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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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Chapter VI: East Anglia, Iknild Street, and Akeman Street

(1) EAST ANGLIA: General Course
(2) London to Colchester
      (a) Chelmsford to the North
      (b) Stane Street
(3) Colchester to the South
(4) Colchester to the North
(5) Colchester to the North-east
(6) Peddars Way
(7) IKNILD STREET: General Course
(8) Lackford to Worstead Lodge
      (a) Haverhill to Cambridge and Godmanchester
      (b) Cambridge to Ely and Denver
      (c) The Roman Fen road
(9) Worstead Lodge to Chesterford, Dunstable, etc.
(10) AKEMAN STREET to Cirencester
      (a) Road south from Alchester to Dorchester
      (b) Road north from Alchester

p211 (1) EAST ANGLIA: General Course

In the greater part of this district the courses of the Roman roads are very imperfectly known. The Roman road, from London to Colchester by Chelmsford, and that from Ermingº Street through Dunmow to Colchester, can be followed without difficulty, but north of that important Roman city there is an area in which few remains of Roman roads are known to exist, and where parish p212boundaries afford little help in tracing them, or in verifying the courses which have been suggested between supposed Roman stations. From Cambridge a road can be traced to within about 20 miles of Colchester, and then it is lost. Peddars Way is easily followed from the Norfolk coast near Hunstanton for 48 miles pointing to Colchester, and more doubtfully for another 14 miles in the same direction, and then there is little trace for the remaining 17 miles to Colchester. The course of the Roman road from Caister St. Edmunds, near Norwich, to Colchester is uncertain for the 12 or 13 miles south of the river Gipping; and very little is known of the roads to the east, which must have communicated with the Roman station on the coast near Dunwich, the site of which has been destroyed by the sea. The same may be said of the communications with the Roman stations on the Norfolk coast, Burgh Castle, and Castor; and in fact from Peddars Way eastward the Roman roads of Norfolk are almost unknown.

A like uncertainty prevails with respect to the stations in this part of the country named in the Itinerary of Antonine. In Iter V the localities of all the six stations between Colonia (Colchester) and Lindum (Lincoln) are undetermined, and the distance according to the Itinerary between those places is 204 M.P., while the actual distance is less than 140 miles by way of Cambridge and Godmanchester. In Iter IX the distance between Camolodunum (Colchester) and Venta Icinorum, generally placed at p214Caister, three miles south of Norwich, is 75 M.P. compared with 55 miles by the direct road, and the localities of the three intermediate stations are unknown. There is thus a good deal of scope for conjecture in the placing of these nine stations; and this has been freely exercised, and Roman roads, of which there is little or no evidence, have been supposed to connect the localities chosen for them and for other stations of more doubtful authenticity.

The rough map known as the Tabula Peutingeriana gives seven names in this part of England, of which six can without much doubt be identified with names in the Itinerary; and the stations marked Baromaci, Caunonio, and Camuloduno may be placed with some certainty at Chelmsford, Kelvedon and Colchester. The name not in the Itinerary, Ad taum, appears from the Tabula to be near the Suffolk coast, and from it, on a line drawn to Ad Ansam on the coast more to the south, are marked Sinomagi and Convetoni, supposed to be the same as Sitomago and Combretonio of Iter IX. Without throwing much light on their proper positions, the Tabula Peutingeriana gives no support to the sites often assigned to these stations.

(2) London to Colchester

The earlier Roman road to Colchester was probably a continuation of the road along the line of Oxford Street and Old Street, crossing Ermingº Street near Shoreditch Church, and on by Old Ford Road to the river Lea. From outside the east gate of the earlier Londinium, part of Fenchurch Street, Aldgate Street, Whitechapel High p215Street, and part of Whitechapel Road, point direct to Old Ford, near which the street called Roman Road perhaps continues the line to the river Lea. At Aldgate the road from the east gate of the earlier city was crossed by the wall of the enlarged Londinium. After crossing the river Lea at Old Ford, the road continued through Stratford and Great Ilford, and by Chadwell Street to Chadwell Heath (70′), where there is a change of direction towards Romford and the high ground (325′) above Warley. At Romford the present road curves round to the south, and is not straight until at Haroldwood Hall (105′), one and a half miles from Romford, a straight road on the line of the Roman road begins, and with a parish boundary along it for two miles, runs for four miles through Brook Street to the west side of Brentwood (300′). The modern road through Brentwood, and on to Mountnessing, is somewhat winding; but there a straight road begins pointing back to the high ground at Brentwood (300′), and continues for two and a half miles through Ingatestone. A winding road then begins, which a parish boundary follows for a mile down the hill to Margaretting, and again for half-a‑mile by Hylands. The course of the Roman road through Chelmsford was probably along Moulsham Street and Springfield Road, crossing the river at Old Bridge.

There is some reason for thinking that the Roman station Caesaromagus was near Widford on the south-west of Chelmsford.

Chelmsford to the North

A Roman road turned p216off to the north at Chelmsford, the course being along New Street and Bishop's Hall Road, and then along a footway which a parish boundary follows for a mile. The present road then continues in the same straight line through Broomfield to Little Waltham, where there is a turn towards the north-east and the road runs straight, except where streams are crossed, for four miles to high ground (240′) near Chatley, parish boundaries following it for a mile and a half, and for a quarter of a mile. The straight road, almost in the same line, continues on for eight miles, crossing Stane Street at Braintree, to Gosfield, with parish boundaries along it here and there. There is no trace of the road further; it perhaps joined a road from Colchester by Haverhill to Cambridge. In 17901 two pieces of the ridge of the latter road were very visible on the west of Ridgewell, eight miles north-west of Gosfield, and remains extended further in that direction; and from Streetley, four miles west-north‑west of Haverhill and nine miles from Ridgewell, it can be followed on to Cambridge. This road will be reverted to (p232).

Stane Street, which is crossed by the road from Chelmsford to Gosfield, branches eastwards from Ermingº Street near Braughing, and has already been noticed as far as Bishops Stortford, to the east of which it continues for eight miles, with country and parish boundaries along it, to Dunmow. After crossing the valley of the Chelmer, a straight road begins, which in two and a half miles is succeeded by another straight p217road almost in the same line for a mile and a half, parish boundaries following both. The road then winds, but parish boundaries follow it continuously for seven and a half miles through Braintree, on the east of which the ridge formerly appeared for a quarter of a mile or more2 to Bay Tree Farm. A piece of straight road then succeeds, two and a half miles long, and another length of straight road continues through Coggeshall to Marks Tey, where it joins the Roman road from London to Colchester.

On the north-east of Chelmsford the present Colchester road probably occupies the site of the Roman road through Hatfield Peverel and Witham, passing close to the east of Kelvedon, and on to Marks Tey, where Stane Street joins. The course continues along the present road to beyond Stanway Bridge, from which it has been traced on by Dr. Laver.3 It turns away from the modern road towards the south end of Lexden Heath, following a thick hedgebank for some distance, and then goes across the fields, where under 15 inches of soil remains of the road were found about 14 yards wide, consisting of about one foot of stones mixed with chalk or lime, and rammed. The original soil beneath had been removed. With a turn northward the road, of which remains were found in several places, ran straight to the Balkern gate of Colchester, crossing the present London road on the west of the hospital.

There is a complication of roads and earthworks p218near Lexden Heath which led Sir Richard Colt Hoare and the Rev. H. Jenkins to suppose that it was the site of Camolodunum, the British capital, while Colchester two miles to the east was Colonia, the Roman city.

The area enclosed by the Roman walls of Colchester, of which a good deal remain, is about 1000 yards from west to east, and 530 yards from north to south, the Balkern gate being near the middle of the west face.

(3) Colchester to the South

The course of the road from Colchester to the south, as described by Dr. Laver, agrees with that shown on Mr. Jenkins' map.4 It leaves by St. Botolph's Gate, from which a parish boundary follows the street alongside St. John's Abbey wall, and continues on in the same direction. The ridge is visible in the fields towards Monk Wike, the stackyard of which is on the line of the road. Further on, the ridge is two or three feet high, in line with the raised road on the east of Berechurch Hall, and along it is a right of way to the Roman river. There are traces in the road near Abberton Church, which is on the line of the road, and then the course is lost; but Dr. Laver conjectures that it went on by Peet Tye to the Strood, a causeway supposed to be of Roman origin, leading to Mersea.

By others it is thought that a road went south from Head Gate, by Head Street and Butt Road, alongside which on the west side there was a Roman cemetery. Parish boundaries give support to this view, following p219Head Street and Butt Road, and continuing south across the fields for a quarter of a mile at the south of the Cavalry Barracks. The line is taken up by the road on the west of Berechurch Hall, and is continued by a parish boundary for one and a quarter miles from Roman river to Layer Brook.

The Tabula Peutingeriana seems to show that Ad Ansam, mentioned in Iter IX of Antonine, was on the coast in this direction. Ansa appears to have the meaning preserved in the Italian Ansa, and the French Anse, namely a shallow bay such as may very likely have existed in Roman times near the mouth of the rivers Colne and Blackwater on the west and north of Mersea, now occupied by channels, fleets, and marshlands. It must be admitted that placing Ad Ansam here does not help to explain Iter IX.

(4) Colchester to the North

The road from Colchester to the north, according to Dr. Laver, did not follow the course of North Street, because the remains of a villa were found in the middle of that street. A parish boundary however follows the street northwards from the river for three-eighths of a mile to beyond the railway-station, and then follows the Bures Road. A road in continuation of North Street runs due north through Mile end, beyond which it is said that the agger formed a conspicuous object for three miles before Horkesley Heath was enclosed;5 and the road, bearing the name of Horkesley Causeway, goes on straight to Nayland. Dr. Laver traces the road northwards from Rye Gate, Colchester, across p220the river at Middle Mill Ford and so to Mile End. In the direction of Nayland there was probably a road communicating with Peddars Way through Woolpit, but no traces of it appear for 13 miles, beyond which to the north of Hitcham there are indications of a road due north.

(5) Colchester to the North-east

The Roman road from Colchester to the north-east appears to have left by the East Gate, turning off after crossing the Colne and following the course of the present Ipswich road to Straford St. Mary. The road, although not in a straight line, is followed by parish boundaries for more than half the distance, and for upwards of three miles continuously to the river Stour just above Stratford Bridge. The parish boundary runs straight on to the river where the present road turns to the east to the bridge, and on the north side of the river the course of the Roman road is to the west of the present road. From Stratford St. Mary a Roman road is supposed to have gone north to Hadleigh, and on to Woolpit, but there is no evidence of it on the map, except the name Stone Street north of Hadleigh, until the indications already referred to of a Roman road due north from Hitcham are reached.

To the north-east from Stratford St. Mary a parish boundary follows the present Ipswich road for a mile on the north of Capel St. Mary, and beyond that there is no trace by parish boundaries or otherwise for 10 miles; and then on the north of the river Gipping, there are indications of Roman roads in two directions, to the north-east and to the north.

p221 That to the north-east seems to be represented by a parish boundary in Shrubland Park, and by a highway between Coddenham and Pettaugh, which is straight for three miles, and then, when the road is no longer straight, is followed for a mile by a parish boundary. The present road continues on for four and a half miles in a straight line, except where the river is crossed at Earl Soham, and there is half-a‑mile of parish boundary along it near Cretingham Lodge. At Saxtead Green the present road turns off to Framlingham, but in two miles the same straight line as before is resumed by a lane with a parish boundary along it for five-eighths of a mile, and one and a quarter miles further on the present road takes up the same straight line for two miles. A portion presumably of this road is described by Suckling6 as existing in an extremely perfect state just to the north-west of the abbey grounds at Sibton, about two miles further on. The road is supposed to have led to the Roman station on the coast near Dunwich, from which a road is supposed to have gone to the north-west and to have crossed the Waveney near Harleston. This may be represented by highways in a straight line from Peasenhall by Ubbeston and Cratfield to Weybread.

A Roman road is said to have been distinctly traced from the heaths which surround Dunwich to Bury St. Edmunds.7 According to Gardner8 it went to Wenhaston p222and Blythford Bridge, where it parted, one branch going to Bungay, and the other to Bury St. Edmunds, called the King's Road or the King's Highway; and he mentions a grant in the ninth year of Henry VII of land near Bramfield, abutting northwards on the King's Highway leading from Dunwich to Bury St. Edmunds. There appears to be now no trace of it, and the maps afford no clue. There is little trace of the road towards Bungay for some miles, but north of Halesworth a straight length of road called Stone Street begins, and is followed by a parish boundary for a mile. The straight road continues for three miles, a parish boundary again following it for a quarter of a mile, and then there is a slight turn. About two and a half miles farther on the present road turns off to the north-west to Bungay, but the course of the Roman road appears to be straight on along the line of a parish boundary which runs in a direct line for a mile and three-quarters from near Mettingham Castle across the Waveney to Ditchingham railway-station. It is supposed to have continued on by Hedenham, Brooke, and Poringland, to Caister, with a branch from Woodton to Tasburgh.9

At Ditchington railway-station the parish boundary turns to the north-east over Broome Heath, and there is a bit of parish boundary beyond, perhaps indicating the road to Burgh St. Peter, the Roman fortress on the promontory formed by the bed of the river Waveney on the west of Lowestoft. Burgh Castle, the Roman fortress on the east of the marshes p223near the confluence of the Waveney and the Yare, seven miles further north, was probably approached from the east end of Oulton Broad, and by Flixton, and along the road followed by a parish boundary to Hopton, and on by Jew's Way. The Roman walls of Burgh Castle still remain on three sides, about nine feet thick, enclosing an area about 230 yards by 108 yards, on the edge of a low cliff.

The Roman road northward from the river Gipping towards Caister St. Edmunds has been found on the west of the Ipswich road, and was traced to an old ford across the river. The course appears to be followed by the present road, which runs in nearly a straight line for 10 miles, with parish boundaries along it near Stonham, and again for two and a half miles from Waltham Hall to Brockford Street. At Stoke Ash it curves towards the north-east, parish boundaries following it near Thornham, through Yaxley, near Goswold Hall, for a mile and a quarter on the south of the Waveney river at Scole Lodge, for a mile near Tivetshall, and for two and a quarter miles between that and Long Stratton. The road, called Pye Street on old maps, is in straight lengths from Yaxley as far as Upper Tasburgh, where there are remains of a rectangular camp, and where on no good authority Ad taum has been placed, a station of the Tabula Peutingeriana, but which would seem from it to have been near the coast. The present road crosses to the west side of the river Tas at Saxlingham Thorpe, and then points straight for two miles to the Roman camp at Caister St. Edmunds, with a p224parish boundary along it for a quarter of a mile. The camp, which is one and a half miles further north on the east bank of the river Tas, and not much above it, is a rectangle about 450 yards by 370 yards, with ruins of the walls remaining. It is generally supposed to mark the side of Venta Icinorum, though it is but 55 miles from Colchester by the road which has now been followed, compared with the Itinerary distance of 75 M.P.

(6) Peddars Way

The indications of a Roman road from the direction of Colchester towards Woolpit have been referred to as appearing on the north of Hitcham; and it has been mentioned (p220) that of a supposed road from Stratford St. Mary by Hadleigh to Woolpit there is little evidence until the same indications of a Roman road are reached. On the north of Hitcham, about 16 miles from Colchester, the present road turns towards Stowmarket, and Hitcham Street continues on, and then a lane pointing due north is followed for three-quarters of a mile by a parish boundary, which runs on across country for a mile to a highway, which it follows for a mile to Pay Street Green. At Clopton Green, a mile and a quarter further north, a lane takes up the same line for a mile, to within a mile of Woolpit, which has been supposed to be the site of a Roman station. About four miles north of Woolpit in the same direction is Stowlangloft, where Roman remains have been found, and three miles further is Stanton, on the west of which the most southerly trace of Peddars Way is shown on the old Ordnance map. This p225remarkable road can be traced hence for 45 miles to the north coast of Norfolk. It has been called British, but it has all the characteristics of Roman laying out, and is indeed the best preserved Roman road in East Anglia.

The old Ordnance map shows Peddars Way crossing the road from Honington to Barningham, one mile west of the latter place, and passing by Street Farm on the west of Coney Weston to the Little Ouse, from which a parish boundary continues in the same straight line for three miles to Brettenham Heath, crossing the river Thet four miles east of Thetford. Over Brettenham Heath Peddars Way appears as a green track through the ferns and gorse, five or six yards wide, and raised one or two feet above the adjoining ground. Wheel-ruts cut through the turf, but go no deeper, and the ferns on each side seem to mark out the width of the Roman gravel coating. On Roudham Heath, north of the Norwich railway, the ridge continues plain, worn narrower by the present cart-track, which is generally on one side or other of the ridge. A mile further, where the Swaffham railway approaches it, a line of old firs growing on the ridge renders it conspicuous, and further on the Way becomes a lane alongside the railway, which crosses it a little south of Wretham Station. It continues on in the same direction, with a parish boundary along it, to Galley Hill, Hockham Heath (156′), where there is a turn, and then, except for the five miles to be presently referred to, the remaining 33 miles of the course of the Way, wherever it can be traced, is almost absolutely p226straight. A lane and a parish boundary mark its course for nearly three miles to the Thetford and Watton road, and there is a parish boundary onwards in the same line for a mile through Merton Park. The same line is then lost, and a crooked lane to the west of it, with a parish boundary along it for two and a half miles, is called Peddars Way, of which no other trace appears for five miles. Hereabouts a road may have turned off communicating with Caister St. Edmunds, of which there are said to be traces near Saham, two miles from Peddars Way, and at Hethersett,10 five miles from Caster, which is 22 miles from Peddars Way. Near North Pickenham a green lane, and then a narrow metalled road between hedges, and towards the Swaffham and Dereham railway a green road 10 to 15 yards wide, take up the same line of Peddars Way, with parish boundaries all along. There is no trace through arable land on the north of the railway, but through the meadows south of Palgrave Hall the track is plain, the ridge and its foundation having been removed for the sake of the gravel, leaving a shallow hollow. It is traceable on the north of Palgrave Hall, and then for two miles to Castle Acre no trace appears. The line appears to be straight for the entrance on the south face of the Roman camp, a rectangle 300 yards by 170 yards, on the west of the Norman earthworks. The road which leaves Castle Acre, apparently from the north-east corner of the Roman camp, in the course of Peddars Way, is in the same line, showing apparently p227that the site of the Roman camp, which was the beginning of the vast earthworks afterwards thrown up, was determined by the course of Peddars Way.

On the north of Castle Acre Peddars Way is now a metalled road 20 feet between the fences, but in a mile or two it becomes a green lane, and then a cart-way alongside the fence of arable fields; and further on it is wide between the fences, but overgrown with gorse, leaving but a narrow track in the middle. Near Little Massingham the ridge is apparent for a short distance. From Massingham Heath the course continues straight for eight and a half miles, parish boundaries following it for the last six miles to beyond Fring. It is generally a green road overgrown with gorse in places, with the ridge remaining plain here and there, more particularly to the west of Houghton and on towards Fring. Lanes, footways, and parish boundaries continue the line on to Ringstead and, with a slight turn towards the east, to the shore of the Wash at Holme-next‑Sea, two miles east of Hunstanton, and four miles west of Brancaster, where there are remains of a Roman camp, which appears to have been a square of about 200 yards, and where Branodunum of the Notitia has been placed. In 1600 the walls remained 12 feet above the ground.

Peddars Way has been said to pass through neither town nor village, and it is true that from Ringstead southwards as far as it can be traced, about 45 miles, Castle Acre is the only village upon it, and those near it are but small. In this respect it resembles the Foss Way.

p228 Iter V and Iter IX of Antonine both pass through East Anglia, the first from London through Colchester and Lincoln to Carlisle, and the second from Venta Icinorum to London. Colonia in Iter V, and Camolodunum in Iter IX, both represent Colchester, the distance of which from London is 51 miles compared with 52 M.P. in each Iter. Caesaromagus becomes Chelmsford by distance from London and from Colchester, and Canonium by distance becomes Kelvedon. Durolitum, 16 M.P. from Caesaromagus and 15 M.P. from London, must according to distances be placed near Romford. Gale, to bring Durolitum to the river Lea, altered the numerals of the Iter to 26 M.P. and 5 M.P.

Beyond Colchester the course of Iter V as far as Lincoln is obscure, there being no station on it fixed with any certainty, and the distances in the Itinerary between Colonia and Lindum amount to 204 M.P., while a direct route by Cambridge and Godmanchester would not exceed 140 miles. The Itinerary distances from London to Colchester agree with the mileage, and for that part of the Iter from Lincoln to Carlisle the total distance and the distances apart of the nine intermediate stations between Lindum and Luguvalium all agree with the actual mileage. The total distance prefixed to the Iter also agrees with the sum of the intermediate distances, and the obscurity between Colchester and Lincoln must be attributed to ignorance of the course of the Iter between those places.

The course of Iter IX is also obscure beyond Colchester. By the direct road through Stratford St. p229Mary to Caister St. Edmunds the distance is 55 miles, compared with 75 M.P. between Camolodunum and Venta Icinorum, and it is quite uncertain where the intermediate stations mentioned in the Itinerary were.

(7) IKNILD STREET: General Course

It has already been said that roads bearing the name of Iknild Street or Way under various forms extend from the borders of Norfolk into Dorset, and as far as North Wilts there is a continuous line or lines of roads so designated. From its first appearance for some 10 miles, there is no trace of the Roman manner of setting out the course in straight lines, and then that manner of setting out is evident for 16 miles, and traces of the ridge appear in the modern road which now follows its course. From Worstead Lodge the road is straight for five and a half miles to Stump Cross, half-a‑mile from the Roman camp at Chesterford, and points straight to Strethal, two miles south of Chesterford camp. At Stump Cross, Iknild Street turns off at an angle of 50° from the straight road, and passing through Ickleton goes on to Royston and Baldock in a winding course not at all suggestive of Roman laying out, while from Strethall, indications of a Roman road are plain in one straight line for seven miles in the direction of the station near Braughing on Ermingº Street (p134).

Isknild Street continues on beyond Baldock without any characteristics of a Roman road, by Wilbury Hill north of Hitchin (where perhaps Ashwell Street, which branched off at Worstead Lodge, rejoins), passing p230Dunstable to Beacon Hill near Ivinghoe, where it again divides, the principal branch continuing on through Wendover and along the flank the Chiltern Hills under the name of Ickleton Road, crossing the Thames near Streatley, and going on along the edge of the chalk escarpment overlooking the vale of White Horse, where it now bears the name of Ickleton Street, and the Ridgeway.

It is to be remarked that after it leaves the straight Newmarket road at Stump Cross, Iknild Street through Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Bucks, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire bears but little likeness to a Roman road either in the laying out of the course or in construction. Dr. Guest considered it to be a British track; he observes11 that there are no ancient towns on its course, Royston and Dunstable, where Ermingº Street and Watling Street are crossed, dating from the twelfth century, and that there are no Roman remains on it, but British in abundance. Whatever may be the age of Royston, distances however prove that Dunstable represents the station Durocobrivae, on Watling Street. Dr. Plot observed,12 in 1705, that Iknild Street was "not cast up in a ridge bank or laid out by a deep trench." Bishop Bennet, who described a large part of its course early in the last century, observed the absence of straightness, and that it did not appear to have been ever paved or raised, and he endorsed the opinion that it was a British trackway. Where it has not been modernized it still p231remains a grass road or track, winding along the flanks of the chalk hills for most of its course, quite unlike a Roman road except between Newmarket and Chesterford, where it seems to have been reconstructed after the Roman manner; and for this 16 miles Iknild Street constitutes part of a Roman road from Ermingº Street near Braughing to Newmarket.

Iknild Street, although it generally has little claim to be considered Roman, is connected with several Roman roads besides those which have been referred to. One which comes from the direction of Colchester crosses it at Worstead Lodge and leads on to Cambridge, and from Cambridge other Roman roads radiate to the north-east, the west, and the south-west.

(8) Lackford to Worstead Lodge

The first certain traces of Iknild Way appear near Lackford, about 10 miles west of the most southern trace of Peddars Way, and 32 miles from Caister St. Edmunds, the supposed Venta Icinorum, but, according to Professor Babington, in 1882, it could be traced from near Thetford. A broad green lane bearing the name leads from Lackford to near Kentford, where it joins the road from Bury St. Edmunds to Newmarket. The latter road is followed by parish boundaries for more than half the distance from Kentford to Bury, and may represent a Roman road to the latter town, where Roman remains have been found. The county boundary runs along the road from Kentford to the north of Bury Hill, on the east of Newmarket, and after turning off to enclose an almost detached piece p232of Suffolk, continues on from Bury Hill in the same direction, passing through Newmarket, and along the London road nearly to Devil's Ditch. A deed, temp. Hen. III, mentions Iknild Way through Newmarket, and for six miles the course seems to be indicated by the county boundary. The present road continues on in the same line for three miles farther, but beyond that there is nothing to show that it follows the line of the old road until at Fleam Dyke a parish boundary joins it, and runs along a straight road for two miles to Worstead Lodge.

Haverhill to Cambridge and Godmanchester

At Worstead Lodge Iknild Way is crossed by a Roman road, the Via Devana of Dr. Mason already mentioned, which, coming from the south, now first appears near Streetley, four miles west-north‑west of Haverhill, though it was formerly traceable nine miles further in the direction of Colchester. From Streetley by Mark's Grave to Worstead Lodge it is a green lane with a ridge along the middle, and it continues on in a straight line for three miles to a point on the north-west of Gogmagog Hill (230′), three miles south-east of Cambridge, the ridge being prominent all the way. Near Worstead Lodge it is six yards wide, and quite five feet high; further on in lower ground it is not so marked, but on Gogmagog Hill it is six yards wide and four and five feet high, topped with pebble gravel. Where the green lane turns to the north to join the Fulbourne Road, the ridge can be traced straight on through arable land to the road at the top of the hill leading down to Red Cross. A parish p233boundary follows the ridge to this road, which is called Wort's Causeway, and continues along it down the hill. There is a turn of about 30° at the top of the hill, and the road points to Grantchester, to which a Roman road continued on, the course of which is described by Bishop Bennet.13 From Red Cross it descended into the fen and disappeared, but as the ground rises the road appeared in the old line going just north of Trumpington,a where in 1882 it was still to be traced as a raised bank.14 It followed an old lane down into Trumpington Fen nearly opposite Grantchester Church, and was found again on the west of the fen in the same course in an old lane which passes through Grantchester, where a rectangular camp (about 127 yards by 75 yards) adjoins the road. It followed a road on to Barton, where it fell into the Roman road leading from Cambridge to Ermingº Street.

At Red Cross the parish boundary which follows Wort's Causeway down the hill, turns 45° to the north along the road to Cambridge, and the present roads and streets in the town appear to be on the line of the Roman road to the Roman station on the north of the river Cam. It may be that the turn to the west at the top of the hill to Red Cross, and thence back again to the north-west, had no other object than to keep the road on the higher ground between Cherry Hinton and Trumpington Fen, but it is suggestive of a road across the Cam to p234Grantchester in the first place, before the station on the north of Cambridge was established.

In 1823, in making a swerve in Bridge Street, Cambridge, the pile-work of what was supposed to be a Roman causeway was found between the church of the Holy Sepulchre and Great Bridge. It consisted of wooden piles upon which rested squared beams, 14 feet below the present surface.

On the north of the Cam a good deal of the three sides of the Roman station may still be traced. Within it is Castle Hill, a mound of considerable height, probably of British origin, to which several Roman roads converge. That from Ermingº Street, passing through Barton, could be easily followed in Bishop Bennet's time in the fields at the back of the colleges until it fell into the road from Cambridge to Barton, which it again quitted, passing through Barton churchyard and rejoining the road again near Lord's Bridge, beyond which the ridge was to be seen in 1808, and on by Orwell to Ermingº Street.

The Roman road to Cambridge from Godmanchester points straight to Castle Hill for four and a half miles from near Lolworth Hedges, where there is a very slight change of direction to Fen Stanton, but for 10 miles there is hardly any deviation from a straight line. At Fen Stanton there is a turn more to the west, and then the road makes straight to Godmanchester on Ermingº Street. Parish boundaries follow the road for nearly all the way from Cambridge. Two milliaries from this road are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, apparently dating from A.D. 305 to 353. p235

Cambridge to Ely and Denver

Another road can be seen from Castle Hill radiating in the direction of Ely. It could be traced over the open fields in 1882 to a camp at King's Hedges, two miles from Cambridge (738 yards by 295 yards), the longer side bounded by the Roman road.15 A country lane, raised in some parts, called the Mereway, then takes up the line to Landbeach, beyond which, near the Ely road, the crest was plainly to be seen in the beginning of the last century, and it could lately be faintly traced. The Ely road follows it for two miles to Chittering, the same straight line having been preserved for seven and a half miles from Cambridge. There is then a turn, perhaps to an easy crossing of the river Ouse, and the road is supposed to have gone on through Stretham to Ely, and on through Littleport to Coldharbour Farm, where Bishop Bennet says it was visible in 1808, and then with a turn across the Little Ouse to Southery, and northwards to Denver.

The Fen Road

From Denver westward went the Roman Fen road which was described by Dugdale16 as "that long causey made of gravel of about three feet in thickness, and 60 feet broad (now covered with the moor in some places three and in others five feet thick), which extendeth itself from Denver (near Salter's Lode) over the great Wash to Charke; thence to March, Plantwater, and Eldernell, and so to Peterborough, in length about 24 miles." In 1853 this road was p236traceable across a plowed field on the west of Denver, and it was cut through in 1850 about a mile from Salter's Lode Sluice, near Denver; it was of gravel set very hard and upwards of three feet thick, very much barrelled, and the middle about three feet below the present surface.17 The course can be traced across the fens to the north of March and Westrey, and then again across the fens for four miles to Eldernell. It was plainly visible 20 or 30 years ago as a causeway three feet above the fen between March and Eldernell, and on the north of the road towards Whittlesey it was one or two feet above the surface of the land, and very hard, but the gravel ridge has since been removed. The line appears to be continued by a straight road for two and a half miles on the west of Whittlesey, pointing to Peterborough. According to Bishop Bennet it had been traced through Milton Park to Caistor. The length through the fens of this remarkable road is 11 miles between Denver and March, four miles between March and Eldernell, and one and a half miles between Whittlesey and Horsey. The purpose no doubt was to afford a direct communication between East Anglia and Ermingº Street and the west and north, and the shortest course from Downham Market (100′), jutting like a promontory into the fens, to Peterborough was skilfully chosen. It must be remembered that the fens were embanked by the Romans far to the north of this road, as the Roman bank on the north of Holbeach testifies. A careful p237examination appears to have shown that the causeway was carried over a very considerable thickness of peat on boughs and branches of trees.18

The course of the Fen road westward is doubtful; some traces of it to the north-east of Denver were seen in 1853.19 It may have joined Peddars Way south of Castle Acre, where from Bartholomew Hills a lane passing over Swaffham Heath with a parish boundary along it for two and a half miles leads to the Downham Market road, pointing in the direction of Denver 12 miles distant.

(9) Worstead Lodge to Chesterford, Dunstable, etc.

Returning to Iknild Street, at Worstead Lodge one of those branchings peculiar to Iknild Way begins. The London road, following one course, turns 27° towards the south, but a lane continues on in the same direction as before to Babraham, and the same general line is taken up in a few miles by a lane through Thriplow and Foulmire, and by Ashwell Street to Stotfold, two miles north-west of Baldock, keeping parallel to, and two or three miles distant from, the more usually recognized Iknild Way for 21 miles, and rejoining it at Wilbury Hill.

The London road runs straight on for five and a half miles towards Chesterford, pointing to high ground (400′) near Strethall, three miles further on. It is a wide road 20 yards between the fences, with evidence of the ridge of the Roman road, which is very apparent south-west of Pampisford Station, where it p238is some three feet high with the slopes inside the fences, which are 25 yards apart. For one and a half miles to Stump Cross the county boundary follows the road and then turns off at about an angle of 45° along a green road to Ickleton Ford, while the road continues on for a quarter of a mile in the same line. The county boundary probably shows the line of Iknild Way, and the road straight on led to the great Roman camp at Chesterford, described and measured by Stukeley in 1719,20 when the foundations of the walls were apparent all round, forming a rectangle 555 yards by 333 yards, with rounded corners. There are now no remains visible above ground.

From Chesterford a Roman road led in a south-westerly direction by Strethall to Ermingº Street. The course of it from Ermingº Street, near Braughing, has already been described (p134). It is almost in the same direction as the road through Chesterford to Newmarket, which has just been followed; whereas Iknild Street turns off to the west at Stump Cross at an angle of 45° to Ickleton. It would seem to run by Ickleton Farm, near which Bishop Bennet found it very manifest, but where no traces now appear, to Chrishall Grange, from which a green lane leads in four miles to the Royston road. A parish boundary, and then a county boundary, follow the lane for two miles, and the latter boundary runs along the Royston road for another two miles to that town, and through it, and on for five miles further. Marks of p239the course of Iknild Way were evident in 1808 on the downs east and west of Royston, and the present road which now follows it continues on between the railway and the downs on the south to Baldock, followed by parish boundaries after the county boundary leaves it. The course is then along a field track on the north of the railway for three miles to Wilbury Hill, from which a lane with a county boundary along it leads to Ickleford. It seems to continue by the road to Punch's Cross, and by a lane with a parish boundary along it to Telegraph Hill (600′) and on to Brays Ditches on the north of Warden Hill, followed for a mile and a quarter by a county boundary. Then, according to Bishop Bennet, the way again divides, a branch to the north going through Houghton Regis to Maiden Bower, while the principal road continues on by Limbury and joins the present road from Luton, which, with a parish boundary along it, enters Dunstable by Church Street. At Dunstable, Iknild Street crosses Watling Street and turns south-west, and winds round the north of Beacon Hill (762′) near Ivinghoe. It then divides: Lower Iknild Way winds north of Tring, through Wendover, by Princes Risborough, and along the flank of the Chiltern Hills. The course hereabouts, as described by Bishop Bennet, is doubtful; it seems to continue on under the name of Ickleton Road or Icleton Street to the south of Lewknor, Watlington, and Ewelme, to near Streatley, where it crosses the Thames, and then along the edge of the chalk p240escarpment overlooking the vale of White Horse, where it becomes the Ridgeway. Iknild Street, as already stated, is mentioned in a charter of the tenth century as far west as between Blewbury and Weyland Smithy, and in the tenth and eleventh centuries Icenhilde Street was the name of the road leading to Avebury.

(10) AKEMAN STREET to Cirencester

A road bearing the name of Akeman Street crosses Iknild Way near Tring, and is supposed to have come from Verulam. From half-a‑mile west of Tring it lies for five miles in a straight line through Aston Clinton to a mile east of Aylesbury, pointing between a high hill (680′) between Tring Park and Wigginton, and high ground (340′) near Waddesdon, and the same line is taken up for a mile by the present road on the west of Aylesbury. On to Waddesdon there is nothing to show the course, but further on short lengths of parish boundaries along the present road seem to indicate that it follows generally the course of Akeman Street. Across the low ground of the valley of the Ray the general course is straight for five miles to Blackthorn Hill (252′). Dr. Plot21 says that there were tracks of a stony ridge visible and useful, and that the Ray was crossed at Steanford. The ridge is now merged in the modern road, and the Ray is crossed by Gallows Bridge, near which a parish boundary follows the road for a mile. From Blackthorn Hill the modern road turns north-west to Bicester, but the course of Akeman Street continues on in the same line along a p241lane, and on to the brook at Langford, on the west of which a parish boundary and a lane leading to Chesterton mark the line for a mile. To the south is the Roman station at Alchester, through which a Roman road passes, making a turn when it crosses Akeman Street, and continuing northwards. This road will be reverted to. At Chesterton there is a turn to the south-west, and a straight road runs for four miles to the north-west corner of Kirtlington Park (355′), with parish boundaries along it for a mile and three-quarters. From this point a road called Portway runs due north, past Heyford, Somerton, and Souldern, to Aynho, on the east of which it was still pitched with stones in 1712;22 the course beyond is unknown.

From Kirtlington Park, Akeman Street makes a slight turn more to the south-west, and the course is straight for three miles across the valley of the Cherwell along the south side of Tackley Park, marked by lanes with parish boundaries. A lane then takes up the line to Stratford Bridge, and on to the Wootton gate of Woodstock Park, through which and for some distance on there are traces of the ridge. A section cut in Woodstock Park showed that the foundation of the road was of flags of the local stone called Stonesfield Slate, about an inch thick, and from 14 by 12 inches to half that wide. They were laid sloping in the direction of the road at an angle of 20° to 25° and upon this foundation was a layer of six inches of gravel under the sod. The width was 17 p242feet.23 The course is indicated by parish boundaries to the south of Stonesfield, and on to Reamsden (450′), where there is a turn more to the south-west, and a straight line to Bradwell Grove, eight miles distant, begins. For two miles a lane marks the course, and then for three miles across the Windrush valley there are apparently no traces, but beyond Asthall a parish boundary takes up the line for one and a quarter miles to Shill brook. At the north side of Bradwell Grove (420′) there is a turn towards the west, and for 11½ miles the general course appears to be straight for Cirencester, and the high ground (450′) beyond. A lane and a parish boundary mark the course for two miles from Bradwell Grove, and after the valley of the Leach is crossed, a lane takes up the line to Williamstrip Park, in which it is shown by two bits of parish boundary. After the river Coln is crossed a road follows the course for three and a half miles, with a parish boundary along it for most of the way. The course onwards is undefined for two miles; it is crossed by Cherry Tree Lane, a prolongation of the Foss road from Hare Bushes Lodges with a parish boundary along it, which continues on for a mile to the local Ermin Way. The road from Ampney then seems to take the line, and it bears the name Akeman Street to the north-east gate of Cirencester, by which the Foss road also entered Corinium, the Durocornovium of the Itinerary.

According to Dr. Plot, about 1705, Akeman Street was a raised bank from Chesterton to Stonesfield, for p243a short length near Whitley Green, and from Bradwell Grove to the boundary of Oxfordshire.

There is a great contrast between the laying out of Akeman Street and the winding course of Iknild Way. It may be noticed that the name Iknild Street is sometimes given to Akeman Street on the east of Cirencester, and that the Foss to the south-west of Cirencester is sometimes called Akeman Street. They both led to Bath (Akemancester).

Alchester to Dorchester

The Roman road southwards through Alchester ran straight for Shotover Hill (520′). The camp at Alchester, a quarter of a mile south of Akeman Street, is 330 yards square, and from the east gate the ridge of a road is visible as far as the railway, as if to give a direct access to the camp from the east. Across Otmoor southwards the ridge was very conspicuous for some miles in Camden's time, though often under water in winter floods.24 It was still paved in Dr. Plot's time, stone being found on and about the ridge and nowhere else on the moor.25 On leaving the moor the direction changes, and the course seems to be through Beckley and by Headington quarries to Bullingdon Green, from which a lane with a parish boundary along it for two and a half miles runs to Toot Baldon (300′)., There is then a slight turn, and the course is straight to Dorchester, and a hill (340′) on the south of the Thames, following a lane with a parish boundary along it to March Baldon, and then a track, a lane, and a road. From p244Dorchester a Roman road probably ran to the Iknild Way along the line of the present road to Benson; and from this road, about half-a‑mile from Dorchester, a parish boundary strikes across the Thames to the hill (340′) already mentioned one mile south of the river, from which the straight line on the north of Dorchester is resumed by a lane with a parish boundary along it for a mile through Brightwell, pointing to the street through Cholsey26 and the road beyond, and to the road through Moulsford. Wallingford lies a mile and a quarter to the east of this road. There is no trace beyond Moulsford, but the Roman road probably continued on by Streatley to Silchester.

Alchester to the North

North of Alchester the modern road to Buckingham seems to occupy the line of a Roman road which passed to the west of Bicester, to the north of which parish boundaries follow the road for four miles to Fringford, pointing to Finmere Plantation (400′). There is then a slight change of direction, and a parish boundary, and then the county boundary follow the modern road for three-quarters of a mile to Finmere. The county boundary continues in the same line across country to Water Stratford, indicating the course of the Roman road, which is taken up by a lane in the same line on to Stowe Park, across which the old road can be traced in the same direction, but not beyond it. It no doubt joined Watling Street, but in the intervening five miles there are apparently no vestiges of the road.


The Author's Notes:

1 Archaeologia, vol. XIV p62.

2 Gent's Mag., 1864, pt. I p357.

3 Trans. Essex Soc. Arch., N.S., vol. III p123.

4 Archaeologia, vol. XXIX.

5 Jenkins, Journal Arch. Assoc., vol. XIX p275.

6 History of Suffolk, 1848, p. xviii.

7 ibid., vol. II p230.

8 History of Dunwich, etc. 1754, p38.

9 Norfolk and Norwich Arch. Soc., vol. VI p153.

10 Archaeologia, vol. XXIII p369.

11 Archaeological Journal, vol. XIV p99.

12 Natural History of Oxfordshire, p323.

13 Lyson's Cambridgeshire, 1808, p45.

14 Babington's Ancient Cambridgeshire, p26.

15 Babington's Ancient Cambridgeshire, p14.

16 History of Imbanking and Draining, 1772, p174.

17 Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, vol. III p425.

18 Marshall, Cambridge Antiquarian Communications, IV.205.

19 Babington, p68.

20 Itinerarium Curiosum, p78.

21 Nat. Hist. of Oxfordshire, 1705, p319‑21.

22 Morton's Nat. Hist. of Northamptonshire, p502.

23 F. Haverfield, Proc. Soc. Ant., XVII p333.

24 Camden's Britannia, vol. II p5.

25 Nat. Hist. of Oxfordshire, 1705, p326.

26 A "Stanwei" is given as a boundary of lands near Cholsey in a Saxon charter.


Thayer's Note:

a Trumpington: This appears to be a reference to a track, later Roman road, now called Mares Way, which was explored in the late 20c by the Cambridge Archaeology Field Group.

Page updated: 23 May 01