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Margary Number:

Other Numbering System:


HE Pastscape Mon. No. 1149091

HE Pastscape Mon. No. 59554

HE Pastscape Mon. No. 1025814

N. Yorks. HER , MNY2128 MNY2359

MNY2335 Welham Trod

The precise route of this important road has, in the past, been rather vaguely described by using the courses of modern roads. Codrington, for example, merely describes it as following the course of Mook Street, the rather sinuous road which does follow a very straight general course from Buttercrambe NNE towards Malton (Codrington 1903, pp161-162). The Ordnance Survey linear file does record the road fairly accurately for aboput four and a half miles as the modern road (Mook Street) deviates from its straight course. Margary has the road starting at Grimston, 2 miles from York, branching from the York to Brough road (RR2e), then following the line of the modern A166 as far as Gate Helmsley, then along the modern lane keeping to the north west of the Derwent crossing the river at Buttercrambe, before taking up the line of Mook Street as Codrington and the OS described (Margary, 1973 p.421).

Margary’s numbering has, unfortunately, become extremely confusing, as we now know with certainty that this road actually started at Stamford Bridge, in what are now open fields SE of the R. Derwent, where it branched off the York to Bridlington road (RR810). The stretch from Grimston to Gate Helmsley should therefore be considered part of RR810, and not RR81a. Aerial photograpy (fig.1) revealed part of the Roman settlement of Derventio, clustering around the point where  the road to Malton (RR81a) branches off the road to Bridlington (RR810). This placed the Roman bridging point a mile downstream of the traditional stone ford (ie Stamford), which means that the idea of the A166 overlying a Roman road can be discounted.

Projecting the alignment of RR81a north east from the junction, two short lengths of probable agger have now been identified on lidar, heading to the area where Dolegate crosses the Barlam Beck (Fig. 2). Dolegate had been suspected for some time to represent the Roman road, and a note was added to the Ordnance Survey linear file to this effect in 1985. Hugh Toller demonstrated with lidar analysis that this was in fact correct, extrapolating the line of Dolegate NNE to as far as Swallowpits Beck, where it changes alignment slightly (Toller, 2012).

From the Swallowpits Beck northwards the course is indicated by Lowfield Lane, which becomes Mook Street, as recorded by Codrington. Where Mook Street meanders, the Roman line remains predictably straight cutting across the bends of the modern road. It is just visible on aerial photographs from Street Closes (SE7571 6271) to where it crosses Mook Street at SE 7654 6422, and again from Four Lane Ends (SE 7707 6521) to Kennels Farm (SE 7771 6642) (Toller, 2012). There is a raised linear feature in the field south of the farm visible on current Bing aerial imagery, about 8m wide, which may well be surviving agger, or possibly a later trackway overlying the Roman road (Fig. 3).

Lidar comes to our aid again (fig. 4), revealing several short lengths of the remains of agger either side of Mook Street, but maintaining the predicted alignment, as far as the Limestone quarry at approx. SE 790 691 (Toller 2012). From this point northwards, the line as recorded by Ordnance Survey appears to be slightly too far to the east. An aerial photograph is stated to show cropmarks of the ditches of the road but inspection of the copy of the photograph held by the North Yorkshire c.R.O. failed to show the claimed features. A more likely course is represented by the lidar feature, just west of a modern hedgebank,  from SE 7923 7005 to SE 7926 7027 and then continuing straight at least as far as Brooklyn House (SE 7935 7095), where excavation in 2016-17 led by John Buglass, in advance of the building of a school extension, revealed the road precisely on this projected line (Buglass, Phillips & Wilson, forthcoming). Most interestingly, however, the substructure of the road was found to be a substantial layer of concrete (fig. 5). This is the third known example of what may have been a common practice for roads around Malton. The local limestone is quite friable so it seems that a decision was taken, at least close to the settlement, to use the limestone to make concrete for a more durable structure than that achievable by using the stone in its natural state..

At some point between Norton and the quarry, RR29 to Brough should meet it, but the junction has not yet been located. Given what we now know about the alignment appropaching Norton, a record in the O.S. file that RR81a was located at about SE 7938 7084 in 1933, may actually have been a misidentification of RR29, in which case the junction will be just south of the Brooklyn House excavation, probably under the gardens of adjacent houses. At some point a little further north, the combined roads should meet RR813 from Wetwang before heading for the bridge over the Derwent. The precise location of the bridge is not known, but it was most probably about 150m upstream from the current bridge at approximately SE 7925 7149 (Bidwell & Hodgson 2009, p.166). The river has probably drifted south since the Roman period so it is possible that the northern bridge abutment may still survive, buried near the bottom of Sheepfoot Hill.

There is, however, a slight complication to our understanding of this road, as illustrated on the lidar image Fig. 4. There is a further road, known as Welham Trod, now surviving as a public footpath on top of a straight raised bank running across fields, the Malton & Norton Golf Course and extending along Menethorpe Lane. The O.S. file records that this was investigated by D Smith and P.D.H. Holman in 1951 on the assumption that it was actually the road from Stamford Bridge, but no further details can be located. North Yorkshire HER avoids a Roman origin and describes a later one as “more acceptable” (NY SMR No: MNY2335), which given its straightness and its age (apparently recorded in 1750 as an old coach road) a later origin is also somewhat problematic. It appears to be heading to the probable Roman bridging point, rather than the medieval one, which makes it of serious interest.  

If this feature does represent a Roman road, there is no obvious destination other than a direct line to York (presumably crossing the Derwent near Kirkham Priory), or possibly an earlier Roman route to Stamford Bridge, later abandoned for the much easier course described above. Alterations by the Romans of the course of Roman roads are not unknown, although ones over such a long distance are rare. Even less easy to explain is the agger-like feature across Welham Park which appears to link both roads, stopping as it does exactly on the line of each. Hugh Toller suggested (Toller, 2016, pers. comms) that it might represent an early drive or trackway to Welham House, which burned down in 1884. It appears to pass beneath Welham Road, the origins of which as the northern end of Mook Street are probably medieval so this seems unlikely. A further straight feature is apparent on lidar (fig. 6), underlying rig and furrow, just over a mile north of the agger and cuttings identified by Hugh Toller at Howl Beck. It deviates only slightly from the line of Dolegate northwards and, whilst it may in time add weight to the hypothesis of an earlier route for RR81a, it has not yet been investigated.

A further length of road has been identified on aerial photographs running in a straight line from the point where RR81a crosses the Barlam Beck, north of Stamford Bridge, just east of south along the boundary between Full Sutton and Stamford Bridge Parishes, and stopping close to the probable true course of RR810 heading east (see route map). The line of 81a coming NE from Stamford Bridge appears to butt up to it, indicating that this length came first, and therefore may also be part of the original line of RR81a.



Fig. 1 Aerial photo of cropmarks looking east along RR810 showing the roadside settlement of Derventio (Stamford Bridge). RR81a can be seen branching off north eastwards.

© Historic England 2017

Fig. 2 Lidar image showing remains of RR81a surviving in places north of Stamford Bridge

Click Images to enlarge

Fig. 3 Possible surviving agger at Kennel Farm, SE 777664

Fig.4. Lidar image showing RR81a and other possible road features south west of Norton

Fig.6. Photograph of concrete substructure to RR81a revealed at Brooklyn House, Norton in 2017. The trench is 1m wide.

RRRA Forum for RR81a Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 81a

Bidwell, P., Hodgson, N, 2009; The Roman Army in Northern England

Buglass, J. , Phillips, J, Wilson P.R. , Report on the Excavations at Brooklyn, Norton., forthcoming

Codrington, Thomas, 1903; Roman Roads in Britain, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London

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

Pastscape Mon no. 59554, http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=59554 accessed 31/5/17

Toller, H. S., (2013); Current Research into Roman Roads in Yorkshire Based on Lidar Evidence, Forum Vol 2 pp 141-145; CBA Yorkshire , York

Available at http://www.cba-yorkshire.org.uk/2014/03/the-forum-journal-new-series-volume-2-for-2013/


Compiled by Mike Haken, last updated, 2 December 2017

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

East Riding of Yorkshire, North Riding of Yorkshire

12 Miles

Derventio (Stamford Bridge)

Delgovicia (Norton on Derwent) Roman settlement

Malton Roman Fort)