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Margary Number:

Other Numbering System:


West Riding of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire

Navio (Brough on Noe), Derbyshire

Scaftworth, Nottinghamshire


South Yorkshire HER No. 04916, Spa House

South Yorkshire HER No. 04932, Firbeck

Pastscape, RR189

In the mid twentieth century, a putative Roman road thought to be running between RR28 near Bawtry in Nottinghamshire, and Brough on Noe in Derbyshire, had been under investigation by Greene and Smedley (Greene & Smedley 1955 & 1957). In 1954, when opencast mining operations were threatening to destroy it, they conducted an excavation, with two trenches opened between 1954 and 1955. Their work revealed a road as expected, but was it Roman? If it was, it would almost certainly be an extension of the road from Brough that Margary numbered 710b.

The drawings of the two excavated trenches are reproduced opposite (figs. 1&2), and reveal at least two phases of road construction in each trench. What is immediately apparent is that from Trench One, the oldest road has been so badly affected by later construction that it is impossible to accurately determine an origin. Certainly, whilst the road was constructed with a foundation of larger stones set in puddled clay, there is no clearly discernable camber to the road structure and the stone lined ditch (described by Greene & Smedley wrongly as a culvert - there is no evidence of a cover) does not resemble any Roman roadside ditch known elsewehere in Britain. What’s more, the technique of construction differs between the two trenches, the western Trench Two revealing foundation stones set on edge, which is not the case in Trench one. There were also variations in apparent width. If their deductions are correct however, their road must predate the construction of an access road built by George Westby, the owner of Spa House, in the late 17th century (Greene & Smedley, 1955, p. 546). Being brutally objective, all we can say is that the road is mid 17th century or earlier, and could conceivably be part of an earlier road relating to Spa House. There is not a single feature that is definitively Roman in character.

Despite Greene and Smedley’s assertion that this short length of road is part of a Roman road from Brough to Bawtry (Greene & Smedley 1955, p.546), they have provided no evidence to support this claim, or at least there is none published. By their own admission, “it is impossible to draw proper conclusions from these two trenches about this Roman road; they must wait until our investigations further east along the route are completed.” To the best of our knowledge, however, no further excavations ever took place. David Inglis and others from the Roman Road Project in Sheffield, are currently examining Dorothy Greene’s extensive papers held in Rotherham Archives and it is always possible that relevant unpublished work further east may turn up.

Looking several miles further east, Margary (Margary, 1979, pp.414-415) states that the agger of the road is visible “for ¾ mile in fields along the north side of the present Firbeck-Oldcotes road, 24 feet wide and 1 foot high.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t state where that information came from, and it isn’t clear if he is referring to Maltby road or Lamb Lane, however there is certainly no agger surviving today. If we accept that forty four years ago that the agger was real, then the road starts to carry a bit more weight, but without corroboration this is a big “if”. There is also an aerial photograph referred to in the Pastscape entry (Oblique aerial photograph reference number NMR SK5589/4 (17809/22) 25-Jun-2003) which shows a probable Roman road appearing as cropmarks between SK 5473 8900 & SK 5549 8895 near Firbeck Hall. Lidar  imagery doesn’t show anything to support either observation. It is also clear that if the road exists, it is unlikely to be heading to Bawtry which would involve a major change of course north-eastwards. An extrapolation from Margary’s claimed agger takes it fairly comfortably to Haughgate Hill, North Wheatley, a sighting point along RR28 from Lincoln.

Turning westwards towards Brough, the ideas of Greene and Smedley were followed up by F. L. Preston (Preston 1957), who extrapolated their work westward but, based purely on topographic evidence, he took their road through Sheffield via Hallam Head to Stanage, close to the line of the Long Causey. Being blunt, his ideas are not based on any sound archaeological evidence, and whilst it is impossible to rule such a route out, recent unpublished work with lidar by Mike Haken & the late Hugh Toller, followed up by fieldwork from David Inglis, Tim Jeffery and members of Time Travellers Archaeology Group, has established that a Roman road from Brough in the direction of Sheffield followed a route close to that first identified by Tom Welsh (Welsh 1984) across Houndkirk and Burbage Moors (Inglis 2016). For a full description of this road see the gazetteer page on RR710b. Despite Preston being almost certainly wrong with the detail of his route, the possibility remains that the road from Navio may not have gone directly to Templeborough and was actually part of a road heading further east, either to Bawtry or to Littleborough. Hopefully, future fieldwork planned by David Inglis et al will be able to resolve the issue.

To sum up, the evidence for this road rests on an inconclusive excavation, a claimed length of agger that has no surviving evidence, and a single aerial photo of a possible (but not definite) Roman road - and nothing at all on lidar despite reasonably good coverage. The known road 710 from Brough on Noe might head in this direction rather than to Templeborough, but currently that is mere speculation. So, for RR189, the jury may still be out for some time to come.

Greene, D. & Smedley, P. H. J. (1955); The Roman Roads in South Yorkshire; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 38 (Part 152); Leeds, pp. 546 - 551

Greene, D. & Smedley, P. H. J. (1957); The Roman Roads in South Yorkshire; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 39 (Part 154); Leeds, pp. 324 - 328

Inglis, D. (2016); The Roman Road Project; Degree Dissertation;, University of Sheffield

Preston, F. L. (1957); The Roman East-West Road through Sheffield; in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 39 (Part 154); Leeds, pp. 329 - 333

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

Thorp, F (1974); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register: 1973; The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal; YAS, Leeds pp. 141 - 157

Welsh, T. C. (1984); Road Remains at Burbage and Houndkirk Moors, Sheffield: A Possible Roman Road.; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 56: pp. 27-31

Click Images to enlarge

RRRA Forum for RR189


Fig.2. Sections, plan, and site plan, of Trench 2. of Green and Smedley’s second excavation near Spa House,Treeton, nr. Rotherham

Fig. 1. Sections, plan, and site plan, of Trench I of Green and Smedley’s excavation near Spa House,Treeton, nr. Rotherham

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 189

9 miles possibly identified, total distance up to 23 miles

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Entry Compiled by Mike Haken, last updated, 2 June 2017