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
Long Preston supposed fort (discredited) -
The road was first mooted by Francis Villy some time before 1915, and is described by Codrington in the third edition of his Roman Roads in Britain (Codrington, 1919, p.102). Initially, Villy proposed a road between Skipton and Settle only, however If such a road did exist, it would logically continue further to the north-
It seems that Villy’s attention was drawn to the apparent alignment of a straightish length of Raikes Road and White Hills Lane heading north-
The route Villy proposed In 1964 is essentially along the same corridor as the modern A65, skirting the south western edge of the Pennines just below the steeper slopes, although the modern road rarely coincides perfectly with it until north-
In 1964, the Ordnance Survey’s Archaeology Division Field Investigator, R. Lewis, looked at all the many features that Villy had used to support his theory and Lewis’s observations were added as brief annotations to the OS linear file of the road. Lewis could not find one single piece of confirmed Roman road, and he assessed every piece of supposed evidence that he could find as a mis-
West Riding of Yorkshire
Burnett, T. (1999); Lines of Sight Through Craven; North Craven Heritage Trust Journal, 1999, pp. 12-
Codrington, T. (1919); Roman Roads in Britain ( 3rd Edition); Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London & The Macmillan Company, New York
Haigh, D. & Taylor, D. J. A. (1992-
Margary, Ivan D. (1973); Roman Roads in Britain, John Baker, London
Ordnance Survey (c. 1977); archive items -
Pastscape (2017); Monument No. 45517 http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45517 accessed 21/11/17
Ratledge, D. (2015); Pers Comms
Ross, P. (1915); unpublished letter to the Ordnance Survey in Ordnance Survey record, RR721; Historic England Archive, Swindon
Toller, H. S. (2014); Pers. Comms.
Villy, F. (1915); An Intrenchment near Ingleton; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 23, part 90, pp. 308-
Villy, F. (1924); A Note on the Roman Fortifications at Long Preston; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 27 Part 108, pp. 410-
In his entry for RR722, Ivan Margary appears not to have been totally convinced by this road, despite awarding it a number, as is clear in the caution of his introductory sentence:
From Skipton, a north-
Margary, 1973, p. 408
Those are just two typical examples. An update to the file dated 2nd February 1977 by a later Field Investigator concurs with Lewis, stating that there was no change to the field report of 1964. It would get worse for the road. The evidence for Villy’s supposed Roman Fort at Long Preston (Villy, 1924) was re-
The OS Investigators’ failure to find any evidence has been compounded more recently by analysis of lidar data from the Environment Agency conducted by no less than four independent researchers, none of whom could find any clear trace of a Roman road along this route (unpublished research by Bryn Gethin, David Ratledge, Hugh Toller, (Ratledge, 2015 & Toller, 2014) and the author).
The dubious nature of the ‘evidence’ for the road has been well recognised for over fifty years, but had actually been suspected fifty years before that. The potential consequences of publishing such evidence, and thus legitimising it, were something of which one of Villy’s contemporaries, the surveyor and antiquarian Percival Ross, was well aware. In a letter to the Ordnance Survey in 1915, concerning Villy’s method on this and other roads, Ross wrote :
Cambered terraced trackway described by Villy runs between boundary baulks of Rig and Furrow and appears to be contemporary with it. RL 2/64
Similarly, near Lawkland (approx SD 7768 6696), Villy’s account in the Bradford Antiquary refers to clear traces of Roman road ⅓ mile S.E. Of Cross Streets, of which Lewis reported
Indicated course follows lower terrace of lynchet group. No trace. RL 2/64
Despite his obvious caution, Margary still chose to include the road in his Roman Roads in Britain, and the consequences, as Ross predicted, are that the belief in the road (and the fort) are hard to shake. For example in a relatively recent paper, the road is described as ‘proven’ and used as the starting point for a theory suggesting a chain of signal stations along its route, an interesting idea but one for which there is absolutely no evidence (Burnett, 1999).
In general, Villy’s research was not based on a pursuit of the evidence, rather it was the other way round, trying to find evidence to confirm his firm belief that a particular road or site was there, an approach leaving immense problems in its wake for those charged with assessing his claims. This is not to say that all of Villy’s substantial body of work is worthless, far from it, although it certainly needs very careful scrutiny before being relying upon. Neither is it to say that a road from Skipton to Ingleton did not exist, merely that there is no evidence for it. Actually, a Roman road approximating to the A65 would make some sense, providing a lower altitude alternative to the crossing of the Stainmore (RR82) for traffic from York and Lincoln heading towards Carlisle. However, just because it is sensible does not mean it was ever built. Until and unless any evidence is ever found that tends to suggest the road really did exist, then it must be disregarded due to a lack of evidence.
False antiquities take a deal of undoing especially when they get onto maps and in books. I have had to deal with the author's road making before. He tried to make one from the Ilkley to Aldborough road branching off near Kettlesing and passing through Harrogate, Knaresboro, Golsbro and by Providence Green to York. He is now trying to fit one on or about the old Keighley and Otley road to Kendal from Skipton.
Percival Ross to Col. Gale, 1st March 1915
Entry compiled by Mike Haken, last updated 28 Nov. 2017
Roman Sites on Route:
Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records