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© Mike Haken & RRRA, 2018
Roman Sites on Route:
Brinklow, David (1986); Main Roads Serving Roman York in Brinklow, D, Hall, R. A., Magilton, J. R., Donaghey, Sara ; Coney Street, Aldwark and Clementhorpe, Minor Sites, and Roman Roads; CBA, York
Codrington, Thomas (1903); Roman Roads in Britain, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London
Drake, Francis (1736); Eboracum: or the History and Antiquities of the City of York, London.
Margary, Ivan D. (1973); Roman Roads in Britain, John Baker, London
RCHME (1962); Roman York: Approach Roads, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 1, Eburacum, Roman York ;London, pp. 1-
Fig. 1 Map from Eboracum, by Francis Drake, 1734
Click Images to enlarge
Fig. 2 1954 Ordnance Survey 1:25000 map, showing course of RR810 and the possible route of RR800, along Stockton Lane and through Stockton on the Forest
Apart from the reference to Monk Bar, which is almost certainly genuine, he manages to avoid giving the slightest clue as to the location of the surviving parts of this road, leaving the distinct impression that he thought there must be a a road there somewhere, and had a guess that it was near the modern road, now the A64.
That a road left the north east gate of the York’s legionary fortress and crossed the R. Foss close to the current Monk Bridge is fairly certain (RCHME 1962). The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments labelled this Road 4 of their eleven roads approaching York (ibid), the supposed direct route to Malton through Stockton on the Forest, which Margary numbered RR800.
Heworth Green (A1036) probably follows its course for nearly half a mile and, where the modern Malton road bears north, a Roman line probably carried straight on, probably about a 100m or so south of Stockton Lane. At some point, the road is assumed to have forked, RR800 carrying on through to Malton, and RR810 bearing towards Gate Helmsley and Stamford Bridge, or so it has been assumed for three hundred years (fig. 2). In fact, whilst there is plenty of evidence for the road to Stamford Bridge, there is very little for a direct road to Malton, none at all for the oft touted road north west of the R. Derwent, as Drake described. A direct road to Malton would have been about two miles shorter than the known route via Stamford Bridge, so the likelihood of its existence seems to depend on a simple question of whether or not it would have been considered worth the expenditure of time and resources, a question hard to answer today.
What little evidence exists for the direct road is at both ends. The first, through Stockton on the Forest, arises from the straightness of Stockton Lane from Heworth and on through the village. Sandy Lane is a little off the alignment, and so if a road existed it would probably have been a little south east of Sandy Lane. No other evidence for a Roman road has ever been found, and there is no indication on aerial photographs or lidar of any possible feature north east of Common Lane, near the Defra Laboratories. If a road went west of the R. Derwent, it would give access to the Roman potteries at Crambeck and Welburn. If a road headed east of the Derwent maintaining the Stockton Lane alignment, it would cross the river near Howsham Bridge aiming directly for the possible sighting point at Spy Hill. With a slight deviation in Howsham Wood to climb the step bank, and presumably skirting around Spy Hill, a new alignment from the hill through Westow and Menethorpe then onto Menethorpe Lane, along the footpath past Welham Hall, would take the line of the road onto the old raised causeway which crosses Malton & Norton Golf Club, known as Welham Trod. This straight old road looks very much as if it could have a Roman origin, and appears to aim directly for the probable Roman bridgehead, but none of it has ever been excavated.
This is of course no more than supposition, but the fact that these two alignments projected from the straight roads at either end meet at Spy Hill, the only suitable sighting point east of the R. Derwent, is a coincidence that ought to be investigated further. The RRRA aims to do just that over the next couple of years.
A further point for consideration is whether the road from the NE gate of York may be better considered as part of RR810, especially as the existence of the “direct” road to Malton is far from certain and RR810 was clearly important, judging from its width.
Francis Drake in the early 18th century showed a road leaving York directly for Malton, heading up the eastern side of the R. Derwent. Interestingly, he did not show a road from Stamford Bridge to Malton, although the route of RR81a is now fairly certain. Drake has his detractors and with good reason for, whilst he did sometimes convey important information, at other times he was prone to verbose waffle to mask his lack of knowledge. His account of the road from York to Malton is as good a piece of 18th century flannel as you are likely to ever read, until you get to the end!
Extract from Francis Drake’s ‘Eboracum’
From Malton, I take it, the Roman road led to York the same way it does now; and though, in such a via trita, there are few footsteps of it remaining, yet to a curious and observant person some of them are obvious enough. Especially to those who are as well acquainted with the Roman pavement on the moors, the nature of the stone they used in it, and the setting or jointing of them, as my self. I can point out several pieces of it pretty entire; and in some places the exact breadth of the stratum may be measured; which corresponds to the inch, with the pavement I have mentioned. This road runs up to the city almost due west; and entered it, very probably, where it does now, at, or about, Monk-
(Drake, 1736, pp. 36-
Crambeck Potteries -
North Riding of Yorkshire
Fig. 3 Lidar image showing RR81a and the possible northern end of RR800 with a potential link between them
Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records
Entry compiled by Mike Haken, last updated 29/1/18