Except where stated otherwise (e.g. when the copyright of photographs is retained), you are free to reproduce any of this work for non-
© Mike Haken & RRRA, 2018
Bishop, M. C. (2012); Handbook to Roman Legionary Fortresses; Pen and Sword, Barnsley
Gatehouse Gazetteer ; http://www.gatehouse-
Magilton J. (1977); Doncaster District Survey
Roberts, I., Deegan, A. & Berg, D.; (2010); Understanding the Cropmark Landscape of the Magnesian Limestone; Archaeological Services WYAS, Leeds
Warburton, J (1720); A New and Correct Map of the County of York in All its Divisions, London.
West Riding of Yorkshire
A Roman road heading almost due south from just west of the Rossington fortress is visible on aerial photographs. When it was first identified during the Doncaster District Survey it was questioned because “the alignment looks wrong”(Magilton 1977, p.64). This is presumably a reference to RR28 being just a short distance away to the east heading SSE and perhaps led to the suggestion that it might be a pipeline (see Pastscape entry) which seems highly improbable. The feature presents as intermittent cropmarks of a pair of ditches 18m apart, similar to many other major roads in lowland Yorkshire such as RR28 and RR280 (Rudgate). It was picked up again during the mapping programme undertaken by Archaeological Services WYAS, published in 2010 (Roberts, Deegan & Berg, 2010, p.68), and is taken as being a road of unknown destination heading south for 3.7 km. Roberts, Deagan & Berg suggest that it could either represent the continuation of a northward branch of RR5f between Willoughby and Lincoln, or an alternative course of RR28a. The latter would seem highly unlikely, as such a course would avoid the more direct and well surveyed higher ground route that RR28 follows. Something similar to the former suggestion seems most likely, enabling troop movements from the south-
Interestingly, Warburton’s map of 1720 shows a straight road in almost exactly this position heading south to Blyth, although he didn’t draw it as one thick and one thin line, as his Roman lines are usually represented, and it may just be a poor representation of what is now the B6463. It is worth adding, however, that his line to Littleborough is in the wrong place, possibly influenced by the short spur east of RR28a now only visible on lidar (fig.3). He does show the Roman road to Bawtry (RR28a), and another a little further south labelled Ermin Street, a road that has been suspected but for which there is no known evidence. Could that be a continuation of this road?
Scrutiny of lidar and aerial photographs has so far failed to find any trace of the road further south, and its northern end does not show on lidar either. Other roads, however, do. The course of RR28 is very well known, however lidar suggests that it does a slight kink just south of the R. Torne, possibly affected by the siting of pottery kilns in the area. Heading westwards from that area appears to be a short length of road which runs just north of the fortress giving access to it from RR28a from the south, and it joins what seems to be another road heading NNW from the fortress, which is assumed to give access to RR28a heading north near what is now Doncaster Racecourse and is perfectly aligned on the the point where RR28a crosses the R. Idle near Bawtry, suggesting that it cannot be a continuation of this road, RR282(x). It is shown on the 1854 6 inch OS map as “site of old road” indicating that it had been out of use for a very long time when the map was surveyed, and lidar shows it as a classic Roman agger, now running across the Doncaster Golf Course. The earthworks to the south of the road have often been claimed to be remains of a medieval timber castle, but there appears to be little evidence for medieval origin (Gatehouse Gazetteer 2017) and the name “Castle Hills” could actually be a reference to the fortress or other Roman work. How RR282(x) ties in to this system, or why it doesn’t show at all on lidar when other roads show fairly well, is far from clear.
If both this interpretation and the date for the fortress are correct, it suggests that the fortress either remained in use later than previously thought or, more likely, that the road network was developing before the Roman advance north in c.AD71. If the latter were true, it would have major implications for our understanding of the period leading up to the ‘conquest’ of Brigantia, and could be taken as evidence that Rome was preparing all the necessary infrastructure and logistical support several years before it was eventually needed.
Click Images to enlarge
Fig. 2. 1st edition 6” OS map of Rossington, showing the two certain Roman roads and the “site of old road” leading to the fortress.
Fig. 4. Composite lidar image showing RR28 and RR282, along with three other short lengths of access roads.
Fig. 3. Part of John Warburton’s map of 1720, showing his interpretation of the Roman roads near Rossington Bridge
Fig. 1. Cropmarks south of Rossington showing discontinuous feature interpreted as a Roman road
Roman Sites on Route:
Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records
Entry Prepared by Mike Haken, last updated, 12 November 2017