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Brough (petvaria)

Welton Villa

Humber HER no.6659 Roman road Brough - Swanland

HE Pastscape Mon.1327371

East Riding of Yorkshire



A confirmed stretch of Roman road has been known along this route since the early 1970s, following identification on many aerial photographs. These show a straight double ditched road alignment leading from the Roman site at Brough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the probable location of Petuaria, civitas capital of the Parisi (Halkon 2013, p.133), ENE through Welton. It is tracable as far as a point (SE986281) just west of West Field Farm, Swanland, a total known length of just two and three quarter miles.

On publicly available aerial images, the road can just be seen as a pale parchmark on Bing aerial photos east of Melton Bottom Quarry, between SE97722790 and SE 98292806 (fig. 1). It must have passed very close to the Welton villa site which is now lost to the quarry. Coinciding perfectly with the aerial photographs, a short length of shallow heavily ploughed out agger is still discernable on lidar, crossing the field between Welton Road and the A63 centred at  SE 9521 2712, and clearly lying beneath other later linear features (fig. 2). It was excavated in advance of development by Humber Archaeology Partnership in 1996, where the flanking ditches were revealed (Burnham, Keppie & Cleary, 1997, Tibbles 1996)).

The road’s destination is unclear, as there is no evidence to show that the road proceeded any further. If it had proceeded on the same alignment, it would have crossed the fields just south of West Ella before disappearing beneath modern housing at Kirk Ella, to the west of modern day Hull. Given how well it shows on aerial photographs further west, it is surprising that there is no sign of it here, either as cropmarks or on lidar. It is possible that it continued through the Hull conurbation, but without a major change of alignment it would eventually have come up to the R. Hull and what was then tidal marshland (fig.4). There is scattered evidence of Romano-British occupation across the Hull conurbation, but no known indication of a major site.

It is worth mentioning John Warburton (Warburton 1720), who identified a Roman road heading North eastwards from Brough on his map of Yorkshire. His line (fig. 3), however, shows a road heading to Rowley, some four miles north of Welton. He marks it as a dotted line turning east to cross the R. Hull at Wawne Ferry, and then turning south east to head through Patrington and down Spurn Point. It is well known that Warburton was sometimes less than precise with the routes of his claimed Roman roads, but despite the discrepancies it is always possible that the road he plotted is actually this one. On the other hand, he may have recorded an altogether different road that is now lost, or he may have mistaken a Roman villa access road for a major Roman road, possibly the probable one from RR2e to Brantingham (Humber HER no. 712). His claim of a road heading down to Spurn Point, echoed by Drake (Drake 1734), has no modern supporting evidence, but it is worth pointing out that recent archaeological evidence suggests that Holderness and the peninsula were quite well populated in the Roman period, and the former presence of a major Roman settlement is always a possibility. It is also likely that any such site would have been lost to the sea, the coastline having moved inland as much as four kilometres since Roman times (Halkon 2013, pp.158-159) (fig. 4).

Summing up, there are four possibilities for the route, destination and purpose of this road:

1. It served to exploit an economically valuable resource on the higher alluvial area north of Hull (Didsbury, 1990), although the expenditure for such a well constructed road could be seen as excessive - a trackway would have sufficed.

2. It was heading for a currently unknown site, such as a settlement or major villa, probably west of modern Hull. A parallel would be the known road from the Roman Palace at Fishbourne leading to Roman town at Chichester, although it seems unlikely that such a site could have avoided discovery  during the development of Kingston-upon-Hull.

3. It changed alignment and headed more north east, possibly heading towards Bridlington or joining another road, possibly a coastal road through Holderness which would almost certainly be lost to the sea.

4. Warburton was correct, and the road skirted round the marshlands north of Hull before heading through Patrington to Spurn Point.

The chances of identifying which is the correct route are slim, but there is still scope for investigation.

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.

Didsbury, P. (1990), Exploitation of the Alluvium of the Lower Hull Valley in the Roman Period in Ellis, s. & Crowther, D., (Eds) (1990) Humber Perspectives: a region through the Ages. Hull University Press, Hull

Burnham, B., Keppie, L., & Cleary, A. (1997). I. Sites Explored. Britannia, 28, 395-453.

Halkon, Peter (2013); The Parisi, Britons and Romans in Eastern Yorkshire, The History Press, Stroud

Tibbles, J. (1996) Trial Excavations at Welton Low Road, Elloughton. Humber Archaeology Parnership [Assessment & Evaluation reports]

Warburton, John. (1720); A New and Correct Map of the County of York in All its Divisions, London. - reproduced courtesy of the Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte, Espana.

Fig. 1 Bing aerial photo. Parchmark showing the remains of the road east of Melton Bottom Quarry

Click Images to enlarge

Fig. 2 Lidar image (2m resolution) showing the ploughed out and spread agger in the field between Welton Road and the A63

Fig. 3  Part of John Warburton's map of Yorkshire, showing a Roman road heading NNE from Brough, past Brantingtham and Rowley, skirting around modern Hull then down to Spurn Point


Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Fig. 4  Map showing probable coastline in Roman period, illustrating the possible routes for RR290(x) and showing how much land has been lost to the sea.

3 miles identified

Entry compiled by Mike Haken - Last updated, 21 February 2018