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A length of about 500m of Roman road has been identified from aerial photographs west of Methley, West Yorkshire (Roberts et al. 2010, p. 71), centred at about SE 385 263. It bisects the rivers Calder and Aire and almost certainly comes from the fort at Castleford, heading in the direction of Bradford, although there is no known Roman site in its path. Having said that, the distance between Tadcaster and Slack along RR712, the road from York to Manchester, is in the region of 30 miles, which is simply too far for a single day’s march. There must have been an intermediate site somewhere, although attempts to find it over the last couple of centuries have come to nothing. Francis Villy’s supposed site at Snelsins, Cleckheaton, was effectively disproven by excavation in 1965 (Ramm, 1965, p.331). It would seem logical that our road is heading towards the missing site, placing it somewhere somewhere between Morley and Drighlington. The course of RR712 is not tracable from its likely crossing of the R. Calder near Cooper Bridge, to where it is traditionally supposed to join RR729 at Thorner but there is a possibility that the road actually heads to Adel, not Thorner although the half way point between Adel and Slack would similarly be in the Drighlington area.
An additional section of RR283(x) has been identified closer to Castleford, just west of Barnsdale Road, centred at about SE 407 259. The 2009 Google image just shows a strip of slightly paler crop about 12 m wide, the same as the road west of Methley, probably representing the agger of the road. The feature is also visible on Bing aerial photography, where ditches can be seen showing indications of widening of the road. If the line of the feature is projected eastwards it would meet RR28a, which runs along the western edge of the fort, just north of the north-west corner of the fort, possibly suggesting an original alignment with the north gate.
Clearly, this road is poorly understood. Further detailed analysis of available aerial photographs is needed, together with targeted geophysical survey, working westwards from Methley to attempt to trace its course further west. Should it prove possible to identify its likely meeting point with RR712 (Manchester to York), this could in turn identify the potential location of the missing fort between Tadcaster and Slack.
Ramm, H. G.(1965); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register 1964; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol 41, pp. 315-337, YAS Leeds
Roberts, I., Deegan, A. & Berg, D.; (2010); Understanding the Cropmark Landscape of the Magnesian Limestone; Archaeological Services WYAS, Leeds
Fig. 1 Bing aerial photo showing the parallel cropmarks created by the ditches of a Roman road heading WNW from the fort at Castleford, West Yorkshire
Fig. 2 Google Earth image from 2009, showing cropmarks which might indicate the line of RR283(x) just north of its crossing of the R. Calder, west of Barnsdale Road.
Click Images to enlarge
2.75 miles identified - probable distance 11 miles
Roman Sites on Route:
Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records
Entry compiled by Mike Haken. Last updated, 2 January 2018