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Margary Number:

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Thorpe Audlin

West Riding of Yorkshire

16  Miles

18f (x)


S. Yorks. SMR 01015/1

HE Pastscape Mon.1010754

Given that the main approach to the fort at Templeborough is from the south, a road to enable movement northwards from Templeborough by joining either RR28b or another road further north seems entirely logical (Bishop, 1999, pp.308-9). Indeed, a fairly direct link between Templeborough and Castleford may be evidenced by the presence on both sites of roof tiles bearing the imprint of the same stamp, that of the 4th cohort of Gauls (Betts, 1998, p.231). Whether this was by a road to Doncaster (RR710c) or some other road to the north has been a subject of debate for centuries. Indeed, as the approach to Templeborough from the south can be considered part of the medieval Ricknild Street, it is fair to assume that this theoretical link is part of the road mentioned by Ranulf Higden (Higden 1344) where he listed Rikenildstrete as one of the four Great Ways of Britain. Higden described it as going from St. Davids in South Wales through Hereford, Birmingham, Lichfield, Derby, Chesterfield, York to the Tyne estuary.

The location of the road in Yorkshire has baffled researchers for years. Many routes have been suggested over the centuries and it is worth including a brief discussion here. The antiquarian Roger Gale attempted to give a more precise route but from Derby northwards he was forced to concede “the tract of it I can trace no further this way” (Gale c.1710 p131). In 1720 however, the cartographer John Warburton included a Roman road which he marked as “Rickeneild Street Way” running through Chesterfield, Rotherham, Woodlesford, and on to Boroughbridge as part of his Map of Yorkshire (Warburton 1720), although what evidence he had for his line is not known. Warburton’s Roman road lines are notoriously inaccurate and have been much criticised in the 20th century, however in recent years it has become apparent that where it is known that he visited roads himself, they are more liikely to be genuine, although frequently drawn on his maps in the wrong place! The recent re-discovery by Bryn Gethin & Hugh Toller of the road northwards from Bainbridge towards Bowes, and the recognition of a length of road running south from Rossington Bridge (Roberts, et al., 2010, p. 19) are testament to this.

Other antiquarians followed Warburton’s lead, such as Stukeley (Stukeley, 1724) and Drake (Drake, 1736), although their illustrated routes did vary slightly from Warburton’s. South of the R. Don work in the mid 20th century (Greene & Wakelin 1951-7) certainly appeared to prove that the link between Chesterfield and Templeborough was genuine (although there remain major issues with the route - see 18e & 18ee); but where did it go then? By the time Codrington wrote the Ricknild Street entry in his Roman Roads in Britain (Codrington, 1903, p. 272) the road’s existence north of Templeborough had been regarded as certain, yet there has never been any agreement as to the actual route, or for that matter much firm evidence, other than a two and a half mile long feature 21 miles north of Templeborough, near Temple Newsam, Leeds.  This feature, assumed by Warburton to be part of Ricknild Street, mapped as a Roman road on early OS maps and given its own road number by Margary, RR728, (Margary, 1957, pp. 139-140), turned out on excavation nearly three centuries later to be part of the rampart of the linear earthwork Grim’s Ditch (Wilmott 1993). Fig. 2 illustrates the numerous proposed routes over the years up to about 1960 - note how sinuous most are, most un-Roman in layout, with the notable exception of Warburton’s original.

In 1930, excavation carried out an old road known as Street Lane and then Old Street near Hooton Pagnell which had been identified by the Ordnance Survey as either Roman or “British” in 1904 (fig. 3), revealed a road with a base some 18 to 20 feet across, and distinctly cambered. The excavator, C. E. Whiting, concluded that  “There is nothing which proves it to be Roman; but it seems difficult to find any reason that it should belong to any other period….” (Whiting, 1931, p.259). This interpretation is contradicted by one of the excavators, Mary Kitson Clark, who concluded that the road rested on 17th century quarry material although she did not discount a possible earlier origin (Kitson Clark, 1931, p186). In any case, the Ordnance Survey were sufficiently convinced to later allocate this road an “X” number, RRX2, and interpreted this “new” road as the missing link. The course between Templeborough and the excavation site was hypothetical at best and was described by Dorothy Green as forming part of a pre-Roman route, her supposed Ricknild Way (Green, 1949) a little further north. Whatever the excavators actually found, given the lack of any obvious destination to the road, or any obvious Roman layout , it was hard to interpret any of the road as being what we would consider a Roman road, and RRX2 has been pretty much disregarded since the 1960s.

RRRA Forum for RRX2


Fig. 3. 1907 6 inch to the mile OS map showing supposed Roman or British Road near Hooton Pagnell

Betts, Ian M., (1998); The Brick and Tile;  in Cool, H. E. M. & Philo, C.(Eds.); Roman Castleford Vol. I, The Small Finds; West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Wakefield

Bishop, M.C., (1999); The Historical and Archaeological context of the Castra at Castleford;  in Abramson, P., Berg, D. S., &  Fossick, M.R. (Eds.) Roman Castleford, Vol II The Structural and Environmental Evidence, pp 307 - 312;  West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Wakefield

Gale, Roger, (c.1710 ); “An Essay Towards the Recovery of the Four Great Roman Ways” in Hearne, Thomas 1754 (2nd edition); The Itinerary of John Leland the Antiquary,  Vol 6.  

Greene, Dorothy., (1949); The Roman Roads in the Don Valley: The Ricknild Street-a suggested route. In Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, Vol 6 p.168., Available online at: http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/index.php/topic/7233-roman-roads-in-the-don-valley/ accessed 7/1/15.

Greene, Dorothy & Wakelin, F (1951-7); Brinsworth Common near Rotherham, Ancient and Roman Roads Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, Vol. 7, p 164

Kitson-Clark, M., (1931); Road Near Hooton Pagnell in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol 30, p.187

Margary, Ivan D. (1973); Roman Roads in Britain, John Baker, London

Roberts, I., Berg, D. & Deegan, A., (2010); Cropmark Landscapes of the Magnesian Limestone Chapter 8. [Online] Available at: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-998-1/dissemination/pdf/project_report/8_Discussion.pdf [Accessed 9 October 2017].

Smedley, N. (1951); Coin Hoard, Marr Thick, nr. Doncaster in Yorkshire Archaeological journal, vol 37,Part 148, pp. 520-521

Warburton, J., (1720); A New and Correct Map of the County of York in All its Divisions, London.

Whiting, C. E. (1931); Lound Lane and the Old Street in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol 30, pp. 258-9

Fig. 1. A portion of the third sheet of John Warburton’s Map of Yorkshire (1720), showing near Eckington  “Here ye Rickeneild Street Way enters from Darby”. Note that Warburton marked the road in part with solid lines, indicating some degree of certainty.

Fig. 2. Map illustrating the many claimed routes for Ricknild Street north of Chesterfield

Fig. 4. Map combining the plots of cropmarks from aerial photographs and the results of geophysical survey near South Elmsall

Fig. 5. Map showing the relationship between RR18f and RR28a, and the probable planning alignment for RR18f

After three centuries of guesswork, a light has finally been shone on this issue. Aerial photographs have revealed a short length of Roman road at around SE 4667 1289, just north of South Elmsall presenting as a pair of parallel ditches (Roberts, et al., 2010, p. 18) and on at least one image as a parchmark (Google Earth 1999). This feature was examined by geophysical survey in advance of the construction of the A6201, and a plot of the combined cropmarks and geophysics is shown on fig. 4. It was clear that this is a Roman road that might represent our link between Templeborough and the roads north, joining RR28a at the fort at Thorpe Audlin (Roberts, et al., 2010, p. 18). Subsequent analysis shows that the stretch of road falls precisely on an alignment from Thorpe Audlin fort to the top of the hill at Moorgate, Rotherham (just west of the hospital), a clear sighting point which whilst not visible from Thorpe Audlin, can be easily seen from the higher ground just a mile or so south of the fort. This would seem to establish that this is almost certainly a Roman road set out from north to south and it seems distinctly possible that the southern part of RRX2, as presented by Dorothy Greene’s route, may have some merit, at least as far north as Swinton (fig. 5).

As a footnote, the northern part of RRX2 might, at some point, merit re-investigation. We can be confident that what was excavated in 1930 is not part of the link from Templeborough northwards, and has therefore been discounted for the purposes of our mapping, but the possibility of  Roman origin for the fairly wide and cambered road they found in their trench west of Hampole wood, apparently sealed by an 18th or 17th century road above (Whiting 1931 pp.258-9), cannot be discounted. The proximity of the fort at Burghwallis, of which the excavators were unaware, could have some relevance.

The attempts to put some meat on the bones of Warburton’s mapping has often led previous researchers to look for a road north to the west of RR28 as far as Castleford and beyond, often by-passing York despite Higden’s clear inclusion of the city on his route. Route is the correct word, as Ricknild Street was not a distinct road heading to Newcastle, rather it was a medieval name applied to a route which no doubt comprised many Roman roads and parts of roads - ignorance of this fact that has misled many.

Hopefully, this road serves as a warning of the potential folly of being solely dependent on plotting chains of straightish roads., footpaths, parish boundaries, and “street” placenames, in the belief that they will reveal a Roman road, without any solid archaeological evidence to base it on.

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records