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Bill Thayer

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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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 p271  Chapter VIII: Riknild Street

(1) Stretton Grandison to Selly Oak
(2) Bourton-on‑the‑Water to Boroughbridge
(3) Derby to Buxton
(4) Batham Gate

(1) Stretton Grandison to Selly Oak

Riknild Street is described by Higden as passing through South Wales, and by Worcester, Droitwich, and Birmingham. To the south-west of Worcester there is now no trace of it for 15 miles to Stretton Grandison, whence onwards a Roman road through South Wales will be described further on. From Worcester towards Droitwich a street and road seem to follow the course for two miles and a quarter, and then the same straight line is continued by a parish boundary across Hindlip Park, along the line of a shallow trench from which the Roman road materials have probably been removed. The main road then follows the same line to the south of Droitwich, pointing to a gap (700′)​1 in the Lickey range. There is then a slight turn towards a point (900′) more to the east, near the Obelisk, and the present road follows a straight course in that direction for seven miles, deviated from at one place. From Droitwich a road called Salt  p272 Way runs straight for three miles in the direction of Alcester, followed for a mile by a parish boundary. Its course onwards is uncertain. On the north of Bromsgrove the modern road leaves the line, but towards the end of the eighteenth century there was a high raised road on the Lickey Hills pointing directly to Bromsgrove. From the north of the Lickey Hills the present road lies in a straight line to Selly Oak, except for half-a‑mile near Northfield.

(2) Bourton-on‑the‑Water to Boroughbridge

The road now bearing the name of Riknild Street appears to have joined the Foss Way near Bourton-on‑the‑Water, about two miles north of which, and two miles west of Stow-on‑the‑Wold, a lane in a straight line northwards past Condicote to Hinchwick appears to indicate the course, pointing to high ground (about 840′) on Bourton Down. It is not clear how the ascent of 250 feet from Hinchwick to the down was made, but on the down a lane from Springhill, with a county boundary along it, takes up nearly the same line for a mile and a half to near the Evesham road (950′), from which a parish boundary over Saintbury Hill seems to mark the course down the north side. On the west side of Weston Park, a line seems to be taken up lying between high ground (940′), two miles to the south, and Alcester, 12 miles to the north. A road in this line, passing on the west of Weston-sub‑Edge, leads on to a highway with a parish boundary along it called Riknild or Icknield Street, which is crossed by the railway at Honeybourne Station, near which county boundaries follow it for a mile and  p273 three-quarters. It continues northward under the name of Buckle Street to Staple Hill, one mile south of Bidford, where there is a slight turn, and a straight line begins, pointing to the west of Alcester, four and a half miles distant. There is nothing to indicate the line for about a mile north of Bidford, when a lane called Icknield Street joins it and continues nearly to Alcester.

From Alcester a Roman road ran eastward, along the course followed for six miles by the straight modern road, to Stratford-on‑Avon, and a parish boundary along the road for two miles south-east from  p274 Stratford-on‑Avon seems to indicate that the latter occupies the line of a Roman road on towards the Foss near Eatington.

North of Alcester the line of Riknild Street is followed by the present Birmingham road, called Haydon Way, through Studley and to one mile beyond, where the latter road turns off to the north-eastward and there is no trace of the former for a mile and a half. At Ipsley a lane called Icknield Street exactly in a line with Haydon Way is reached. This line appears to point from Alcester to high ground (about 480′), one mile east of Rowney Green, and a mile and a half north of Beoley. There is here a slight turn, and lanes follow the line of the old road by Forhill to near Headley Heath. Hutton​2 gives the course onwards by Stirchley Street, crossing the Bromsgrove road at Selly Oak, leaving Harborne a mile to the west, by the observatory in Lady Wood Lane, crossing the Dudley Road at Sandpits, and along Worstone Lane, passing five furlongs north of the Navigation Bridge in Great Charles Street, Birmingham. He saw the section of the road where the inhabitants attempted to pull it up for the sake of the materials, 20 yards wide, and one yard deep, filled up with stone cemented with coarse mortar, and he says that the course was discoverable by its barren track through uncultivated meadows. Birmingham and its suburbs now cover the old road for about four miles.

Stukeley says​3 that he found Rigning Street very  p275 broad by Moseley, over a heath on the east side of the river Rea, but that appears to be away from the line.

On the north of Birmingham the line is resumed on the north of the river Tame, near Perry Bridge, by a county boundary for about a quarter of a mile to Gorsey Bank; and then a road continues it, passing a quarter of a mile to the east of Oscott, and it can be traced along a track shown on the old Ordnance map to near the Royal Oak Inn on the west side of Sutton Coldfield Park. In the park the ridge appears very plainly, of a rounded profile, eight or nine yards wide over all, and three to four feet high in the middle. It has been described​4 as presenting one of the best examples of a Roman road, 60 feet wide with a ditch on each side. It has little claim to be so considered, and the ditches where they occur appear to be connected with modern drainage. The may, however, indicate a cross section like that on Bignor Hill on the Sussex Stane Street (p57). At the south of the park, holes rather than ditches at the sides seem to show where the material for the mound was got. Further on in lower ground the ridge is not so prominent, but it is again more marked towards Streetley Hill. It is plainly traceable all through the park for a mile and a half, overgrown with gorse and heather, except where two golf putting-greens have been made in the course of it. It was until of late years the county boundary through the park. The coating of gravel can be seen here and there, and it was  p276 cut through by a new road near the Streetley gate. The railway crosses it about 100 yards east of Streetley station. To the north of the park, about half-a‑mile of the drive through Birmingham Wood to Little Aston Hall, a short length of road north of Little Aston, and another length to the west of Shenstone, mark the course of the road in a straight line from Streetley Hill to high ground (450′) on the north-east of Wall. From near Birmingham to Wall (Etocetum) for nine miles the road is not perceptibly out of a straight line, which may very well have been set out from intermediate points at Streetley Hill, and the high ground (500′) south of the Royal Oak Inn.

Riknild Street would appear to have crossed Watling Street on the east of Etocetum, and there is then a considerable change of direction to the north-east, and a straight course for nine miles to near Barton-under‑Needwood. A lane follows the course of the old road for most of the way from Wall, crossed by the North-Western Railway just east of Lichfield station, and joining the Lichfield and Burton Road at Streethay. The latter road occupies the line of Riknild Street nearly as far as Branston. In Stukeley's time "part of Rigning Way north from Wall was very fair with a high straight bank."​5 The same straight line appears to have continued through Burton-on‑Trent, and on to high ground (340′) near the Knoll, Littleover, two miles from Derby. The modern road from Burton to Derby occupies the course of Riknild Street from the middle of the former town to near the  p277 river Dove, where the straight line is deviated from for a mile in crossing the river, and then resumed. Onwards, parish boundaries follow the present road in places for about half the way to Derby. In the beginning of the eighteenth century the road on Burton Moor was paved;​6 in Stukeley's time it was the common road, and in 1769 a considerable length appeared on Egginton Heath,​7 but it has since been obliterated by the making of the turnpike road. Stukeley notes that "upon the hill south of Littleover, Rigning is under the eye as far as Etocetum, and the hills beyond it."​8 It is perfectly straight for 20 miles.

At Littleover the modern road turns to the east, and the course of Riknild Street appears to have been on the west side of Derby, crossing the Derwent to the Roman station at Little Chester, on the north of the town, between the river and the Great Northern Railway. Stukeley traced the track of the wall all round enclosing an area, according to his plan, 120 paces from east to west, and 100 paces from north to south. The road passed the north side of the camp, and crossed the river Derwent by a bridge, the foundation of which could be felt with a staff.​9 Bishop Bennet said, in 1817, that the piers of the bridge could be felt in a dry summer. The road after leaving the station probably passed to the east of Breadsall, north-east of which the present road seems to occupy the line for a mile and  p278 a half past Breadsall Priory. At the east corner of the latter (434′) there is a turn to the north, and a parish boundary follows the road for a quarter of a mile, and then traces of the ridge appear in the fields on the east of the present road for half-a‑mile. In 1769 it was visible quite across the moor,​10 and Bishop Bennet noticed a large fragment of the ridge in 1817.​11 The line can be traced on in the direction of Horsley Lodge, near which it was very high and covered with furze early in the last century,​12 and west of Horsley Woodhouse to Ticknall Lane and Street Lane in the same line for four and a half miles, the last three-quarters of a mile being followed by a parish boundary. Just beyond, near Upper Hartshay (450′), there seems to have been a turn; there is now no trace onwards for three miles, but in 1769 the ridge was visible in all places all the way to Oakerthorpe, pointing to Coneygre House.​13 The road at the south of Oakerthorpe seems to be on the line for a quarter of a mile, and the road on the north also, and there are traces of the ridge about a mile north of Wingfield Station, between the road and the railway, where in 1817 the ridge was visible for a mile.14

The present road through Higham and Stretton to Claycross seem to follow the course. Bishop Bennet, in 1817, describes it as being quite plain for 300 yards through enclosures and over Tupton Moor three miles south of Chesterfield.15

 p279  A few miles north of Chesterfield the course of Riknild Street is shown on John Warburton's map of Yorkshire by Eckington to Beighton. There is a note on the map, "Here Rikenild Street enters from Darby," and that is confirmed by the discovery in 1847 of a paved road crossing the railway obliquely on the north of Beighton railway-station.​16 Warburton marks the road on by broken lines, as not visible, to a Roman camp at Templebrough, on the south side of the river Don, about a mile to the south-west of Rotherham. The camp (about 200 yards by 120 yards), can still be distinguished, and important remains have of later years been discovered there. On the north of the Don more than one line of ridges could formerly be traced, and are marked on the Ordnance maps as Roman, and it is far from certain which of them, if either, represents Riknild Street. One line marked "Roman ridge" runs by Meadow Hall, Kimberworth, Greasborough, and just below the dam of the lowest pond in Wentworth Park. On the north of the pond the ridge remains tolerably perfect, with a ditch and counterscarp on the south-east side, and has all the appearance of a defensive work. It can be traced on to Upper Haugh, and a lane seems to connect it with a ridge which is visible on the north of Birch Wood. The Ordnance map continues it for a mile further. Another line of "Roman ridge" is marked close to this one about half-a‑mile on the north of Meadow Hall; it passes half-a‑mile to the west of Kimberworth,  p280 and crosses Dog Kennel pond in Wentworth Park. On the south of the pool the ridge is visible without ditch or counterscarp, and it is shown onwards for a mile and a half by Hollen Hall to Hoober Hill, where it turns nearly eastward by Abdy and through Wath Wood, to the north of Swinton. Parish boundaries run along the line for the greater part of the way, and the ridge lately remained in many places.

If either of these ridges represents a Roman road, it would seem to lie more in the course of Batham Gate from Buxton onwards to join Riknild Street, than in that of Riknild Street itself. The connextion of the ridges with the camp at Templebrough on the other side of the Don is not clear, nor is there any trace known of a Roman road to Templebrough from the direction of Beighton. It is possible that Riknild Street followed a more direct course northwards from Beighton. A road following Warburton's line through Eckington and Beighton continues on to Aughton, and then turns more to the west to Guildthwaite, from which place tracks continue the same line to Alpha Place, and then, with a slight turn, roads, tracks, and a parish boundary carry the line on to the river Don at Aldwarke in the direction of Swinton; but from Aldwarke to Swinton, three and a half miles, there is no trace on the ground, nor other indication.

From the north of Swinton, a parish boundary runs nearly due north to the river Dearne, and the course of Riknild Street is marked on Warburton's map as visible onwards in that line for several miles to beyond Turnscoe, and on by broken lines, which  p281 seem to follow parish boundaries for some miles, to Nostell and Normanton, and to the river Aire at Woodlesford (Swillington bridge), four miles above Castleford. On the north of the Aire, the road is marked on Warburton's map as being visible for eight miles; Street Lane follows it, and in about a mile is joined by a parish boundary. On the east of Temple Newsham the ridge, which the boundary follows, is still visible on the west of the lane, and is again to be seen on the east of Austhorpe, and in places nearly as far on as to Scholes. For four and a half miles the course of the road is still plain, parallel to, and less than three and a half miles from Ermingº Street. Warburton's map shows it as being visible on as far as the Roman road from York to Adel and the Chevin, and by broken lines on by Rigton, and west of Stockeld Park and Goldesborough to Arkendale, from which place onwards it is marked as visible. The course is by Minskip, where there is a well-defined rectangular camp about 100 yards by 75 yards, apparently a military post on Riknild Street rather than an outpost of Isurium, as it has been supposed to be. Riknild Street is shown on Warburton's map passing about half-a‑mile west of Boroughbridge, and joining Leeming Lane at Kiby Hill.

There appears to be now little trace of Riknild Street for some distance north of Chesterfield, and it may perhaps be considered unlikely that there was a second Roman road in that direction within a few miles of Ermingº Street and Rudgate. But for four  p282 and a half miles north of the river Aire the two roads remain evident, and further north both Riknild Street and Rudgate are mapped by Warburton, who rode over the latter; his journal showing, as in other cases, that his map is the result of personal observation.

The explanation of the two parallel roads so near together appears to be that the original road to the north was by Riknild Street, and that with the rise of York the road by Doncaster and Castleford was made, and also the road branching from it by St. Helen's ford and Rudgate to Isurium.

(3) Derby to Buxton​a

A Roman road went from Derby by Buxton to Manchester, of which there are now few traces for 14 miles from Derby. Bishop Bennet described​17 it, in 1817, as branching at Darley Slade, and passing between Kedleston Park and Duffield, and close by Hopton, where a part of it had lately been opened, and over Brassington Moor, where it was visible. Near Slipperlow Farm a parish boundary runs straight for one and three-quarters of a mile by Minninglow, and then follows a road for half-a‑mile to Pike Hall, halfway between Hartington and Winster. After a gap of half-a‑mile a parish boundary in the same line marks the course of the road over Smervil Moor, Middleton Common, and by Benty Grange, to Henmoor (1140′). In Bishop Bennet's time the road was visible from Pike Hall to Henmoor on the east of the modern road. Half-a‑mile further the parish boundary joins the road  p283 and follows it to Street House. The modern road then turns to the west to ease the hill, and the course of the old road, as indicated by the parish boundary, continued on, the modern road rejoining it in about two miles near Brierlow. The road and parish boundary go on straight to near Buxton, and then wind to Buxton together. Remains of Roman baths and other buildings were formerly found here.

On the north-west of Buxton the main road, and then a lane, appear to be in the line of the old road for a mile and a half; a parish boundary then joins the lane and follows it in the same line to Wythen Lache, beyond which the course is uncertain. It no doubt continued on through Stockport to Manchester.

(4) Batham Gate

From Buxton a Roman road called Batham Gate or Bath Way led in north-easterly direction. About one and a quarter miles from Buxton, on the Chapel-east-le-Frith Road, a narrow lane branches off to Peak Forest railway-station, with a parish boundary along it. The boundary continues on to Smalldale, where a road, and a footway beyond take up the line. In 1769 it could be traced through enclosures, and was very visible over Tidswell Moor for many yards together, seven or eight yards wide.​18 Bishop Bennet describes it, in 1817,​19 as visible for a mile on the Buxton side of the stone fence between Tideswell and Bradwell Moors, and quite plain near the fence, 18 or 20 feet wide. It passes north of Bradwell, and in 1769 it  p284 was plain for a mile onwards, to Brough, where remains of a Roman camp about 103 yards by 90 yards lately existed. Beyond Brough for two miles the line is lost, but from the river Derwent it ascends in a straight and very steep course, and above Bamford remains in much perfection. It crosses the moors between Stanedge and Redmires, where the large paving-stones remain in many places. It there bears the name of "Long Causey," and continues on through Lydgate, over Crookesmoor, and along Camp Lane, and is then lost in the suburbs of Sheffield.​20 It probably joined Riknild Street near Swinton.

The Author's Notes:

1 Nash, Hist. of Worcestershire, 1781‑89, vol. II p. cvii.

2 History of Birmingham, p142.

3 Iter Boreale, p21.

4 Journ. Archaeol. Assoc., 1873.

5 Iter Boreale, p21.

6 Plot's Staffordshire, p400.

7 S. Pegge, Roman Roads in the Country of the Coritani, p5.

8 Iter Boreale, p25.

9 Itinerarium Curiosum, p54, Pl. 86.

10 S. Pegge, Roman Roads in the Country of the Coritani, p6.

11 Lysons, Derbyshire, p. ccviii.

12 Lysons, Derbyshire, p. ccviii.

13 S. Pegge, Roman Roads in the Country of the Coritani, p6.

14 Bishop Bennet. Lysons, vol. V p. ccix.

15 Lysons, vol. V p. ccxi.

16 Hunter's Hallamshire, p23.

17 Lysons, vol. V p. ccxiii.

18 Pegge, loc. cit., p12.

19 Lysons, vol. V p. ccviii.

20 Guest, History of Rotherham, 1879, p593

Thayer's Note:

a Roman road from Derby to Buxton: As soon as Roman Roads of Britain hit the public, Thomas Codrington got input from all over the country. Taking account of it, he issued a revised 2d edition in 1905; and one of the changes concerned the exact lie of this road. Well, it turns out he was right the first time: the details could once be read online in Steve Malone's 2d Letter from Nottingham but with the continuing shrinkage of the Web, the page is gone and I can find no other similar resource.

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Page updated: 15 Oct 17