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© Mike Haken & RRRA, 2018
Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records
West Riding of Yorkshire
The name “Cam High Road” has changed over the years, being recorded as the Kambe road in medieval monastic charters, and described as “The Devils Causeway” on John Warburton’s map of 1720 (Warburton, 1720, fig. 2). Curiously, Warburton’s map shows the ascent of the southern slope of Wensleydale to Wether Fell as a broken line, ie uncertain, whereas these days it is often regarded as the most certain part of this road.
The line of the Roman road is believed to be almost entirely preserved by the 1751 Richmond to Lancaster Turnpike road. The turnpike road was constructed very quickly, a tollgate being established in Bainbridge just two months after Alexander Fothergill was appointed as surveyor of the eastern division of the road (Wright, 1988, p.181). In 1756, Fothergill reported that the “road is sixty miles in length, Forty of which have been repaired and made good” which clearly suggests that at least two thirds of the road utilised the course of pre-
The stretch of the turnpike between Bainbridge and Gearstones was diverted in 1791 to what is today the B6255 from Hawes up Widdale to Newby Head and down to Gearstoines, substantially easing gradients and having a maximum altitude of 438m, some 140m less than the Roman route.
The road left the fort at Bainbridge on a terraceway from the south gate, although this can only be traced today as far as the modern main road (A684). It is probable that it kept straight on as it dropped down to cross the R. Bain and then skirted around the slight hillock south of Bainbridge. It is possible that it crossed the eastern part of the modern Cam High Road at about SD93098987, although this is far from certain, probably keeping a few yards north of the modern lane until the two join at about SD 92548949. From here the road climbs up the side of Wensleydale in a three mile long alignment to Wether Fell, from whence its route is very skillfully planned as a series of short straight lengths, the longest being only a mile, cleverly utilising the topography to make the easiest possibly crossing (fig. 4). It has suffered major damage from off-
It reaches a maximum altitude of 577m at Kidhow where it starts it long descent south westwards to Ingleton. After a further four miles the Roman road arrives at Gearstones (SD78538029) where the track is joined by the B6255, the re-
Southwest of Ingleton, the route has never been satisfactorily established. Warburton (Warburton, 1720) marked the road in a direct line to the fort at Over Burrow, south of Kirby Lonsdale, but there is no sign of it today. Shotter and White suggested a branch from the Lune valley road keeping north of the R. Greta crosseding the western main road (RR7) east of Cantsfield and headeding direct to Ingleton, although without any evidence on the ground to back it up (Shotter & White, 1995, p.60). Margary on the other hand (Margary, 1973, p384), suggested a more southerly route, joining RR7 somewhere near Low Bentham. Donald Haigh and D.J.A. Taylor later claimed to have established this route (Burnham, 2004, p.275) but close inspection by the author of all the supposed bits of agger and terraceway revealed nothing that could not be interpreted as relatively modern and unconnected farm tracks. A final suggestion was made by Keith Horsfield (Horsfield, 1999), taking RR73 direct to Lancaster, although the the route is most un-
In short, we simply don’t known whether RR73 joined RR7 near low Bentham, turned more north west at Ingleton to head to Over Burrow, or crossed RR7 to join the Lune Valley road, RR705, somewhere near Melling.
RR73 is certainly an unusual upland road, in that for its entire length it is traditionally thought to lie beneath more recent roads and tracks -
Burnham, Barry, (Ed.) (2004); Roman Britain in 2003; Britannia pp.275-
Collingwood, R. G. (1928); Excavations at Brough-
Horsfield, Keith (1999); An Old Road from Lancaster towards Ingleton: A Possible Roman Route?; Contrebis vol. 23 pp. 14-
Margary, Ivan D. (1973); Roman Roads in Britain, John Baker, London
Metcalf V; (2004); Cam High Road, Wether Fell to Bainbridge. Archetype Archaeological Consultancy [assessment & evaluation reports].
Warburton, John (1720); A New and Correct Map of Yorkshire in All its Divisions, London
Wright, Geoffrey N. (1985); Roads and Trackways of the Yorkshire Dales; Moorland Publishing Company Ltd., Ashbourne
Click Images to enlarge
Fig. 5 . Exposed limestone bedrock on the Cam High Road © Phillip Rees, 2018. All Rights Reserved
Fig. 1 Looking across Wensleydale from RR732(x) -
© Mike Haken 2013
Fig. 2 Portion of John Warburton’s Map of Yorkshire, 1720. Curiously, he has the famous section in Wensleydale as dotted (ie uncertain), and the rest of it solid (certain)
Unlike our red rose neighbour to the west, Yorkshire is not blessed with many Roman roads whose remains can be described as spectacular. The road that heads south west out of Wensleydale, from Virosidum, the fort at Bainbridge, is the undoubted exception.
R,G. Collingwood 1928, p.263
Fig. 3 the iconic image of Cam High Road climbing towards Wether Fell.
Fig. 4 1954 OS map 1:25000, illustrating how the road is skilfully planned to take the easiest but still direct course.
Roman Sites on Route:
Entry prepared by Mike Haken. Last updated, 29 January 2018
Fig. 6 The Ribblehead Viaduct, taken from just north of the probable course of the Roman road.© Paul Davis 2014