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Margary Number:

Other Numbering System:


Historic Counties:

Brough (Petuaria)

Brantingham Roman Villa

Shiptonthorpe Settlement

Hayton Fort & Settlement

Stamford Bridge (Derventio)

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

N. Yorks. HER MNY2359

Humber HER No.63 Roman road Brough - York

Humber HER No.12506 Roman road/Quayside Brough

Humber HER No.3486 Roman road Brough

HE Pastscape Mon.1029679

East Riding of Yorkshire, North Riding of Yorkshire, City of York


The existence of a Roman road from Brough to York has been recognised since at least the early 18th century,  (Horsley 1732 p.404), (Warburton 1720). It is quite reasonable to consider it an extension of the road heading north from Lincoln to the Humber estuary, the two almost certainly being joined by a ferry across the Humber from Winteringham to Brough. RR2e has often been referred to as Ermine Street for this reason. Maule Cole (Maule Cole 1899, p38) described this road as “The only certain Roman road that I know of in the East Riding”, and whilst we can now describe others with a little certainty in places, it remains true to say that this is by far the one with the most surviving evidence and its course is known almost all the route.

The Parisi are recorded by Ptolemy as the people occupying the territory to the east of the Brigantes (Ptolemy, Geographia, 2.3.17 - Rivet and Smith 1979 p.142), ie eastern Yorkshire as far west and north as the catchment of the R. Derwent. In contrast to the rest of Northern Britain, the territory of the Parisi never carried a major military controlling presence, implying that the population readily accepted Rome (although not necessarily Roman culture). It is noteworthy that the 1st century Roman forts at Roall, York, Malton and Staxton are equally spaced on a defensive arc along the western and northern edge of the Parisi’s likely territory, and Brough lies on the southern edge ideally placed to control the river network. Only Hayton is in the heart of Parisi terriitory, and that fort was strategically placed halfway on the road between Brough and York, the most direct route from Lincoln and the south, and by far the most important road in the territory. This relatively small military presence also meant that only a few well surveyed and constructed roads were required, especially as the area was already well served with a complex network of long distance trackways, as is clear from aerial photographic evidence. The majority of traffic was therefore civilian, and not directly serving the empire, so it should come as no surprise that the Empire did not see fit to expend precious resources building roads when those resources were needed further west and north, and the construction of most roads appears to have been light.

The exception was this road.

Brough (almost certainly Petuaria) was not only the entry point to Parisi territory from Lincoln and the south, but it was also the only “polis” (town) attributed by Ptolemy to the territory of the Parisi, illustrating its clear importance to the area. Brough was relatively small for a planned Roman town, at just 5.25 hectares, much smaller than Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum) in North Yorkshire, but a single letter “C” on a plaque recording the gift of a theatre to the town (Halkon 2013, p.133), is usually interpreted as an abbreviation of “Civitas”, a tribal area, giving the town the likely status of Civitas capital. The importance of the road that linked Brough to York and the rest of Britannia to the north is clear. How the road entered the Roman town from the Humber is not known, although it may have been along the possible road leading to the south gate (fig. 2), only identified as an extensive cobbled surface in a single trench (Wacher 1969, p.73).

Neither can we be sure about how the road left the town. Roads are known from the West and North Gates running along the outside of the defences and it has been assumed that they met at the north west corner where the road to York branched off, it being generally assumed that the modern Cave Road follows the Roman line from the north west corner of the town towards York. There is a record of a “section” being uncovered during roadworks in Cave Road in 1936 (SE9370 2709) but it is far from certain that the uncovered road was Roman. If that part of Cave Road did represent the Roman road, it’s course is diverging over 130m to the west of the alignment of RR2e between South Cave and South Newbald, which is hard to resolve. This route would also have had to cross a tidal inlet just west of the Roman town, known to exist in the Roman period. The “accepted” route seems improbable, and it is much more likely that the Roman road simply branched from the road known to leave the north gate, and then followed the same alignment as that between South Cave and South Newbald, as illustrated in fig. 2. An aerial photograph in the Humber HER showing a linear parchmark running across the Brough Golf Course, very close to this line, probably confirms this.

It is probably safe to say that north of the Stockbridge road, Cave Road approximates to the Roman line, past Brantingham Roman villa (SE 93182875), as far as the A63. The Roman line then crosses fields at Ryeland Hill, probably a little east of the line marked by the Ordnance Survey. The Roman line has always been assumed to pass directly beneath the Market Place in South Cave, however a 2007 Google Earth image (fig. 3.) a little north of the town at Trancledales, clearly shows the road ditches as cropmarks, some 75m east of the accepted course. This line corresponds with the proposed route out of Brough and also with the confirmed position of the road a little to the north, being found in 1851 some 22 yards east of where the turnpike road (now the A1034) crossed the Drewton Beck (E.W.S. 1852, p483) during drainage work (lowering of the Drewton Beck). A hard substance, described as similar to concrete, was discovered at a depth of two feet in a band some five to seven yards across and six inches thick. The use of a similar substance used as a road foundation was also noted on this road further north at Barmby Moor Common in the 19th century (Maule Cole, 1899, p.38) and on Roman roads in the Malton area, most recently during excavations in 2017 on RR81a (Buglass, Phillips & Wilson, forthcoming).

The A1034 then follows the Roman line for just under a mile and a half, when RR2e bears north west across the fields to the south of South Newbald. A Roman road is generally held to continue straight on at this point, heading to Malton (RR29), although it does not maintain the original alignment.

During the mid 19th century, parts of the road became known as the “Roman Riggs” on Houghton moor (E.W.S. 1852, p483-4), the agger being presumably still visible (sadly, not so today). Its course across the moor between South Newbald and Thorpe le Street can still be seen very clearly on aerial photographs, as it can on a geophysical survey conducted by James Lyall at the roadside settlement of Shiptonthorpe (fig. 4) (see Millett 2006).

The modern A1079 takes up the line west of Shiptonthorpe, and follows it fairly well past the fort and settlement at Hayton as far as Barmby Moor, where the Roman line then bears off to head to Stamford Bridge. The cropmarks of what appears to be another Roman road heads towards RR2e from the north east, with two branches cutting off the corners of the junction (fig. 5). This elaborate junction suggests that the road is most likely from a currently unidentified high status villa, a local worthy showing off!

As early as 1720, Warburton had a line heading directly to York via Kexby (fig. 1), which Margary still accepted and regarded it as part of RR2e (Margary, 1973 p 419). As Maule Cole pointed out almost a century ago however, there is no firm evidence to support this (Maule Cole 1891, p208). Whilst such a road cannot be entirely ruled out, unless some evidence for its existence is found, we have to regard it as putative at best.

We are on much more certain ground, however, with the line from Barmby Moor to Stamford Bridge which, due to Margary having assumed that RR2e ran directly to York, he considered to be part of the supposed road from Stamford Bridge to Easingwold and the R. Tees, RR80a. In fact, there is no reason to disagree with Maule Cole who considered the line to Stamford Bridge and RR2e from Brough as one and the same (ibid). The road was excavated on Barmby Moor Common in 1892 by Maule Cole & Bardwell, where a foot below the surface “a layer of mortar was met with, fifteen feet wide, nearly a foot thick, and raised in the centre” (Maule Cole, 1899, p38). Maule Cole noted that due to the concrete foundation, hedges would not grow when planted across the road, nor would the trees in Houghton Woods further south (near Market Weighton). The concrete foundation at Drewton has already been noted, suggesting that this technique may have been utilised for the entire course of the road. The course of the road was apparently marked by boulders strewn across the fields, all the way to Hunger Hill, near High Catton Grange where the “trail ended”. The course described by Maule Cole, and is marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a series of short straight alignments, presumably following the easiest route across ground prone to flooding, and this is confirmed by lidar (fig. 6). The surviving agger stops near the Howl Gate, near High Catton Grange, as Maule Cole described. However, the lidar clearly shows that the road forks. One line goes straight on towards Stamford Bridge, but another bears to the west, and a faint line on lidar suggests that it is heading to the known bridging point of the Derwent  just west of the Roman settlement of Derventio. The implication of this is not clear. The line straight on could be simply coming to a “T” junction with either RR810 or RR81a, or it could in fact be continuing to a second bridge and continuing as described by Margary (Margary 1973, p. 431) as part of RR80a via Easingwold and Thirsk to the Tees and beyond, the so called Cade’s road.

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

E.W.S (1852) Line of the Roman Road from Humber to York, letter in the Gentleman’s Magazine Vol 37 (1852), London


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

Horsley, John (1732); Britannia Romana, Book Three; London

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

Maule Cole, Rev. E (1891) British and Roman Roads in the East Riding of Yorkshire in The Antiquary, vol 26 pp 206 - 209

Maule Cole, Rev. E (1899); On Roman Roads in the East Riding in Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society, Vol. 7. Available online at https://archive.org/details/transactions21socigoog accessed 20/7/17

Millett, M. (Ed.) (2006) Shiptonthorpe: archaeological studies of a Roman roadside settlement. Yorkshire Archaeological report No. 5. Leeds

Ottaway, P. (2013) Roman Yorkshire; People, Culture & Landscape Blackthorn Press, Pickering

Rivet, A.L.F. & Smith, Colin. (1979), The Place Names of Roman Britain, B.T.Batsford, London

Wacher, J. (1969), Excavations at Brough on Humber, 1958-61. Society of Antiquaries Research Report 25. London

Fig. 1 Part of John Warburton’s Map of Yorkshire, 1720, showing a Roman way from Brough to York via Kexby

Click Images to enlarge

Fig. 4 Gradiometer survey by James Lyall at Shiptonthorpe, superimposed on a Google Earth image of 2007 with the parchmark of RR2e clearly visible

RRRA Forum for RR2e

Fig. 6  Lidar image showing RR2E heading across Barmby Moor, with clear fork east of High Catton and probable link road to Roman bridge over the R. Derwent

Fig. 5  Possible Roman road heading towards the Brough – Stamford Bridge road (RR 2e). Identified in 1994.


(Incorporates part of 80a)

Fig. 3 2007 Aerial photo (Google Earth) showing cropmarks indicating ditches, re-cut ditches, and agger of Roman road at Trancledales

Fig. 2 Brough, after Halkon 2013 p.132 & Ottaway 2013 p.174, with probable line of RR2e based upon cropmarks

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 2e

28 Miles

Entry prepared by Mike Haken.  Last updated, 29 January 2018