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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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p245 Chapter VII: The Foss Way

(1) General Course
(2) Lincoln to Leicester
      (a) Gartree Road
(3) Leicester to Cirencester
(4) Cirencester to Bath
(5) Bath to Ilchester
      (a) Road to Uphill
      (b) Ilchester to Dorchester
(6) Ilchester to Axminster

(1) General Course

The Foss Way or Foss road is remarkable for its direct course. From Lincoln, to the most south traces of it beyond South Petherton in Somerset, no part is more than six miles away from a straight line about 182 miles long joining the extreme points, Leicester and Bath being on the line. There are not many marked changes of direction. Between Lincoln and Cotgrave Gorse it bends only two miles out of a straight line in 30 miles, and then there is a turn through 25° towards Leicester, from the north of which town the general course is the same for some 60 miles to the south of Stow-on‑the‑Wold, with a slight turn at the crossing of Watling Street. A turn through 25° on the south of Stow-on‑the‑Wold does not alter the general direction of the road as far as Cirencester so much as p246the angle would imply. The Foss road joins another Roman road before entering Cirencester, and its course both in entering and quitting that town suggests that it was laid out with reference to Corinium already existing on the Roman road from Speen to Gloucester. From four miles south of Cirencester there is a straight course pointing to Bath for 17 miles, and then a turn keeps the road on high ground till it descends from Banner Down to join another Roman road before reaching Bath. Bath is left in the same general direction, which is not much departed from until Ilchester is reached, where there is a turn of about 20°.

There was probably a branch joining Ermingº Street about 10 miles north of Leicester, and at that town a Roman road from the south-east joined the Foss, but to the south of Watling Street it seems to have had but few connexions with other roads. Riknild Street must have joined it somewhere near Bourton-on‑the‑Water, and at Cirencester it joined Akeman Street and crossed the Gloucestershire Ermingº Street. It crossed the road from Speen to the mouth of the Avon at Bath, and another Roman road on the Mendips, and at Ilchester there is a branch to Dorchester. It no doubt communicated with the Roman road from Dorchester to Exeter, and it is possible that to the latter town there was a more direct road, branching near South Petherton.

There are comparatively few towns of importance on it. Leicester, Cirencester, Bath and Ilchester are Roman, the last-named now not more than a village. p247Between Lincoln and Leicester, Newark, which is not Roman, is the only town on it. From Leicester through Warwickshire it is now an unimportant road, for 41 miles mostly grass-grown, or little more than a lane or a field road. Further south the small town of Moreton-in‑the‑Marsh has arisen on the road, apparently since Roman times. Between Cirencester and Bath, there is not a village on it, and for long distances it is a farm road, or grass-grown, and south of Bath, though the road has been modernized for the most part, there are no towns, and hardly a village on it.

Many places on its course derive their name from the road. There are Foss Farms, Foss Bridge, Foss Mill, Foss Knowl, Foss Lane, and a Street-on‑the‑Fosse, and several Strattons-on‑the‑Fosse.

p248 The only part traceable in the Itinerary of Antonine is that between Lincoln and High Cross, where the Iter turns on to Watling Street, and of the four stations named, Ratae is the only one of which there is a modern representative.

(2) Lincoln to Leicester

The Foss road left Lincoln with Ermingº Street and branched off from it near Bracebridge. Between Ermingº Street and Bracebridge some of the pavement, of flagstones set edgewise, remained in Stukeley's time.1 Soon after the river Witham is crossed the present main road, occupying the course of the Roman road, is straight for eight miles to Potter Hill (120′), between which and some point on the high ground on which Lincoln now stands the course was probably laid out, but trees now shut out the prospect. There is then a slight turn, and another straight line of six miles begins. The road appears to have been fenced in originally 20 to 30 yards wide, and to have been since narrowed in many places, by which the general straightness is disguised. The country boundary follows the road for a mile, and four miles north of Newark, at Brough, the station Crococalana of Iter VI is placed. The road continues straight through the town of Newark, and then there is a slight turn, and another piece of straight road two and a half miles long reaches to near the bank of the river Trent near East Stoke, where the station Ad Pontem must have been. Remains of a Roman bridge are said to have been found in the river p249Trent here. The road then ascends the higher ground between the Trent and the Devon, and another straight line eight miles long ends near High Thorpe (200′), crossing the railway just west of Bingham Station, one mile due north of which, at Castle Hill, Barrow Field is the site of the station Margidunum. A slight turn at High Thorpe is followed by another straight length of three and a half miles ending at Cotgrave Gorse (250′), where there is a turn through 28° to the south, but of the 29 miles from Lincoln to Cotgrave Gorse no part of the road is more than two miles out of the direct straight line. Until it turns off to Cotgrave a modern road occupies the middle between the fences, but beyond that the Foss road is a wide rough track, not appearing very straight because of encroachments. It continues so for most of the way to the Nottingham and Melton road, beyond which for a mile a narrow metalled road runs along the middle between fences 20 yards or more apart, and then turns off; the wide green road continuing on for four miles and a quarter to Six Hills (447′). From Cotgrave Gorse the general course is straight for eight and a half miles to Six Hills, The straight line is deviated from for two miles in the lower ground near Willoughby-on‑the‑Wolds, but parish and country boundaries follow the road continuously from Cotgrave Gorse for 14 miles to Ratcliffe-on‑the‑Wreak. Near Lodge-on‑the‑Wolds, two miles south of Cotgrave Gorse, Stukeley describes the pavement of the road as "of great blue flagstones laid edgeways very carefully," and says that all the p250way thence to Willoughby-on‑the‑Wolds the road was paved with red flints laid with the smoothest side upwards upon a bed of gravel, and the report then was that the Foss was thus paved all the way from Newark to Leicester.2 This paving still exists about a mile to the north of Six Hills. Near Willoughby-on‑the‑Wolds the station Verometum is placed.

At Six Hills a Roman road is supposed to have branched off to join Ermingº Street near Ponton.3 A straight road is followed by a parish boundary for three miles to the high ground (511′), near Dalby tunnel. It continues on with a slight turn, and the line of highways passing to the north of Croxton Park may perhaps follow the course of the Roman road.

From Six Hills (445′) the Foss road makes straight for six and a half miles to beyond Syston railway-station (194′), where the modern road from Melton Mowbray to Leicester joins it. To this point from Cotgrave the Foss is now an insignificant road, and the course is in places not very well marked except by the parish boundaries following it. From this point (194′), near Syston railway-station, a straight modern road four miles long extends to the middle of the present town of Leicester.

About three miles north of Leicester, a Roman milliary was found in 1771 by the side of this road. It is a short column three feet six inches high, and one foot nine inches in diameter, which apparently stood on a square base, close to which it was dug p251up. It was appropriated as suitable for a roller, and after some time it was claimed by the road trustees as material for mending the road, but the inscription having attracted notice, it was set up in 1773 as "the centre of a neat obelisk surmounted with a lamp."4 It is now in the Leicester Museum. The ends of the lines of the inscription are defaced, and several readings have been suggested, but of the important part there is no doubt. The inscription commemorates the Emperor Hadrian, in the fourth year of his reign, and third consulate, corresponding to A.D. 120, when Hadrian was in Britain. At that date therefore the Foss Way north of Leicester was in existence. It also gives the distance a Ratis III, confirmatory of the Roman name of Leicester. It is the oldest known milliary in Britain,5 and also the most perfect.

The Roman Ratae occupied a rectangular area on the east bank of the river Soar. In 1722 the walls could be traced, and Stukeley made a plan,6 which modern maps show to be fairly accurate, except that he omitted the west wall. From the north to the south gates it was about 860 yards, and from the east gate to the west about 580 yards, and the Roman town is p252still marked out by streets outside the line of the walls. High Cross Street represents the street from the north to the south gates, and High Street, the principal street at right angles to it, by which the Foss passed through Ratae from the east gate, crossing the river Soar a little north of Bow Bridge, and then turning south along the course of Great Holmer Street and Narborough road. The road now called Fosse road, more to the west, may possibly represent a Roman road connecting the Foss with a road leaving Ratae by the north gate, crossing the Soar at North Bridge, and then turning west. A parish boundary follows the present road for two and a half miles westward from Foss road, and other boundaries further on confirm the supposition of a Roman road in that direction.

A straight road, joining Watling Street near Manduesedum, and pointing to Leicester, has been mentioned (p75). Towards Leicester there are said to be some traces of a Roman road on the north of the Hinkley road in the direction of the road through Peckleton to Kirkby Mallory.

Gartree Road

A Roman road left the south gate of Ratae in an east-south‑easterly direction. From near the Midland railway-station a boundary seems to indicate its course, crossing the London road at the north corner of Victoria Park, from which it is followed by a footpath for more than half-a‑mile. The foot-path continues on to Stoughton Grange, where it joins Gartree Road, which continues on in the same straight line for four and a half miles to a high ridge (500′) near Burton Overy, and on in p253nearly the same line for three and a half miles further, a parish boundary following it for three and a half miles. Further on there are traces of the ridge, and from Medbourne, lanes and roads follow the same line to Cottingham, beyond which the present road takes up the line for two miles, and the ridge is traceable. In the same direction, after an interval of nine miles, is the line of the road which has already been mentioned as being indicated from Alconbury Hill on Ermingº Street, to Titchmarsh.º

Gartree Road has got the modern name of Via Devana as the continuation of the road so called in Cambridgeshire, which has already been mentioned (p232).

(3) Leicester to Cirencester

After leaving Leicester the Foss road is nearly straight for 11 miles, with a very slight turn on high ground (300′) near Narborough. For three and a half miles the modern road occupies its course, and then leaves it for two miles, but there are traces of the old road in the interval. South of Narborough, parish boundaries follow it continuously for six miles to High Cross, on approaching which it is a grass-grown road through fields. The ditches on each side are traceable, about eight yards apart, and a paving appears to remain beneath the surface in places. Stukeley7 mentions "a visible pavement of great round coggles by Sharnford," two miles north of High Cross.

At High Cross (450′) (Venonae), where there are only a few houses, the Foss crosses Watling Street, the four roads diverging in different directions. From p254Venonae to Lindum Iter VI and Iter VIII of Antonine pass over the Foss, making the distance 63 and 64 M.P.; the distance from High Cross to Lincoln measures 62 miles. The intermediate distances agree with the sites which have been given above for the stations between Ratae and Lindum.

The Foss leaves Watling Street for the south 50 yards to the west of the point at which it meets it from the north, in a straight line with Brinklow tumulus six miles distant. It is a narrow lane for a mile and a half, and the contrast between Watling Street and the Foss Way in both directions is remarkable. A parish boundary follows the lane, and then a road, for three and a half miles; and the same straight line is continued by a track to near Stretton, where the course of the road is not traceable for a mile. It appears to pass round the east of Brinklow mound, a parish boundary coming from Smite brook running to, and continuing along, the road to the east of Brinklow, indicating the course of it. At three-eighths of a mile to the south of Brinklow, almost exactly the same line as that from High Cross is resumed, the road for two miles pointing straight for the mound. The old fences, 20 or 25 yards apart, remain, with long strips enclosed on the sides of the present road. On the north side of the Avon the Foss is now a narrow grass field leading to the old Brit-ford, on the east of the present road and Britford bridge. The general course of the road lies between High Cross and high ground (350′) on Dunsmore Heath, long since enclosed. It is bent p255to the east in the Avon valley to avoid the river except at the ford, and the old road has been narrowed, and is not very straight, and is little better than a lane.

There is a slight turn to the west on Dunsmore Heath, and for twenty miles the general course of Foss Lane is straight to Halford, apparently in the direction of high ground (800′) near Bourton-on‑the‑Hill ten miles still further on. Nothing but the trees now prevent some prominent object or mark there being visible from Dunsmore Heath. A good deal of the original straightness has been lost, but it would seem that in the lower ground, when the distant marks were lost sight of, it never was quite straight. The width between the fences has been encroached upon on one side and the other, and it now varies from twenty or twenty-five yards down to as many feet. In parts the road is little more than a field road or lane, but the ridge or embankment of the Roman road is still to be traced here and there, particularly when broad green sides remain, as near Compton Verney.

Near Chesterton the road passes by some remains of a camp; and near Eatington a Roman road from Stratford-on‑Avon seems to have joined, but there are now no traces of it. On the north of Halford, Foss Lane ends, and the modern road from Warwick takes the line and follows it to Cirencester. The course is generally straight for four and a half miles, and then there is a slight bend, and between Knee Brook and Lemington there are slight windings on high ground, p256followed for two miles by a county boundary, which seems to indicate that the line of the Foss road is occupied by the modern road. It is nowhere quite straight for any considerable length on to Moreton-in‑the‑Marsh, and where it crosses valleys there are twists, sometimes due in part to improving the gradient for the modern road. It is 20 to 25 yards between the fences, where it has not been encroached upon.

The main street of Moreton-in‑the‑Marsh occupies the course of the Foss road, which makes a slight turn to the east to a point one mile south of Stow-on‑the‑Wold, where there is a considerable turn to the south-west in the direction of Cirencester. There are several lengths of straight road of from one to four miles, nearly in the same straight line, with windings where coombes in the oolitic tableland (400′ to 660′) are crossed. The road generally winds up the coombes and back again to the same line. Parish boundaries, which run along the road nearly all the way, follow these windings into and out of the coombes, except at one a mile to the north of Northleach, where the boundary keeps a direct course, and marks the line of the Foss, which has been quitted by the modern road. Beyond Foss Cross the straight course is deviated from to pass round the upper ends of several coombes, and after about a mile and a half of straight road, a round turn leads to a straight road nearly north and south. The modern road is hereabouts considerably banked up; near Bramston Farm, about three miles from Cirencester, as much as six feet, and there are deep side ditches outside p257the embankment. To what extent the embankment represents the Roman ridge, and how far the side ditches are owing to the excavation of materials for the modern road is uncertain. Such hollows along the sides of roads, made for the purpose of getting road materials, are common in this stony tableland The parish boundaries follow Cherry Tree Lane, which runs on due south in prolongation of the Foss, for half-a‑mile past the turn to Cirencester at Hare Bushes Lodge, as far as the course of Akeman Street. Whether the Foss road joined the latter road there, or had an independent course from Hare Bushes Lodge is uncertain, but the two roads entered Cirencester together by the north-east gate.

The walls of the Roman Corinium of Ptolemy, or Durocornovium of the Itinerary of Antonine, form a rough rectangle, through the longest diameter of which the course of the Roman road from Speen to Gloucester runs in a straight line for nearly a mile. The principal cross street at right angles with it, the Via principalis of a Roman camp, has been found to have been in the line of Lewis Lane and Queen Street from the north-east gate, by which Akeman Street and the Foss road entered, and to have led straight to the amphitheatre outside the south-west gate.8 The width from wall to wall in this direction is about half-a‑mile.

(4) Cirencester to Bath

The Foss road leaves the Roman town on the line of Castle Street, a quarter of a mile to the north-west of the principal cross street, p258and makes straight for high ground (442′) on the tableland on the north of Jackments Bottom, with a very slight turn north of Thames Head. The way in which the Foss road enters and leaves Corinium suggests that the Roman town had grown up on the course of the Speen and Gloucester road before the Foss road was laid out. South of Cirencester the Foss road, or Acman Street as it is also called, is now a wide modern road, along one side of which the county boundary runs, for a considerable distance in a deep hollow, for two and a half miles to Jackments Bottom. The boundary may possibly show the original line of the Roman road, which was broken up, and with the addition of the stone dug out, went to make the modern road along the side. The road probably followed the line of the county boundary into Jackments Bottom and out again, but there are now no traces of it there.

From the south of Jackments Bottom (400′) the course of the road is so straight for 16½ miles that no part is more than half-a‑mile from a straight line. It is made up of straight lines from point to point, which are only deviated from in crossing valleys, after which the line is resumed. The general course must have been laid out from several intermediate points on the tableland. The high ground (500′) in the park one mile west of Cirencester is visible for some distance along this part of the Foss, and may have been one point of direction.

The county boundary continues to follow the Foss road for two miles further, and then parish boundaries p259follow it for another two miles, and after an interval of half-a‑mile, again for one mile, when a county boundary again joins the road for a mile and three-quarters, and parish boundaries then follow the road for eight miles.

From Jackments Bottom onwards the Foss road is now a green road for 10 miles, used only for farm traffic, but it is a highway available as a bridle road, and it can be travelled over in a two-wheeled vehicle. It is 20 yards wide between the fence walls for long lengths. Near Culkerton Down Wood there is an embanked ridge five or six yards wide, and raised three, four, or five feet, the sides sloping about one in five, or one in six. It is described at the end of the eighteenth century as "showing its bold ridge sided with ditches."9 Sometimes the width has been encroached upon, leaving the level top of the ridge and one slope, and perhaps a small part of the other between the walls. There is no trace of a paving or a stone surface where the ridge is deeply cut into by cart-ruts. Further on the road is wide in places with high hedges, and timber trees shading it, and in other places it has been narrowed, and is overgrown with bushes, and there is little or no trace of a ridge. In the valley of the Anton at White Walls, about two and a half miles west of Malmesbury, road the Roman remains to which the name Mutuantones (from the Ravenna list) was given by Sir R. C. Hoare. A little further on at Littlefield the Foss road is stopped up for a quarter of a mile, one of the very few places p260where that has taken place. At Lords Wood Farm the green road ends for a time, a parish highway taking the course, and about one and a quarter miles further on this has lately been cut through in making the railway to the Severn Tunnel, without anything indicative of a Roman road being found, or indeed any evident traces of a made road on the stony subsoil. Hereabouts there is very little evidence that the old road was raised above the surface. A narrow modern road continues to run between hedges 20 yards apart, where there is no encroachment, as far as the turn to Grittleton, near Dunley Farm, and then a green road is entered upon, 18 or 20 yards wide between the hedges, but in places overgrown with ferns, briars, and nut-bushes, so that a dog-cart can hardly pass. This continues for one and a quarter miles to Foss Gate, where a modern highway from Grittleton joins, and three-quarters of a mile further on, after crossing the Gatcombe Valley, the parish and county boundaries which have followed the Foss for nearly 11 miles cease to do so for a mile and a quarter. Sir R. C. Hoare relates that hereabouts, at the beginning of the last century, labourers were destroying the Foss, and had "cut through a bold and lofty ridge by which a favourable specimen of its original construction was rendered visible," but unfortunately he did not describe it.10 Near North Wraxall (490′), three and a half miles further on, the south end of the 16½ miles of nearly straight road is reached, and there is a slight turn p261towards the east, and a straight road for a mile to the Duncombe valley, which is crossed by a narrow winding road. A county boundary follows the road from the south of the stream for two and a quarter miles, and on regaining the tableland near Ashwick Park (546′) there is another bend towards the east by which the road is kept on the high ground, and it runs straight for three miles to the south end of Banner Down (600′), overlooking Bathford, followed by a parish boundary in continuation of the county boundary. Sir R. C. Hoare, in 1820, observed a ridge of fine appearance, and a high raised dorsum, which was then being broken up,11 and the road in its modernized form is banked up about three feet. Near the fourth milestone from Bath the parish boundary and the modern road part, the former continuing straight on and rejoining the road in about a quarter of a mile. In another quarter of a mile the main road turns to the west, and the boundary follows Morris Lane down to the London road, which it joins not far from where the Great Western Railway crosses the road to Bathford. Sir R. C. Hoare makes the present road leave the Foss near the fourth milestone, the course of the latter lying, he supposed, through the quarries and down Foss Lane. Collinson also makes it descend by Foss Lane, which he described in 179112 as deep, narrow, and overhung with hedges, and joining the London road at a bridge over a little stream. This lane, a quarter of a mile nearer Bath, p262still bears the name, but the evidence of the boundary is against it.

The London road from Bathford to Bath is on the line of the Roman road from Silchester and Speen, and the Foss road joins it at right angles. From Bath Easton the course is straight for two miles to Walcot, and according to Scarth it continued by Guinea Lane to the top of Russell Street before turning southwards to enter the Roman city, but it may have bent southward, and approached the North Gate more on the line of Walcot Street.

The mediaeval walls of Bath were on the foundations of the Roman walls of Aquae Solis (or Sulis), and they can still be followed in the modern streets. They enclosed a pentagon approaching an irregular rectangle about 400 yards east and west by 388 yards north and south. The north gate was at the north end of High Street, not far from Pulteney Bridge, the west gate at the end of Westgate Street, and the south gate at the south end of Stall Street, near St. James' Church, on the slope of the ground rising above the low-lying land on the north of the river Avon.

(5) Bath to Ilchester

By the latter gate the Foss road left Aquae Solis, along what is now Southgate Street, and crossed the river Avon by a ford, of which there were vestiges at the beginning of the eighteenth century.13 It then ascended by Holloway and Devonshire Place by a winding course, the modern road joining and following it after the first half-mile. On Odd p263Down a straight road begins, which at Vernham Wood is joined by a parish boundary. On the high ground one mile north-east of Coombe Hay the modern road diverges to the west, and the line of the Foss is along a narrow lane, with remains of the ridge, which the parish boundary continues to follow down into Dunkerton Bottom, a descent of about 400 feet, and up again on the south of the valley. The modern road again quits the line of the Foss for half-a‑mile, and then follows it past Huddox Hill to high ground (580′), a quarter of a mile north of Red Post, parish boundaries continuing along the road. In three-quarters of a mile the modern road turns off to Radstock, and the Foss runs straight on to Smallcombe, down into which parish boundaries are continuous for five miles from Odd Down.

In Smallcombe a cottage, which is actually on the Foss road, is freehold, and is said to be the only freehold in the hamlet. From Smallcombe the course of the Foss is straight for three miles in a line between high ground (550′), near Camerton Park, and (538′) near Stratton-on‑the‑Foss.

The road, which the parish boundary follows, is rather winding up out of Smallcombe, between which and the Somer valley is a spur of high ground, over which, as the gradients up and down are too steep for modern wheeled traffic, the old road remains in almost its original state. It is a ridge about three feet six inches high and six feet wide across the top, between two old hedges, outside of which are ditches. In 1884, Mr. McMurtrie had a trench cut across, and described p264the section.14 The original soil was met with at a level corresponding with that of the adjacent fields, and upon it is a layer of rubble stone five inches thick in the middle, and thinning off towards the sides, next is a bed of concrete about one foot three inches thick, then a layer of finer material composed of limestone pounded fine and mixed with lime and well rammed, ten and a half inches thick in the middle, and rounded off at the sides. On this was laid a course of paving stones, four to five inches thick, from the lias beds of the neighbourhood, of all sizes and shapes fitted together and grouted with lime mortar. This, the ancient surface of the road, was laid bare for a length of several yards, and two distinct ruts were exposed, three feet apart from centre to centre, one about two inches wide, and two or three inches deep, and the other wider and shallower. The ancient road surface has been covered with stones and earth, exclusive of which the thickness is two feet eleven inches. Sir R. C. Hoare15 notices a very similar section of the Foss near Radstock, which was observed by Mr. Skinner, the foundation consisting of a layer of large flat stones, then one and a half feet of earth and rubble, afterwards a course of small stones, with pavement or pitching stones on the surface.

There are remains of the ridge on the steep south side of the Somer valley, and then the modern road through Radstock takes up the line. Near Stratton-on‑the‑Foss there is a slight turn, and the road points p265to high ground (920′) on Beacon Hill, near the east end of the Mendips, to which the Foss also points for five and a half miles from the south. After two miles in this direction the road winds down to cross the valley at Nettle Bridge, the parish boundary following it. A smaller valley is crossed near Ashwick Grove, where the main road turns off and a straight lane followed by a parish boundary leads in a mile to the above-mentioned point (920′) on Beacon Hill.

Road to Uphill

At this point the Foss road is crossed by a Roman road from the south-east to the north-west. The ridge is traceable for a mile to the eastward, and further on the line is thought to be indicated by Rough Ditch dividing the parishes of East Cranmore and Downhead. To the west of the Foss traces of the ridge are shown on the old Ordnance map for two and a half miles to the cross roads beyond Maesbury Castle, and then a highway in the same straight line, which is followed for two miles by parish boundaries occupies the course for two a quarter miles to Green Ore. Further on the ridge is shown on the old Ordnance map for a mile on the south of Castle Comfort Inn, and traces continue over Ubley Warren, and on nearly to Charterhouse, where there are Roman remains, and evidence of lead-mining at a very early period of the Roman occupation.16 Sir R. C. Hoare saw the ridge of the road for a mile along the south of Black Down, beyond which the course seems to be followed by a lane from p266the north of Shipham, and to have continued along the south side of Banwell Hill, and along the north side of Bleadon Hill, where it is marked by a green track passing to the south of Hutton wood, and on to the south of Oldmixon and Uphill. Sir R. C. Hoar found traces of a square circumvallation and pottery at Borough Walls (? Walborough) on the south of Uphill near the mouth of the river Axe, and there he placed a Roman station to which he gave the name Ad Axium.17 There is no other authority for the name, but it has been perpetuated on the new Ordnance maps, which, however, place the camp a quarter of a mile to the east of the railway, above Oldmixon.

It is very probable that there was a port at the mouth of the Axe from which lead from the Mendip mines was shipped, and the position of Ischalis as given by Ptolemy's degrees in relation to Aquae Calidae (Bath) is there, and not at Ilchester. It is much more likely that a port at the mouth of the Axe should have been known to Ptolemy than an inland and unimportant place at Ilchester. The name Ischalis too appears to be connected with the Axe.

The Foss from the point (920′) on Beacon Hill takes a straight course to Pyehill (462′), between Ditcheat and East Pennard, five and a half miles distant, parish boundaries following it nearly all the way. After descending the hill, a lane takes up the line, which passes through Charlton on the east of Shepton Mallet, to Cannard's Grave, where the p267Ilchester road joins it. At Pyehill there is a considerable turn to the south-west, and a somewhat winding road leads down (462′ to 200′) to Wraxhill in a mile and a quarter, and then a straight road succeeds, four miles long, pointing between high ground (460′) near Little Pennard and Cross Keys (110′), and with parish boundaries along it for most of the way. There is a slight turn at Cross Keys, and one and a half miles further on the modern road diverges from the Foss to descend the hill, and rejoins it in half-a‑mile, the Foss continuing in the same straight line for three miles and a quarter from Cross Keys, and with a very slight turn, on for two and a quarter miles to Ilchester, parish boundaries following the road for two miles.

The Foss road crossed the river Ivel by a ford, which Stukeley describes as being made with great flagstones, to the Roman station, the walls and ditch of which Stukeley traced nearly all round. He gives a plan of it, and describes it as an oblong square 500 paces by 200 paces,18 the longer side of which lies along the south bank of the Ivel. The supposed sites of the gates make it 533 yards by 326 yards. Ilchester has been supposed to be the Ischalis of Ptolemy, whose latitudes and longitudes would however put that station nearly as far north as Bath, and 27 miles to the west of it, that is, near the mouth of the Axe.

A Roman road branched from Ilchester to Dorchester. For nearly three miles the straight modern p268road indicates the course to Vagg (400′), where the direction changes to high ground (800′), near Frome St. Quentin, 11 miles off, on which line there are traces here and there of the old road.

(6) Ilchester to Axminster

The Foss road continues straight through Ilchester, constituting the principal street of it, on the line of the cross street of the Roman town. At the site of the south gate there is a turn towards the west, and the road for four and a half miles is in a straight line with a point on high ground (700′) near Cricket St. Thomas, 13 miles distant. Stukeley,19 in 1723, saw the original paving of the road in many parts "composed of the flat quarry stones of the country, of a good breadth, laid edgewise, and so close that it looks like the side of a wall fallen down." The road appears to have retained its original state until the beginning of the last century, when the modern road took the course of it to near Petherton Bridge. Parish boundaries follow the present road nearly all the way. There is a slight change of direction on high ground about a mile south of Martock, and half-a‑mile further on the modern road turns away from the Foss, to Petherton Bridge, the course of the latter apparently continuing straight on the high ground (220′), beyond Over Stratton. Bridge House is on the line, which is taken up lanes, with a slight turn beyond Over Stratton, as far as Dinnington.

The course of the Foss, which can be followed to this point from Lincoln without difficulty, then p269becomes uncertain The early descriptions take it to Exeter, but there seems to be no evidence of it for many miles in that direction. A road has been traced from near South Petherton on somewhat inconclusive evidence, westward by Hurcot, Broadway, and Street Ash, and in the spring of 1900 a paved road was exposed by a flood at Donyatt Mill, near Ilminster, one and a half miles to the south of this line lying in the direction of a road through Crock Street, which a parish boundary follows for one and a half miles.

Near Dinnington, the narrow lane worn deep in the sand, which represents the Foss, branches right and left, and there is no trace onwards over the hill and through the valley beyond for three miles. Then from a point (600′) near Cricket St. Thomas the present road, followed by a parish boundary, and with some traces of the ridge, runs straight for a mile, and when, near Street, it bends to avoid a hill, there are traces straight on, and in rather more than half-a‑mile the straight line is resumed by the modern road, which a parish boundary again follows for half-a‑mile at Monkham Down. The present road, probably following the line of the Foss, bends to the west to avoid the valley of the Axe, and at Tytherleigh turns more to the south again, and takes a straight course. It crosses the Axe at Weycroft, formerly called Stratford, and from Millbrook, where the Axminster road turns off, Stony Lane continues the line to the Dorchester road a quarter of a mile east of Axminster. The Foss there met the Roman p270road from Dorchester to Exeter by Honiton, and it may have crossed it and continued on to the mouth of the Axe near Seaton, where Camden and others placed Muridunum, but there are no evidences of it, and according to distances from Dorchester and Exeter Muridunum must have been seven miles further west.


The Author's Notes:

1 Itinerarium Curiosum, p103.

2 Itinerarium Curiosum, p136.

3 Nichols' Leicestershire, p. cxlviii.

4 Nichols' Leicestershire, vol. I p5.

5 The legible portion of the inscription is thus given by Nichols, and by Gough, Camden, II.315 —

imp. Caesar
divo. Traian. Parth. f. div.
Traian. Hadrian. Augº
pot. IV cos III. a Ratis
H.

6 Itinerarium Curiosum, plate 92.

7 Itinerarium Curiosum, p110.

8 W. Cripps, Proc. Soc. Antiq., vol. XVII p201.

9 Collinson's History of Somerset, vol. I p100.

10 Ancient Wilts, Roman Æra, p102.

11 Ancient Wilts, Roman Æra, p102.

12 Collinson's History of Somerset, p99.

13 Collinson, vol. I p100.

14 Somerset Archaeol. and N. H. Soc., vol. XXX, p76.

15 Ancient Wilts, Roman Æra, p102.

16 A pig of lead from the mines at Charterhouse Hinton now in the Bristol Museum bears the stamp of the Emperor Vespasian.

17 Ancient Wilts, Roman Æra, p102.

18 Itinerarium Curiosum, p154.

19 Itinerarium Curiosum, p154.


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