Appendix Three: Roman Roads in Shropshire.
Copyright (c) Susan Laflin. 2000.
Information on the Roman roads in Shropshire was needed to assist in the study of those ford place-names which could be explained because they lay on long-distance routes through the county. No readily available map or study could be found and so it was necessary to carry out a study of Roman roads in Shropshire before returning to the ford place-names. A summary of this study is included here.
Information has been obtained from a variety of sources. First are the Roman roads whose routes are described by Margary and the Ordnance Survey map of Roman Britain.1 Work by Dr Houghton in the 1950s2 and 1960s3 identified other routes and more recent fieldwork has continued this study. There are also earlier studies by members of the Shropshire Archaeological Society.4 Finally discussion with members of the Shropshire Archaeological society has obtained some details of unpublished work. All this has been analysed to produce Map 2 shown in chapter two. In many cases, additional fieldwork is needed.
1. Watling Street from Pennocrucium to Uriconium.
The most important of these roads was Watling Street (Margary's number 1h), which came from London and, in its final stage, travelled almost due west to reach Uriconium (Wroxeter). It remained in use, although diverted to reach Shrewsbury rather than Wroxeter, and so the approximate position is well known. It was described in detail by Margary. It passed through Pennocrucium (Penkridge in Staffodshire) and Uxacona (Redhill).5 It coincided with the A5 and crossed the county boundary into Shropshire at its intersection with the A41. At Oakengates, the construction was observed during sewer work,6 but the section between Oakengates and Wellington is now lost beneath the new town of Telford. Margary mentioned the road being clearly visible across the fields to the top of Overley Hill before a change of direction led down the hill to enter Uriconium. A later study by Dr Houghton discussed the exact line into the city of Wroxeter.7
2. Watling Street West from Uriconium to Mediolanum.
Margary's route 6a, "Watling Street West" headed north towards Mediolanum (Whitchurch) and Chester.8 From Wroxeter, it passed through Norton and crossed the river Tern near Duncote farm. Field boundaries and the name "Drury Lane" indicated its route north until it joined the road south of Little Wytheford. Its crossing of a small stream just west of Roden has been excavated.9 South of Poynton Green, hedgerows and traces of an agger indicated the line and excavations showed a gravel road 20 feet wide and 9-12 inches thick, buried at a depth of 18 inches.10 From Little Wytheford to Moreton Corbet, the later road coincided with the Roman road. North of Moreton Corbet, it headed across the fields to cross the river Roden at Rutunium (Harcourt Park) and then remained on the east bank of the Roden. At Moston, the remains of two Roman milestones were found in 1812,11 and a road nine feet wide was found during the draining of the moor. From here, to Mediolanum (Whitchurch) it coincided more or less with the modern A49, but the exact route has yet to be traced.
3. The Longford from Mediolanum to Pennocrucium.
The route southeast from Whitchurch, Margary's route 19, "the Longford", headed southeast to rejoin Watling Street at Pennocrucium.12 It separated from route 6a at Heath Cottage, about a mile and a half south of Whitchurch and followed a minor road to Twemlows Hall and then across the fields to Bletchley. Margary mentioned the line shown by hedgerows near Twemlows Hall and a clear agger near Heath Farm. From Bletchley through Tern Hill and Shakeford to High Heath, it coincided with the A41 trunk road and was known as "The Longford". Just before High Heath, the main road turned further south and the Roman alignment continued to head for Pennocrucium and was marked by hedgerows and lanes through Ashfields and Ellerton. Beyond Ellerton, the county boundary and a lane marked the line of the Roman road until it crossed the county boundary and the Lonco brook at Whitleyford bridge.
4. Watling Street West from Uriconium to Bravonium.
Heading south from Wroxeter, Margary's route 6b, Watling Street West, ran through the Church Stretton gap to Bravonium (Leintwardine) and on south to Usk.13 The road crossed the river Severn near Wroxeter church and traces of the bridge foundations were found.14 Just west of the river, the road was found at a depth of 18 inches below the surface. A green lane and footpath marked its line as far as the modern A458 and just beyond this, it turned south to cross the Row brook at Upper Cound. After this, it returned to its previous south-west alignment, to pass just south of Pitchford and join the modern road near Frodesley. Traces of another Roman bridge have been excavated between Pitchford and Acton Burnell,15 where the line of the Roman road crossed a stream. From Frodesley, it coincided with a modern road through Longnor Green and Leebotwood and then through Church Stretton and Little Stretton to Marshbrook. At Marshbrook, the Roman road spilt with the Watling Street fork heading across the fields to Bushmoor and Wistanstow. A footpath followed the line of the Roman road from Marshbrook to Bushmoor. After Wistanstow, the road crossed the river Onny at "Stretford Bridge16" where traces of a first century fort have been noted.17 From Newington to Shelderton, a minor road followed the line of the Roman road and then the modern road bent westwards while the Roman road was marked by a footpath running directly to Leintwardine (Bravonium).
5. Roman Road from Marshbrook to Ariconium.
The other Roman road, left Watling Street at Marshbrook, just south of Church Stretton, and headed south to Leominster and Ariconium18 (Weston-under-Penyard in Herefordshire). Margary's route 613 from Ariconium had been traced northwards as far as Ashton in Herefordshire. The course of the road south of Ludlow was not studied in detail, but the general line was through Leominster and west of the river Teme until it reached the crossing place at Ludford. Dr Houghton located, by field work, air photographs and excavations, the remainder of its route. Coming through Ludlow, he cited Old St and Corve St as indicating its line and mentioned some "recent excavations" in this area. The next section was destroyed by the building of the railway, but from Bromfield station to Onibury, the road runs to the east of the railway. In Onibury, it takes a sharp turn to the right and climbs by a hollow way before veering north to pass through New House Farm and Norton to Greenway Cross (appearing as a hollow way to the east of the modern road for part of this route). It passed through Upper and Lower Dinchope and probably continued in a straight line to the ford at Strefford, which crosses the Quinney brook just after its junction with the Byne brook (called the "Strad brook" on Roque's map of 1746).
After this, the road continues as a farm lane and an excavation (at SO 446 860) showed a road, eleven foot wide, made of large cobbles set in firm clay. Its course beyond this point may be indicated by a right-of-way which joined the high road south of Felhampton. An excavation by T.Ewart a hundred yards south of Felhampton was said to have shown a well-made stone surface extending beneath the hedge on the west side of the road. North of Felhampton, it followed the "old Ludlow road" as shown on the tithe map for Acton Scott. This passed through Marsh farm and Marsh wood and an excavation at SO 444 891 found a "well-made level surface cut out of solid rock". It then crossed a small valley and ran along the crest of a ridge to join the Watling Street at Marshbrook station.
6.Roman Road from Uriconium to Lavobrinta.
Route 64 heads west from Wroxeter to Lavobrinta (Forden Gaer) and although the section from Cruckton to Westbury is well known, the exact route at each end is less certain. Margary described a route from the Severn crossing by Wroxeter to the north of Berrington and from King Street (where it was represented by a line of hedgerows, footpaths and lanes) past Betton Abbots and Betton Strange to Sutton and then on to Meole Brace by a route not yet determined.19 Attempts by Dr Houghton to find the exact route of this section have so far been unsuccessful.
Following Margary's description, the O.S. map shows the line of a road and footpath from Meole Brace to Newton farm as a "Roman road" but recent field work suggests a more southerly route.20 Jumping to (SJ 430 105) just north of Cruckton, a track and footpath due east are confirmed as the line of the road. From there, crop marks suggest a route towards Lower Edgbold, along a field boundary, and joining a track at SJ 467 103. This alignment runs south of Nobold and down a track to the Washford at (SJ 480 099). The junction at Cruckton shows where the later road changed direction to head straight for the centre of Shrewsbury and the Roman road fell out of use. At Washford it is possible to see the stone of the road in the stream bank. After crossing the Rea brook, the road seems to head for the Roman site at Sharpstones Hill (SJ 489 097) and may then have gone southeast past Bomere Pool to Allfield, to join the "Salters way" heading east to Wroxeter. Alternatively, it may have headed directly for Atcham and then entered Wroxeter at the northwest corner. 21
Heading west from the junction at north of Cruckton, Margary described Roman road coinciding with the modern Shrewsbury-Westbury road as far as Westbury and there is general agreement on this part of the route. Beyond Westbury, he only considers the upland route which passed through Vennington and Vron Gate to the Long Mountain. It then passed along the top of this ridge and down to Forden Gaer. A second route from Westbury is shown on the O.S. map of Roman Britain and this passed though Worthen and along the valley to reach Forden Gaer.
7. "Salter's Way" from Uriconium through Pontesford to the Stiperstones.
A reference in volume eight of the Victoria County History says, in its description of Condover parish, "A road, running across the north of the parish, from Allfield past Hungerhill and Westley to Exfordsgreen is probably a Roman road and was known as Salter's Way during the middle ages".22 The map suggests a continuation past Exfords Green towards Pontesford and then south west to the Stiperstones and the Roman mines there. The course of this road east from Allfield to Uriconium is uncertain. There are also additional references to a Salter's Way running through Pitchford to Acton Burnell and on to Kenley.23
8. Roman Road from Greensforge to Uxacona.
The section from Greensforge to Droitwich was described as Margary's route 192 and he states that it is "well marked by roads and old lanes, with parish and county boundaries".24 The continuation north west from Greensforge is marked on the O.S.map past the War Stone and up Castle Hill to Wolmore Farm, where it runs along the county boundary. Near Wolmore Farm (SO 822 947), the county boundary turns through an angle and then runs straight to Hillend (SO 810 950) and a continuation of this line along a track would join the B4176 at Upper Ludstone (see Figure 6). Shortly after this, the B4176 crosses the Stratford brook and this name suggests a crossing of a Roman road. The B4176 runs in a number of straight segments as far as SJ 731 020 just east of Sutton Maddock but the route from here to Redhill (Uxacona) is less obvious. Even so the line of the county boundary and the place-name Stratford suggest a continuation of this Roman road which have not previously been noted.
9. Roman Road from Greensforge to Lavobrinta or Caer Sws.
Work by Dr Houghton in the 1950s has identified a number of additional Roman roads. One of these runs from Greensforge, across the river Severn at Bridgnorth, along Corve dale, passing through Monkhopton, across the river Onny at Halford and then westwards into Wales.25 He cites evidence from fieldwork and excavation to support the route of this road. Starting at Greensforge, the route entered Shropshire just east of Whitecross (at SO 814 911) and followed the modern road as far as Broughton. Here the Roman road continued in a straight line and was confirmed by an excavation at SO 797 924. After this the alignment changed slightly to follow a modern road south of Sandford and Cheyknell as far as SO 770 934 and then along farm tracks to Roughton. From Roughton a right-of-way passed south of Swancote farm on a line for the river crossing at Bridgnorth, but disappeared beneath modern development.
Although no traces of the Roman road and river crossing have been identified, it is likely that there was a Roman bridge here. The crossing at Wroxeter, much higher up the river, certainly had a bridge and at this point there would have been a greater flow of water and hence a greater need for a bridge. The earliest written reference is to "Cwatbrycg" in 895 and to a fortress at "Bricge", probably the burh build by Aethelflaed. 26 This indicates the presence of a bridge in the ninth century and it may have been there much earlier.
Dr Houghton traced the road from Bridgnorth to Morville, crossing the Mor brook by the Ash bridge and then along Corvedale through Monkhopton and Aston Eyre. At SO 586 919 it left the modern B4368 and remained on the south bank of the river Corve as far as Beambridge. It crossed the Trow brook at SO 537 884 where its presence was confirmed by excavation. It rejoined the B4368 at Beambridge and followed it past Greenway Cross and along to Halford Vicarage (SO 440 830), where it diverged and headed straight for Halford. After crossing the river Onny, it passed through Newington and became the "Long Lane". It passed through Basford to Red House and then changed direction and became "Stank Lane" heading for Bishops Castle. West of Bishops castle, it became a deeply sunken lane and went over Moat Hill to Bishops Moat. Here it forked, with one branch heading north west to Forden Gaer. The other continued due west along the Kerry ridgeway and crossed Offa's Dyke at SO 258 896. Excavation here proved that the road was older than the dyke. Beyond this at Pantglas, the road forked again, with one branch heading westwards to Caer Sws and the other southwest along the Kerry ridgeway.
10. Roman Road from Watling Street West to Onibury.
Dr Houghton also mentioned another Roman road from Shelderton on Watling Street West, via Shelderton Rock, Green Lane and Whittytree to Onibury and stated that the ford by which this crossed the river Onny was still clearly visible in 1960.27
11. Roman Roads through Wall Town.
In discussing the period in the first century AD when Shropshire was assumed to be a frontier zone under the control of the Roman army, Dr Webster refers to the fort at Stretford bridge and postulates another road running from Salinae (Droitwich) to this fort, passing through the fort at Wall Town.28 He also comments on the need for a road connecting Wall Town and Monkhopton with Uriconium. The map in his book suggests approximate routes for these roads, but fieldwork has yet to provide any confirmation of their existence.
12. Roman Road from Meole Brace to Llanymynech.
Other less certain Roman roads were discussed in the report of the "Roman roads committee29" published in 1938. These included a road from Moele Brace, through Copthorne, Ford, Alberbury and on to the mines at Llanymynech and another one north from Llanymynech. Little evidence was cited to support these routes, but some routes to and from these mines must have existed. They also suggested a Roman road from the quarry by Broome in Cardington, through Causeway wood to meet Watling Street West.
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1 Ivan D. Margary, Roman Roads in Britain,Volume 2 (1957), chapters 1 & 2.
2 A.W.J. Houghton,"The Roman Road from Greensforge through the central Welsh Marches", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 61 (1957-60), pp.233-243.
3 A.W.J. Houghton,"A Roman Road from Ashton, north Herefordshire to Marshbrook, Salop", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 57 (1961-64),pp.185-190.
4 H.E.Forrest, "Roman roads Committee: Report with a map", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 49 (1937-38), pp.85-96.
5 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.25-27.
6 H.E.Forrest, "Roman roads Committee: Report with a map", p.88.
7 A.W.J.Houghton, "The last mile of Watling Street east of Wroxeter", Transactions Shropshire Archaeological Society, 59 (1978), pp.214-224.
8 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.30-32.
9 Private communication from W.E.Jenks.
10 H.E.Forrest, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 49, pp92.
11 W.T.Watkin Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 2(ser I), p323.
12 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.27-28.
13 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.50-52.
14 J.A. Morris, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 44, p304.
15 Evelyn Sladden,"Acton Burnell Roman Road and Bridge site", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 55 (1954), p.38.
16 John D. Dyke, "Some Characteristics of Old Watling Street", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 10 (1898) pp.173-179.
17 Graham Webster, The Cornovii. (1975) p.30.
18 A.W.J. Houghton,"A Roman Road from Ashton, north Herefordshire to Marshbrook, Salop", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 57 (1961-64), pp.185-190.
19 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.75-76.
20 private communication from Mr W.E.Jenks.
21 Roger White, "An Early Route to the West", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, forthcoming.
22 ed. A.T.Gaydon, Victoria History of Shropshire, volume VIII (1968), p.31.
23 ibid., pp. 6 and 116.
24 Margary, Roman Roads in Britain, pp.29-30.
25 A.W.J. Houghton,"The Roman Road from Greensforge through the central Welsh Marches", Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 61 (1957-60) pp233-243.
26 Margaret Gelling & H.D.C.Foxall, Place Names of Shropshire: Part 1, EPNS Volume LXII/LXIII (1990), pp.55-59.
27 A.W.J. Houghton,"A Roman Road from Ashton, north Herefordshire to Marshbrook, Salop", Transactions Shropshire Archaeological Society, 57 (1961-64), pp.185-190.
28 Graham Webster, The Cornovii (1975),p.30.
29 H.E.Forrest, "Roman Roads Committee: A Brief Report", Transactions Shropshire of the Archaeological Society, 49 (1937-38), pp.85-96.
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