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Templeborough Roman Fort

Chesterfield Roman Fort

Derbyshire HER No. 2525 Ryknield St.

Derbyshire HER No. 13022 Hagge Farm

15 Miles

18e & 18ee

The first known reference to Ricknild Street, which is known in some parts of the Midlands as Icknield Street, was made 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 and York to the Tyne estuary. 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 way 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). Whether or not the Romans regarded this route as one entire road is unclear; given the marked change of direction just after the road leaves Derby makes that seem unlikely. The existence or otherwise of Ricknild street north of the R. Don will be discussed on the gazetteer entry for RR18f. Here we are dealing only with the Roman road which linked the Roman forts at Chesterfield, Derbyshire and Templeborough, near Rotherham which, by the time Codrington wrote the “Ryknield Street” entry in his Roman Roads in Britain (Codrington, 1903, p. 272), was regarded as certain as far as Templeborough.

Margary gives two possible routes for the road, 18e taking a direct route and 18ee skirting the highest ground a little further east. We will look at the latter  route first.

The route of RR18ee is not quite direct, although by keeping to the edge of the hillier ground it is able to utilise longer alignments and is therefore no further than the supposed direct route of RR18e. It is the one indicated by Warburton (Warburton 1720, fig. 1). As remarked in the HER entry (Derbyshire HER 2525), the course of Ricknild Street  immediately north-east of Chesterfield is not known with any certainty; however it seems most likely that it left the fort on a straight alignment towards what is now Eckington, possibly marked by Bilby Lane and Gregory Lane. This alignment becomes very clear on lidar at around SK405751 (fig. 2), just north of the R. Rother. Just a short distance further north east, a second road is visible branching off, although it can only be traced for a short distance. The branch is clearly later, although whether it is a road to a Roman military site or an access road leading to a currently unknown villa is not known. The road (18ee) can be seen clearly on aerial photographs either side of Hagge Farm (SK 4124 7660) where it was excavated and three successive surfaces were revealed (Hart, 1981 pp 92-94). North of Hagge Farm it appears to kink slightly westwards in order to cross a stream valley, before disappearing beneath modern Eckington. The eastern edge of the modern housing estate, and then the southern part of Pitt Street, probably represent the line.

North of Eckington however, there is no trace on lidar, probably due to the extensive coal mining in the area over the last 150 years. The most likely course seems to be through Beighton, and it is worth noting that Eckington road in Beighton (either side of the Sports College), Chesterfield Road in Swallownest, and Aughton Road in Aughton, are all reasonably well aligned and could represent the Roman alignment.  If so, the road must have kinked northwards to access a suitable bridging point since, in 1847 a Roman road was observed during railway construction (according to the contractor, who claimed to have seen many others), “a few chains to the north of Beighton station” (Guest, 1879, p.605). Further possible evidence for the road was recorded during a watching brief in 2002 (Buglass, 2002), at a location on Main Street in Aston which tends to confirm the proposed alignment. These two observations, if correct, indicate that the road was not intended to head directly to Templeborough, as it would surely have kept to the west of the R, Rother instead of crossing it at Beighton. In fact, the recent identification by David Inglis and his team of a probable road heading to Templeborough from the South East (fig. 3) would make it highly likely that RR18e met this other road somewhere north west of Ulley, on a course close to the modern Pleasley Road thus easing the climb onto high ground. (Note: this “new” road might be the claimed Roman road excavated at Church View, Ulley (Smedley, 1967), and also referred to by Hornshaw & Fullelove in 1974 (Thorpe, 1974, p145)).

One possible alternative, seemingly unlikely given the discovery of the probable “new” road, is that RR18ee turned north westwards on the high ground at Aughton, to head direct to Templeborough along a spur of high ground. Lidar does suggest a Roman road (fig. 2), although the possibility of it being a pipeline has not been completely ruled out at the time of writing. If this is indeed the case, then the “new” road may have crossed the R. Rother to join RR18ee, and not the other way round. Whatever the solution, the fact remains that the approach to Templeborough, a site now almost obliterated by 20th century industrial  activity, is very poorly understood.

Turning now to RR18e, which is the one regarded by the Ordnance Survey as more likely and marked on the most recent edition (6th) of their Map of Roman Britain. The supposed general route seems to have been first suggested by Bishop Bennet in 1817 (Lyson & Lyson, 1817, p. ccxi), without a shred of evidence. The described route keeps to the west of RR18ee, and heads up through New Whittington passing a mile west of Eckington to Ford and Ridgeway then by modern roads to just west of Woodhouse to Orgreave and Catcliffe, which is the first point that any claimed evidence has been found. From the top of Bonewood Moor down across Brinsworth common towards Templeborough Roman Fort, a series of excavations were carried out in the 1940s and 1950s by Dorothy Greene in which she claimed to locate a Roman road leading to the fort, along with a Roman town. There is little doubt that a road of some sort was uncovered, although there is no real evidence from the accounts to conclude that it was Roman. Her claim of the Roman town has been pretty much discredited. The road network in this part of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire is currently being re-examined (2017) by David Inglis and a group from the Sheffield based Timetravellers, and the results of their work will be added to this gazetteer in due course. Suffice it to say, that such a route manages to select just about the most awkward and difficult method of traversing the hills, and in total distance is actually slightly further than the less direct route of RR18ee. Until the Timetravellers’ work has been completed, RR18e is given a rating of 4 (presumed) throughout its route, although we are minded to discount it through a lack of any reliable evidence.

Buglass, J. (2002); Archaeological watching brief on Aughton Water Main Rehabilitation, near Morthen/Report No 02/19. Northern Archaeological Associates [assessment & evaluation reports].

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

Drake, F., (1736). Eboracum; or the History and Antiquities of the City of York from its Origin to this Time.

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.” ; 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.

Guest, John (1879); Historic Notices of Rotherham, R. White, Worksop

Hart, C (1981); The North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to A.D. 1500; North Derbyshire ArchaeologicalTrust

Higden, R., 1344. Polychronicon . . In Babington, Churchill ; “Polychronicon, Ranulphi Higden Monachii Cistrensis, together with the English Translation of John  Trevisa and an unknown writer of the fifteenth century” Vol II London 1889 , p46.

Lysons, Rev. Daniel & Lysons, Rev. Samuel; (1817); Magna Brittannia, Volume V, containing Derbyshire; https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=qUBaAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PR211 accessed 27/9/17

Jefferson, P & Roberts, I 2006. Adel Roman Road, Adel, West Yorkshire; Archaeological Evaluation. ASWYAS Report No. 1468, unpublished

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

Margary, I. D., (1957). Roads in Roman Britian Vol II. 1st ed. London: Phoenix House.

Smedley, P. H. J., (1967) in The Yorkshire Archaeological Register; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal; YAS Leeds p.8

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

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

Fig. 2 Lidar image showing both RR18ee, and a branch road, south of Eckington, Derbyshire

Click Images to enlarge

RRRA Forum for RR18ee

Fig. 3  Lidar image showing the projected course of RR18ee, a Roman road recently discovered by David Inglis, and a possible length of road which may represent part of RR18ee.


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.

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Derbyshire, West Riding of Yorkshire

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, 18e & 18ee RRRA Forum for RR18e

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