeming. Parish boundaries follow the road nearly all the way to Healam Bridge, nine and a half miles. Stukeley4 describes Leeming Lane as straight and perfect from the turn to Ripon, and as "all composed of stone and paved with large cobbles which the neighbouring inhabitants take away to build withal, and pave their yards, etc." The road has been modernized, but the coggles are still to be seen in old buildings and walls adjacent. The course of the old road can be seen through Leeming to Leeming Wath, 130 yards west of the bridge, and continuing on the north of the river. Then there is a turn, and the road goes straight for five miles, parish boundaries following it for two miles, to within half-a‑mile from Catterick. The modern road then turns away from Ermingº Street, and the ridge of the old road is traceable on to a lane which continues the line to Cowsland Bridge about a quarter of a mile west of Catterick, and a footway continues the same straight line to Thornbrough. There on the south bank of the river Swale, about a quarter of a mile west of Catterick Bridge, are the remains of a walled camp, about 240 yards by 175 yards p178square, the Roman Station Cataracto. The north bank of the river is about 50 feet lower than the camp, and the river may have been, for defence, held up by a weir which gave the name to the station. The road passes on the east of the station.

From Cataracto there is a turn in the general course of the road towards the north. After crossing the river Swale a line of hedgerows marks the course of the railway, north of which a short piece of the ridge is to be seen along a hedge. About a quarter of a mile north of the railway the modern road joins the course of the old road, which continues in the same straight line between Thornbrough and a point (488′) one-eighth of a mile north of Scots Corner. The road, here called Watling Street and High Street, is followed for a mile and three-quarters by parish boundaries. For half-a‑mile it is narrowed by encroachments, first on the west and then on the east, so that the straightness is lost.

(13) Catterick to Kirkby Thore

Near Scots Corner the Roman road to Carlisle branches off to the north-westward. It will be convenient to follow this road before continuing northwards along the road from which it appears to spring.

According to Horsley, the road to Carlisle branched off at Cataracto, not far from which, he says, both branches were very conspicuous. The branching point, however, appears to have been four miles further north, near Scots Corner, where Warburton saw it, and from which point traces were lately visible branching off at an angle of 53° in a line p179with the present Carlisle road. The latter, followed for three-quarters of a mile by a parish boundary, runs straight for six miles to the west side of Hutton Moor (538′), parish boundaries following it for two miles. In Horsley's time the road was very conspicuous on Gatherley Moor, and generally all the way to Greta Bridge, and the ridge still carries the modern road. Towards Scots Corner the bank is now eight yards wide, having probably been widened, and is as much as five feet high in places, and beyond Melsonby Bank, where the width between the fences is 20 to 22 yards, the ridge is seven yards wide and three or four feet high, with a metalled road now four yards wide in the middle. With slight windings, and followed by parish boundaries, the same direction is preserved to Greta Bridge, where the Roman road passes through a camp (183 yards by 133 yards) on the north of the modern road, between the Greta and Tutta Beck. At Rokeby Park there is a bend, and a straight road by Street Side for two and a half miles to Gallows Hill (800′), and then a turn to Bowes Cross (950′) and on to Bowes with a slightly winding course. The station Lavatrae is on the south side of the Roman road, on the cliff over the river Greta. It measures about 140 yards square, and the ruins of Bowes Castle stand in the north corner. West of Bowes the road lies along the side of the moor on the north of the river Greta and of the railway, 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea. At Rey Cross, near the Yorkshire boundary, it passes through the remains of a camp measuring about 200 yards in each p180direction, and continuing on, while the modern road bends to the south, in about two miles it reaches another camp about 100 yards square. Then the modern road rejoins the Roman road and continues along the south of Stainmoor to Brough. The Roman station Verterae is represented by a rectangular camp (157 yards by 113 yards) on the south-east side of Swindale beck below the confluence of the Augill beck. The ruins of Brough Castle occupy the north end of the camp. In about two miles the road ascends a hill in a straight line pointing back to Verterae, and with a slight turn goes on to Coupland Beck Bridge. The modern road to Appleby there turns off, and the line of the Roman road follows a footpath straight on to a wide lane, partly grass-grown, called High Street, and continues in the same direction to beyond Kirkby Thore, passing just north of Appleby railway-station. The course of the road was not long ago plain for the whole way on to Kirkby Thore, but for some distance railways now cross it and run along it. The modern road rejoins it about a mile from Kirkby Thore, after passing the remains of a camp near Crackenthorpe,5 about 320 yards square. At the station the railway again crosses the old road, the line of which is preserved by parish boundaries along it for three and a half miles from Appleby to Kirkby Thore.

Kirkby Thore was no doubt Brovonacae of Iter II, 13 M.P. from Verterae. The station was on the north p181bank of Troutbeck, a tributary of the river Eden, and on the west of Kirkby Thore, and the site bears the name Burwens. Roman remains have been found to some extent, and quite lately coins in the Troutbeck near the Roman road, which is said to have crossed it by a bridge.6

Maiden Way

From Kirkby Thore a Roman road called Maiden Way branched off northwards, but there is nothing now to be seen of it for upwards of a mile. In 1845 it was visible on the brow of the hill above Hall Grange, and it is shown there on the Ordnance maps. The course onwards is over Newbiggin Moor, crossing Milburn Brook near the cornº mill, and on between Kirkland and Crossfell, ascending to Melmerby Fell by Argill. On the fell it is described, in 1845,7 as being 21 feet wide, and two, three, and four feet high, with a ditch on each side, and intersected by conduits, many of which were entire. At the sides the stones were two to three feet long, and one or two feet wide, and in the middle were smaller stones. Where the ground was wet there were thicker stones beneath, making the road 14 inches thick. After crossing Aglionby beck, the road passes over Gilderdale Forest to Gilderdale beck, near its confluence with the South Tyne, and in half-a‑mile reaches Whitley Castle, a lozenge-shaped camp about 200 yards by 130 yards. It then follows the left bank of the South Tyne, and is crossed twice by the railway to Alston. It is a parish boundary for p182one and three-quarters miles north of Glendue burn. It passes over Featherstone Common, and by Blenkinsop Castle, to the south of the Roman station a Carvoran (Magna), on the south of the Wall, where it joins at right angles the Roman road running east and west. Hutchinson8 describes the road in Northumberland in 1776 as being nearly six yards wide, bordered by large pebbles between which a pavement rose to the crown.

A Roman road branched near Whitley Castle to the Northumberland Watling Street near Corbridge. It crossed the South Tyne about a mile and a half north of Alston, and its course is now followed by a highway over Willyshaw Rigg, and a track onwards to the West Allen river, which it crossed on the south of Whitfield Hall. Highways follow the course on nearly all the way, crossing the East Allen a mile to the west of Catton, and passing a mile to the south of Hexham, and to the north of Dilston. On to the Tyne, it is shown on Maclauchlan's map of the Northumberland Watling Street. Warburton shows the whole road on his map of Northumberland (1716).

Maiden Way continued on north of the Wall from Ambloganna (198 yards by 145 yards) at Birdoswald, three miles to the west of Carvoran, and its course has been described at length by Rev. John Maughan.9 It is perfectly straight from the north gate of Ambloganna to Little Beacon Tower, which is visible upwards of four miles distant in a west-north‑westerly direction. p183It passes over Warterhead Fell, where it is raised, with a ditch on one side, and over Ash Fell, where it is 15 feet wide with an edging of stones. It continues on in the same straight line for nearly a mile beyond Little Beacon Tower, and then bends slightly to the top of Brown Knowe, where it turns sharply towards the north-east to high ground on the north of the Kirkbeck. On the south of this a road turned off to the station at Bewcastle, an irregular hexagonal earthwork about 200 yards across, on the north bank of the Kirkbeck, where many Roman remains have been found. At Brownhill the Maiden Way turns north-north‑west, aiming for Skelton Pike (1122′), five miles distant, which it avoids, passing round the west side of it, and crossing the river Kershope just west of Craigie Cleugh. It then mounts Tweeden Rigg, and turns more to the north-east to the top of a rigg on the north side of Tweeden Burn, where it again turns north-north‑west and crosses the river Liddel on the east of Liddel Castle. Wheel Causeway, seven miles to the north-east, has been thought to be a continuation, but there is no evidence that it is Roman. Where it is now to be seen, it is a grass-covered rounded ridge about a yard wide.

Stanegate

The Roman road, which is joined by the Maiden Way on the south of Carvoran, is not the military road which followed the Wall of Hadrian from end to end, and which here remains visible, but a road called Stanegate, which runs from the west of Carvoran to where the Wall crosses the North p184Tyne near Chesters. It has been compared to the string of a bow, and has been supposed to be a short cut from one part of the Wall to another. Stanegate is two miles from the Wall in the middle of the bow, and passes over difficult country, and the saving in distance by it, on the whole length of more than 16 miles, is not more than half-a‑mile. The course of Stanegate is shown by the survey of the Roman Wall made for the Duke of Northumberland by Mr. Maclauchlan and is described by him in the accompanying memoir.10 It has been thought to join the military road on the south of the Wall about two miles west of Carvoran, but this part of the course is obscure. From the south side of the camp of Magna (160 yards by 125 yards) at Carvoran it runs straight east for a mile, and here Horsley says it was very visible upon the moor in his time. It passes by a rectangular camp on the east of Haltwhistle Burn, west of which Maclauchlan saw traces of it; and to the north of the camp of Vindolana (154 yards by 88 yards), at Chesterholme, to the west of which Maclauchlan records distinct traces. On the east of Vindolana the present highway rolls the line as far as Newbrough, beyond which Horsley describes the Roman road as "very visible, pointing towards the river and Chesters," immediately to the east of which are the foundations of the Roman p185bridge over the North Tyne. Hodgson gives it much the same line in 1840,11 while Maclauchlan marks traces to the North Tyne a mile south of Chesters, and then turning northward along the west side of the river, but no traces of the road are now visible. There are evidences that it continued on the north of the Wall, past two Roman camps, to Bewclay, where the Devil's Causeway branches from the Northumberland Watling Street, and it is so shown on Horsley's map. It would seem that Stanegate was a connecting road between Maiden Way and the roads to the north of Bewclay, dating probably from the period between Agricola's advance to the Forth and Clyde (A.D. 80), and the building of the Wall by Hadrian (A.D. 121). This view derives support from the remains of the Roman bridge over the North Tyne. The bridge is plainly not parallel with the Wall: according to Maclauchlan it makes an angle of 20° with it towards the north-east, and it does not appear to be skew to the Wall in order that the river might be crossed at right angles. The foundation of the east abutment, which has been laid bar, shows the pier of a much narrower bridge embedded in it, and the earlier bridge to which that pier belonged must have had its abutment some 45 feet further east, under the Wall, which was continued on to the abutment of the later bridge, and terminated in a castle, the foundations of which adjoin the pier of the older bridge. It thus seems evident that the older bridge was there before the Wall was built, p186and that it was widened from about 10 feet to 20 feet in Roman times; and it seems probable that the widening was done when the Wall was being built, to accommodate the military road along the Wall. Immediately to the west of the river is Cilurnum at Chesters, 193 yards by 144 yards; the largest station on the Wall except Ambloganna at Birdoswald.

(14) Kirkby Thore to Brougham

The present Carlisle road from Kirkby Thore, following the course of the Roman road, continues on in nearly the same line to Temple Sowerby, and then turns north round Whinfell, and after crossing the Eden at Edenbridge, makes directly for Brocavum, now represented by the remains of a rectangular camp, about 134 yards by 133 yards, on the south side of the river Eamont, with the ruins of Brougham Castle close by. Until the turnpike road was made the Roman road between Stainmore and Brougham was very conspicuous, six yards broad, formed of three courses of large square stones, or of gravel and flint as materials varied.12

From Brocavum a Roman road went in a southerly direction towards Windermere. It is represented by a road which crosses the North-Western Railway at Yarnwarth, a mile and a half south of Penrith, and passes by Tirril and Winder Hall, over Swarth Fells (1832′), High Raise (2634′), and Kidsty Pike (2560′). It goes by the name of High Street, and is followed for four miles by parish boundaries. The pavement has been laid bare in several places at about a foot p187beneath the turf.13 It passes between Hayes Water and Blea Water (2663′), and descends by Hag Gill and Long Green Head to a camp at Low Borren, one mile south of Troutbeck Church, not far from the upper end of Windermere. The road is said to have gone on to Kendal, but it does not seem to be traceable.

Near Ambleside, about two and a half miles to the north-west, are the remains of Windermere and to the east of the confluence of the rivers Rothay and Brathay. Camden describes it as the carcase of an ancient city with great ruins of walls and paved roads leading to it, and Gough14 mentions large ruins of walls, of which little is now to be seen. The dimensions of the camp are 165 yards by 100 yards. Recent sewerage works along Borrans Road, from the camp towards Rothay Bridge revealed a "corduroy road" of oak trees laid on the surface of an old morass, covered with a layer of earth and stones five to seven inches thick, and four to five feet below the surface.15

There are traces of a Roman road westward from Ambleside. It is visible six miles to the west, where near Wrynose pass the road appears to have been cut out of the rock. It is marked on the Ordnance map along Wrynose Bottom, crossing the river Duddon three times, and then turning to the south-west p188along the right bank of the Duddon to Blackhall; but there seem to be no traces beyond in that direction. The track straight on westward from Cockley Beck Bridge is marked as a Roman road after an interval of about a mile. It passes a hundred yards to the south of Hard Knot Castle, a walled Roman camp about 130 yards square,16 and near the camp the road was described in 187717 as well paved for 150 yards, and two yards and a half wide. It winds down westward to the road which crosses the river Esk at Whahouse Bridge, and which probably follows the course of the Roman road on as far as the King of Prussia Inn, where the present road turns to the north-west. The course onwards is more uncertain. Dr. C. A. Parker, who has devoted considerable attention to the road, considers that it follows the old road along the south of Muncaster Park, where near Muncaster Head a piece of Roman paving remains, and so on to Ravenglass camp, overlooking the harbour formed by the mouth of the river Esk.

(15) Brougham to Carlisle

The Roman road from Brocavum to Carlisle, after passing the river Eamont, appears to have turned north-west, and the present road appears to join it about one mile north of Penrith, and to follow its course to Carlisle. Gale says, in 1767, that this road on the east of the river Petterill was very well known to be the Roman road. p189North of Plumpton Head a parish boundary follows it for five-eighths of a mile, and at Old Penrith, five and a half miles from Penrith, a rectangular camp, 170 yards by 116 yards, on the west of the road, appears to mark the site of the station Voreda of Iter II. After a turn towards the east to avoid the river Petterill at Wragmire Moss, the Roman road in about three miles entered Carlisle (Luguvalium) on the line of Botchergate. According to Ferguson there is a well-marked Roman road called Plumpton Low Street on the west of the river Petterill and the railway, parallel to that now described.

Carlisle to Papcastle, Egremont and Maryport

A Roman road left Carlisle in a south-westerly direction. Traces of this appear in a parish boundary for a quarter of a mile along the Cockermouth road immediately outside the city, and again for two miles along the straight road between Newby Cross and Nealhouse. From the Maryport and Carlisle railway the present road runs straight to Red Dial, immediately to the north of which, and one and a quarter miles south of Wigton, is the Roman camp known as Old Carlisle. Stukeley described it18 as a rectangular castrum 170 yards by 133 yards, from the north-east gate of which a road paved with coggles led to Carlisle, and another, paved in the same manner, ran north as far as he could see, that is, in the direction of Bowness. From Red Dial the Roman road follows the course of the present road almost in the same line straight for two and a quarter miles p190to near Percy Hill, and on by White Hall and Bothel, and from Threepland Gill Bridge, pointing for two and a half miles straight to the Roman station in a field called Burrnes, at Papcastle on the river Derwent near Cockermouth. The north side and portions of the east and west sides of the camp can still be traced, the former measuring about 226 yards, and the latter about 130 yards, as far as they extend.

A Roman road, continuing southward from Papcastle, is described in 181519 as taking a straight course from the south of Cockermouth by Street Gate, Lamplugh Cross, Frizington, and Cleator to Egremont. Towards Cockermouth it was six yards wide, and paved with cobbles and stone from the adjacent ground. Near Eaglesfield it was found in 1794 as a paved way, seven yards wide, a little below the surface, and in 1877, though the road had been plundered of its boulders about 20 years before, the foundation had lately been uncovered20 near Lamplugh. In Frizington Park the road was found seven yards wide about 18 inches below the surface, and it could be traced near Cleator.21

A survey of the Roman road from Papcastle to Maryport was made by Mr. F. L. B. Dykes.22 Leaving the camp at Papcastle, the course bends to the west along a lane and a fence, then takes a direct line p191across the fields to Dovenby, and then follows the road for two miles in the same line to the cross roads, beyond which it is traceable towards the river Ellen, through the grounds of Netherall, and on to the camp on the cliff to the north of Maryport. This appears to have been about 170 yards square.

According to R. S. Ferguson, a Roman road leading direct from Old Carlisle to Maryport was till lately distinct by Waverbridge and over Oughterside Moor.

The Roman Wall from the Tyne at Wallsend to the Solway at Bowness, with a military road on the south side of it, passed on the north of Luguvalium. According to Bishop Bennet23 a Roman road continued along the coast from Bowness to Maryport, being perfectly plain at Old Mawburgh (? Mawbray), and for two or three miles north of Allonby; and a Roman road has been supposed to continue on from Maryport along the coast to Moresby, two miles north of Whitehaven, and according to R. S. Ferguson, on to Ravenglass and Bootle, south of which it is known as High Street.

(16) Comparison of Itinerary distances and mileage

Iter V of Antonine follows the road from Lincoln to Carlisle, and Iter II passes over it in the reverse direction from Blatum Bulgium through Carlisle to York. Two other stations are named in the latter Iter, Brovonacae and Voreda, which the distances locate at Kirkby Thore and Old Penrith respectively, whilst Brocavum, mentioned in the former Iter, is omitted. Arranging the part of Iter V north of Lincoln with p192the distances in M.P., and the modern names with the distances in miles, they are as follows:

M.P. Statute Miles
Lindo Lincoln
Segeloci xiv Littleborough 14
Dano xxi Doncaster 21½
Legeolio xiv Castleford 17½
Eburaco xxi York 22½
Isubrigantum xvii Aldborough 17½
Cataractone xxiv Catterick Bridge 23½
Levatris xviii Bowes 20
Verteris xiv Brough 13
Brocavo xx Brougham 19
Luguvalio xxii Carlisle 20
M.P. 187 Miles 188½

Reversing Iter II from York and arranging it in the same manner:

M.P. Statute Miles
Eburacum York
Isurium xvii Aldborough 17½
Cataractone xxiv Catterick Bridge 23½
Lavatris xvi Bowes 20
Verteris xiv Brough 13
Vrovonacis xiii Kirkby Thore 12
Voreda xiii Old Penrith 13
Luguvallo xiv Carlisle 13
M.P. 111 Miles 112

It may be observed that Iter V makes the distance from Eburacum to LuguvaliumM.P. greater than Iter II.

(17) Carlisle to Netherby

On the north of Carlisle, after crossing the river Eden and passing through the Wall at Stanwix, where the churchyard occupies p193the site of the Roman station, the course of the Roman road appears to have been along a straight line about half-a‑mile east of the modern road; it is now followed by lanes and pieces of parish boundaries, for two and a half miles due north. The modern road then joins the line and follows it for two miles. The Roman road continued on by Longtown and Netherby, where Horsley placed Castra Exploratorum of Iter II. According to General Roy,24 it went on to a station called Liddel Moat at the junction of the Liddel and the Esk, and seems then to have directed its course towards Nether Woodhead, and along the east of Tarras water towards Teviotdale, and probably on to Eildon; but there are no traces of such a road.

Longtown to the Wall of Antonine

A road branched at Longtown almost at the last-mentioned road, which General Roy described in 1790 as being conspicuous, with vestiges to be seen for many miles together. It crossed the Esk near Longtown church, pointing towards Getna, and led to the camp at Birrens near Middlebie, where Horsley placed Blatum Bulgium. The camp is on the north bank of the river Mean, and is protected by a burn on the east. It measures about 173 yards from the south face on the river's bank to the inner rampart on the north, outside which there are six ditches, and 117 yards from east to west. The road crosses the river at the south-west angle and passes to the south of Birrenswork Hill, about two miles to the west, p194and traces are marked on the Ordnance map for three miles towards the Milk river at Droveford. It passed to the east of Lockerbie, and crossed the river Dryfe about half-a‑mile north of its confluence with the Annan. The road then branched, one branch continuing on in the same westerly direction across the river Annan, to the north of Lochmaben and by Amiesfield to Dalswinton. It turned up the east side of Nithsdale, where however no traces remain, to Durisdeer. Well path then marks the line of the Roman road over the pass to a road along the left bank of the Potrail water, and on to Elvanfoot, where, or at Crawford Castle, it reunited with the other branch. The latter turned off nearly at right angles, as if of later construction. It followed the east and then the west side of the Annan, and on the west of Moffat it is visible on the ridge between the Annan and the Evan, slightly raised above the surface, and traceable as the season advances by the lighter colour of the herbage. In trenches cut in 1892, the surface of the road was found to be slightly raised in the middle, of small stones four inches deep on a layer of larger stones 11 inches deep, laid in and upon a bed of clay. The width was 21 feet.25 The road is traceable on by a track to a Roman camp at Little Clyde on the north of the railway, a rectangle about 480 yards by 330 yards; and onwards to the main road about a mile south of Elvanfoot. From the north of Crawford it is supposed to cross Southwood Rig, and follow the east side of the railway to p195join the main road to Biggar near Causeway House. General Roy found no traces on to Biggar, except in crossing Biggar Moss, and onwards he gives the probable course as by Liberton and Carstairs House, to Castle Dykes, a camp 200 yards by 187 yards, which the road passes through. Further on by Kilnkadzow to the north of Carluke he says that the road was known all along by the name of Watling Street, that between West Calder and Glasgow traces were then lately to be seen, and that beyond Glasgow, towards Old Kirkpatrick, where it joined the Wall of Antonine, remains could then be discerned.

The Northumberland Watling Street

The Roman road northward from Catterick Bridge and through Durham and Northumberland was surveyed for the Duke of Northumberland by Mr. H. Maclauchlan.26 The maps, engraved on a scale of two inches to the mile, give more detailed and accurate information on matters connected with the road than the Ordnance survey, on which in the main they appear to have been based, and they are supplemented by a memoir on the part of the road in Durham and Northumberland. The road is called Watling Street, the name by which it is known in those counties.

(18) Scots Corner to Lanchester

At one-eighth of p196a mile north of Scots Corner, to which point the road has already been followed from Cataracto, there is a turn to the east for a quarter of a mile to a point (464′), from which the course of the present road is almost straight for 12 miles, pointing to Busselton Hill (700′), on the south of the river Gaunlees. The straight line is interrupted to pass round a small hill, Hang Bank (382′), on the east of Melsonby, the top of which is in the line and affords a view in both directions. Parish boundaries run along the road for five and a half miles to the river Tees, passing round Hang Bank. In Stukeley's time the great ridge of stone originally laid was not worn out.27 There is a slight twist in descending to the river Tees, on the north of which at Piercebridge are the remains of a camp (253 yards by 200 yards), on the west of the road. The course of Watling Street is then in a straight line for four miles to Legs Cross (660′), pointing to Busselton Hill. It is soon joined by the modern road, on both sides of which traces of it appear, and it continues on in nearly the same line for two and a half miles from Legs Cross to the river Gaunlees, east of Shildon Bridge. At Royal Oak the traces are evident for 150 yards on the west of the modern road, and thence continue on to the river. Parish boundaries follow the course of Watling Street continuously for upwards of three miles to the south side of the Gaunlees. Maclauchlan's map shows a Roman road joining Watling Street on the south side of the river, which is probably the road from Barnard Castle by p197Streatlam before-mentioned (p123). North of the river there is a turn towards the east and the modern road, on the site of the Roman road, goes straight through Bishop Auckland in a line from Busselton Hill to the station at Bincester. To follow that course now to Bincester would involve crossing a loop of the river Wear, and there has perhaps been an alteration of the river course since Roman times. On reaching the station, Vinovia, the road appears to have turned west and entered the south-east front and gone out by the north-east front of a camp (200 yards by 154 yards), on the brow of the east bank of the river Wear. In the 21 miles from Catterick to Bincester no part of the Roman road is half-a‑mile away from a straight line joining those points.

From Bincester onwards the course of the road is somewhat obscure; it appears to have crossed the river Wear soon after leaving the station, pointing north-west, and Maclauchlan says that it was visible on the north of the river until it entered a lane, and again where the lane quitted the line of the road, and on between Hunwick and Hunwick railway-station down to the brook, beyond which the raised bank remained on one side or the other of the road to Willington. At Willington burn the present road turns to the east, but Watling Street goes straight on and is visible on both sides of the burn. Here a Roman road turned off north-east by Hollin Hall; it was traced to Brancepeth Park, and was supposed by Horsley28 to have gone on to Chester-le‑Street. Watling Street p198passes over Brandon Hill (875′), and Maclauchlan describes it as nearly perfect on the hill half-a‑mile north of Brandon, and as traceable down to the river Deerness, on the south bank of which it turns 75° to the west. Beyond this there are but few traces of the road on to the camp at Lanchester (200 yards by 157 yards).

From Bincester to Lanchester there is an absence of that directness in the general course which is usual in Roman roads. On the south of the river Deerness it is pointing towards Chester-le‑Street, but there does not seem to be any evidence that the road continued on in that direction, though in a few miles there are evidences of a Roman road running north and south through Chester-le‑Street. The modern road is straight, and continues nearly straight in the same line northwards for four miles to Leybourne Hold, being no doubt on the line of the Roman road, which continues along a lane to Wrekenton, and thence straight on over Gateshead Fell for a mile and a half, and along the road to Gateshead and the river Tyne. The Roman bridge over the Tyne, Pons Aelii, occupied the site of the present low-level swing-bridge. The piers of it were incorporated in the medieval bridge, and the foundations of one of the piers were removed when the present bridge was built.

At Wrekenton a Roman road called Wrekendyke crossed from south-west to north-east. It is visible on the south-west of Wrekenton, and it is said to have been formerly traceable on in that direction to the north of Kibblesworth and beyond in the direction of Lanchester.29 p199To the north-east, the course is followed by a parish boundary for nearly a mile, and is then continued by Leam Lane, straight on for another three miles to Fell Gate, and on thence to the south side of Jarrow Slake, now Tyne Docks.

North of the Tyne the Roman road apparently followed the same course as the present road, straight over Town Moor, and on by South Gosforth, Stannington, and Morpeth, probably joining the Devil's Causeway, but nothing appears certain.

From Lanchester, Maclauchlan marks a road to the north-east, as the probable course of Wrekendyke.

(19) Lanchester to Chew Green

Watling Street, leaving Lanchester on the east, turns towards the north-west to Low and High Woodside, where there a few traces of it; and on to the west of the high ground on which Iveston stands. A road then takes up very nearly the same straight line, pointing from the high ground near Iveston, for two miles through Leadgate, and on nearly straight to the west of Ebchester (Vindomora), a camp 133 yards square, on the east side of the Derwent and on the north of a tributary burn. Watling Street curves down the burn to cross the Derwent and then turns more to the west, the line being taken up after three-quarters of a mile by a lane, straight for a mile to Whittonstall, and on with a very slight turn to a square camp on Castle Hill on the south of Stocksfield burn. There is a turn down to the burn, and after curving p200up the north side of it, Watling Street takes a new line and is soon left by the present road, the course being traceable until the latter rejoins it in a mile and a quarter. In three-quarters of a mile it seems to wind down into the Tyne valley. There are traces of it between the present road and the railway near Riding, and then the modern road seems to occupy the site of it for half-a‑mile, beyond which the ridge is visible on the south of the road. After being joined by the Roman road from Whitley Castle, Watling Street crossed the Tyne a quarter of a mile to the west of the present bridge at Corbridge by a bridge, some ruins of which remain.30 The station Corstopitum was at Corcester, on rising ground (149′), on the north of the Tyne, and was defended on the west and north by the Corburn, a small tributary of the Tyne. It was oval in shape, about 440 yards by 352 yards in diameter, and the foundations of the wall exist on the south side. There are evident traces of the ridge of Watling Street for half-a‑mile north of the Corburn, and then the same line is taken up by the present road pointing a little east of north to Stagshaw Bank, three-eighths of a mile south of the Roman Wall, where there is a camp and a slight turn to the west. At a quarter of a mile from the Wall there is another turn of 20° to the west, and from this point the road runs straight for one and a quarter miles to the side of a hill at Bewclay (700′), crossing the Wall obliquely, as if the laying out of the road had no reference to the Wall. There are traces of the ridge on the south p201of the Wall, and across Stagshaw common a township boundary runs along the straight modern road for a mile, the first instance of a boundary along the Roman road since the river Gaunlees was crossed.

On the south side of the Wall the military way, which followed the Wall from end to end, was no doubt communicated with. In Horsley's time it was very plain, but it was destroyed not long after to make General Wade's road from Newcastle to Carlisle, and there is now no trace of it until that road leaves the Wall near Sewingshields, beyond which it is evident for many miles. It is about a foot above the surface of the ground, six yards wide, paved, and bordered with larger stones.

On the north of the Wall a parish boundary follows the road for three-quarters of a mile, and on reaching Bewclay, a mile and a half from the Wall, the road divides into two branches, one with a turn towards the north-west, and the other called the Devil's Causeway taking a north-easterly direction. The former runs straight for four miles in the direction of high ground (532′) between Swinburn Castle and Colwell. The present road then leaves the course of the Roman road; and the ridge of the latter can be traced nearly down to the Swinburn, and up on the north side of the burn where the modern road rejoins it and follows it in a straight line for one and a half miles to Long Crag, and on in almost the same line for two and a quarter miles to a ridge (950′) near Hill Head. With a slight turn to the east another piece of straight road one and three-quarters miles long, followed by township p202boundaries, succeeds, passing Swinehills camp, 173 yards square, on the west. The modern road then turns off to the east to Redesdale, but Watling Street, marked by a track, and traces of the ridge, continues straight on for half-a‑mile, and then across the moor, pointing to High Leam, for two miles to the river Rede, on the east of which and on the north of a tributary burn at Risingham is a rectangular camp (180 yards by 157 yards), marking the site of Habitancum, as an inscription proves.

After crossing the river Redere there are traces of the Roman road in a more northerly direction straight to Woodhouse, where the present road joins and follows it for five miles in straight lengths of about a mile, except near Troughend, where for half-a‑mile it leaves Watling Street to the east. After passing Dargues Camp (308 yards by 263 yards), the modern road turns to the east at Blakehope to cross the river Rede, and the course of the Roman road, of which there are evident traces, continues on to cross the Rede higher up where there are said to be the remains of a Roman bridge. There are some traces of the ridge after the Rede is crossed, but the course is uncertain on to High Riechester, Bremenium, a square camp (133 yards by 133 yards), with the remains of masonry walls. Horsley31 describes the road, in 1732, as being visible for almost the whole way from Risingham.

From Bremenium a Roman road may be traced eastwards, winding over the fells and along valleys p203north of Greenwood Law and Dod Hill to the river Coquet at Holystone, and on by Sharperton in the direction of Whittingham to join the Devil's Causeway near Thrunton.

Watling Street, proceeding northwards, slants down to cross the Sills burn, and then goes in a straight line, pas a camp at Bellshields (572 yards by 374 yards) for three miles to Featherwood, where there is another camp (550 yards by 396 yards), and on over the fells (1200′ to 1400′), where a parish boundary follows the track for a mile. At Chew Green, on the Cheviots near the source of the river Coquet, there is a complication of camps. A camp, 330 yards square, is overlapped by another camp, 330 yards by 200 yards, and encloses three smaller camps, one of which, about 110 yards square, is more strongly intrenched than the others. The name Ad fines, from the Itinerary of Richard, was given to the camps at Chew Green by the authors of the commentary on that fabrication, and it has unfortunately been perpetuated on the Ordnance maps.

Maclauchlan describes the road as visible for nearly the whole way from Riechester over the moors, where the side ditches are fully eight feet wide in most places, forming a total width of nearly 50 feet. Towards the Border the road is not so plain.

It is to be noticed that from the Wall northwards the road is more generally laid out in straight lengths than it is from the river Wear to the Tyne; though the country is wilder, it was perhaps in Roman times more open in the northern part. p204

(20) Comparison of Itinerary distances and mileage

Iter I of Antonine passes over the road from Bremenium to Cataracto. Reversing the Iter with the distances in M.P., and arranging it parallel columns with the modern names and distances in miles, they appear as follows:

M.P. Statute Miles
Cataractoni Catterick Bridge
Vinovia xxii Bincester 21
Vindomora xix Ebchester 18
Corstopito ix Corbridge
Bremenio xx Riechester 24
M.P. 70 Miles 72½

The distances agree with the sites usually given for the stations except for the last, which would rather place Bremenium at the large camp at Dargues, but it has been placed at Riechester on the evidence there in which Bremenium is mentioned.32

(21) The Devil's Causeway

The Roman road, branching off at Bewclay about one and a half miles north of the Wall, called the Devil's Causeway, was also surveyed by Mr. Maclauchlan for the Duke of Northumberland.33 The first trace of it is at Cob Causeway, two and a quarter miles from Bewclay, beyond which it appears for a mile. The track p205for three miles near Tongues is in a line with Chickmire Hill, and near Ferney Chesters a parish boundary follows it for half-a‑mile, and the course is straight on for four and a half miles to near the Hart, a quarter of a mile west of Hartburn. It is plain for one and a half miles south of the Wansbeck, and can be traced on the high ground between the North British Railway and the Hart.34 It winds down and up the Hart valley, on the north of which there is a slight turn to the east, and the course along Harpath Lane points for three and a half miles to High Trewitley, and there are traces here and there all along. The road then turns nearly due north, and the track is visible for three-quarters of a mile, and then for a quarter of a mile, and then for a quarter of a mile, on to near Todburn (482′). The river Coquet is crossed at Todstead ford, and then there is a turn towards the west, and the course is directed to high ground west of Edlingham seven miles off. A lane takes up the line north of the Coquet to Long Framlington, and after an interval of one mile, a road follows it for one mile north of the Besom Inn. Then the straight line is quitted for nearly two miles, the old road turning to the north-west over Framlington Moor, where it is traceable.35 It appears to rejoin the straight line near the burn three-quarters of a mile south of Edlingham; and near Thrunton, one and a half miles north of Edlingham, where the Devil's Causeway can be traced, the Roman road from High Riechester joins it. Beyond, a p206straight line can be traced to the river Breamish, crossing the river Aln close to the Alnwick and Coldstream railway. There is then a turn more to the north, and a straight line continues on for eight miles to the river Till, near Fowberry Tower, and on to Horton, following the line of the railway as far as Wooperton Station; roads, lanes, and tracks indicating the course nearly all the way to the Till. This straight line appears to point southwards to Glanton Pike. There are traces of the road on the north of the Till, and at Horton a lane takes up the line for five miles to Lowick, with parish boundaries along it for two miles. From Lowick the course can be traced pointing straight to Berwick Castle nine miles off. Maclauchlan considered that on nearing the Tweed the road turned to the north-east to a ford half-a‑mile below Berwick Bridge. General Roy thought that it crossed the Tweed near West Ord, but he found no traces in Berwickshire, or beyond.36

Warburton shows this road with considerable accuracy in his map of Northumberland (1716). He describes it in a note as 22 feet in breadth, and paved with stone. It is between 50 and 60 miles long, and no part of it appears to be mentioned in the Itinerary of Antonine.

(22) Chew Green to the Wall of Antonine

Beyond Chew Green the Roman road keeps on the crest of the Cheviot Hills for two miles, and then descends by the pass of Woden Law. It crosses the Kalewater at Towford, where there are remains p207of a camp, of which Roy gives a plan, about 583 yards by 366 yards, having in the south-east corner a camp of stronger profile, 330 yards by 166 yards. The road onwards is somewhat winding to keep on high ground; it is followed by a parish boundary for four miles to the south of Shibden Hill, and then it turns to the north-west, pointing to the Eildon Hills 14 miles distant. It crosses the river Teviot near the confluence of the Jed, to which point it is again a parish boundary for three miles and a half. In about two miles the road appears again in the same line, bordered by trees for three miles, and followed by a parish boundary for a mile and a half, until the Ancrum road falls into it, and follows it for a mile and a half. On nearing the Eildon Hills it turns to the east of them, and remains were very distinct in 1803 where the road crossed the Bowden burn. A regular causeway was laid bare about the year 1820 in the Vale of Melrose; and in the same line, on the banks of the Tweed, the foundations of a bridge were described by Milne in 1743 as being very evident.37 After crossing the Tweed the course inclines to the west, and continues along the high ground between the Allan and Gala waters towards Soutra Hill. General Roy38 considered that the course then inclined more to the west, but he found no traces until the river Gore is crossed near Borthwick Castle. He supposed that the South Esk was crossed at Dalhousie, and the North Esk near p208Mavis bank, and that the road continued by Loanhead and under the east of the Pentland Hills, where there were vestiges a few years before 1790, and also traces on to Cramond on the bank of the Forth. From Cramond it is supposed to have passed by Queensferry and Abercorn to Carriden at the east end of the Wall of Antonine. Warburton, who rode over the road, found "the paving very entire and the stones large."39

From this point on the Forth, about seven miles west of Queensferry, the Wall of Antonine passed by Falkirk, and then on the south of the Bonie burn and the Kelvin river to Old Kirkpatrick on the Clyde. There are still remains of the wall, and at the end of the eighteenth century the military road behind it could be traced almost throughout the whole length.

At Camelon, to the west of Falkirk, a Roman road runs northward from the wall for about three-quarters of a mile to a double camp overlooking the river Carron. The ramparts of the northern rectangle enclose an area 177 yards by 163 yards, and those of the camp adjoining on the south, an area 180 yards from north to south and 203 to 228 yards from west to east. A Roman road continued on north-westwards. The supposed course is by Larbert Torwood, and traces are shown on the Ordnance map on the west of the Stirling road from near Bannockburn House to St. Ninian's. It passed to the west of Stirling, by a Roman camp of which some remains p209exist, and by Craigforth Causeway, which a parish boundary follows, to the Forth, and on to Dunblane.40 The straight road on to Greenloaning may be on the line for four miles, and a mile and a half further north is Ardoch Camp. The camp is rectangular, 180 yards from north to south, and 153 yards from east to west, measuring to the crest of the inner rampart, outside which there are five trenches on the east and north sides (perhaps post-Roman), and remains of larger camps on the north. The Roman road can be traced on the east side of the camp, and excavations recently made show that it consists of gravel, 26 feet wide. From Ardoch the road takes a north-north‑easterly course, and in two and a quarter miles passes Kaims, a Roman camp 27 yards by 23 yards inside the ramparts. The road is traceable in uncultivated lands by a slight ridge, and opposite Kaims it was found to consist of a pavement of rough stones covered with a layer of broken stone with a surface of gravel. About three and a half miles further on the road turns to the east, and in less than a quarter of a mile enters the camp at Strageath (160 yards by 140 yards), overlooking the river Earn. The road onwards branches off to the north between the turn and the camp, and after crossing the river takes an easterly course, followed by a road for nearly four miles, to Gask House, where it was found to be of rough stones closely laid together, and 20 feet in width. With a slight turn the road continues on for three miles to the north of Dupplin Loch, where it was found to p210be formed of great stones, and 24 feet wide.41 Maitland42 continues the road on over Tibbermoor to Bertha, at the confluence of the river Almond with the Tay, and up the east side of the Tay by Cambusmichael, in the direction of Coupar, near to the probable site of the battle of the Grampians (A.D. 84), the most northerly point of Agricola's advance. The evidences of Roman roads to the north of Perth appear to be inconclusive, although Roman camps, relics of Severus's expedition (A.D. 210), are met with further north than Aberdeen.

The Itinerary of Antonine extends no further than to Blatum Bulgium at Middlebie, and Bremenium at Riechester; the names of Roman stations more north than these are all derived from the forged Itinerary, in which there are Roman roads extending to the Murrayº Firth.


The Author's Notes:

1 Gale, quoted by Gough, Camden, III.300.

2 Gale, quoted by Gough.

3 Eboracum (1736), p25.

4 Iter Boreale, p72.

5 General Roy (Military Antiquities) gives a plan of it under the name of Kreiginthorp Camp.

6 Archaeologia Aeliana, 1845.

7 Bainbridge, Archaeologia Aeliana, vol. IV.

8 History of Northumberland.

9 Archaeological Journal, vol. XI p120.

10 Survey of the Roman Wall, etc., made by direction of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, K.G., by Henry Maclauchlan, 1857. This Survey and Memoir, and Bruce's Roman Wall, render any further description of the Wall and the works connected with it superfluous.

11 History of Northumberland, IV. p215.

12 Gough, Camden, III p403.

13 Nicholson's Romans in Westmoreland, p84.

14 Camden, III p407.

15 Pro. Soc. Ant., 2 S. XVIII p267.

16 Dymond, Cumb. and West. Antiq. Soc., vol. XII p390.

17 J. Dixon, Trans. Cumb. and West. Antiq. Soc., vol. III p358.

18 Iter Boreale, p54.

19 Lysons, vol. IV p. cxxxvii (note).

20 W. Dickenson, Trans. Cumb. and West. Antiq. Soc., vol. III p344.

21 T. Dixon, Trans. Cumb. and West. Antiq. Soc., vol. III p339.

22 Trans. Cumb. and West. Antiq. Soc., vol. I p169.

23 Lysons' Cumberland, p. cxxxv.

24 Military Antiquities, p104.

25 Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot. 1894, p314.

26 Map of Watling Street from the river Swale to the Scotch Border from a Survey made in the years 1850 and 1851, by direction of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, by Henry Maclauchlan.

27 Iter Boreale, p72.

28 Brit. Rom., p399.

29 Horsley's Britannia Romana, p451.

30 Maclauchlan.

31 Britannia Romana, vol. II p396.

32 Horsley, vol. I plate 192.

33 Map of the Eastern Branch of Watling Street from Bewclay to Berwick-on‑Tweed, together with a branch from High Rochester to Whittingham. From a survey made by direction of his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, in the years 1857‑9, by Henry Maclauchlan, with a Memoir.

34 Maclauchlan.

35 ibid.

36 Military Antiquities, p103.

37 Wilson, Prehistoric Scotland, vol. II p50.

38 loc. cit.

39 Letter to R. Gale, 1723.

40 Maitland's History of Scotland, p167.

41 Dr. Christison, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., XXXII‑XXXV.

42 History of Scotland


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