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Pastscape: Houndkirk Moor

17.5 Miles

Navio (Brough on Noe), Derbyshire

Whirlow Hall Farm, Roman Estate Centre

Whirlow Signal Station



West Riding of Yorkshire, Derbyshire

The following account owes much to the dissertation project of David Inglis, whose detailed analysis of the claims and the evidence has finally given some clarity to this road (Inglis 2016).

The existence of a Roman road linking the forts of Navio (Brough on Noe) and Templeborough, Rotherham has been postulated for well over a century by a host of writers. Whilst the fort experienced a short period of abandonment from c. AD 120 to c. AD 154-8, due to the movement of its garrison to the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall, it was then occupied until the mid 4th century or possibly later (Bidwell & Hodgson, 2009, p.94), probably testament to its association with the control and administration of the lead trade from the mines in the Derbyshire Peak district.  A road east from Navio would have been essential to export lead through the Humber estuary via either the R. Don at Templeborough, or the R. Trent at Segelocum (Littleborough), or possibly both. Yet until very recently, not one of the suggested routes east from Navio had any conclusive proof.

The uncertainty starts immediately after leaving the fort - the road must have headed eastwards down the Hope valley, but on which side? Margary (Margary 1973, pp.361-2), drawing on work by Preston (Preston 1969), and not being aware of any evidence on the northern side, suggested a route that climbs from the fort and then along a terraceway that still survives adjacent to Townfield Lane, at first on its northern side and then on its southern side, then following the slight ridge to Shatton, where it drops down to cross the R. Derwent just east of its confluence with the R. Noe. An alternative, however, was provided by Peter Wroe (Wroe 1982, p58 & p61) who claimed to have proven the line of a road that left the north east gate of the fort, crossed the R. Noe, and then headed on a single alignment past Hardhurst Farm towards Bamford, where it crossed the R. Derwent north of the confluence with the R. Noe. Wroe has since conceded that he may have been mistaken (Inglis, 2016, p.55), and is now favouring either Margary’s route, or a crossing of the Derwent some way downstream  between Hathersage and Leadmill. There is indeed convincing excavation evidence for a Roman road heading down the southern side of the valley (Drage, 1993, p71). It is possible, arguably probable, that this road continues down the Derwent valley as it bends south east and is actually heading to Chesterfield. In fact, lidar evidence (based on unpublished work by the late Hugh Toller) seems to suggest that Wroe was right all along, although slightly on the wrong line (fig 1.). The lidar is only 2m resolution (ie each pixel represents a 2m square), so it is not as clear as would be ideal, however there are a chain of features which appear to represent the Roman road, and crucially the resulting layout is exactly where we we would expect a Roman road to be, with slight alignment changes when crossing watercourses and generally following the contours by a series of short straight alignments.

Fig 1. also shows the divergence heading east between Wroe’s proposed line, and that suggested by lidar. Wroe’s route is essentially the “traditional” route for the road, with slight variations, as proposed by Leader (Leader 1879) and later Preston (Preston, 1957), which climbs very steeply north of Bamford, following the slope whilst continuing to climb until eventually meeting the almost impassable barrier of Stanage Edge. The road climbs through what Preston describes as a “cleft” in the edge (ibid. p.333), more accurately a quite crude cutting, but rather than follow the surviving road along the Edge to Stanage Pole and then along the Long Causeway as was the traditional line of the Roman road, and marked as such on OS maps, Preston proposed a route which went directly over Hallam Moors to cross the Long Causeway before Lodge Moor, and then along a fairly direct route which passes in front of Weston Park and the University, and through Sheffield to a point just below Park Hill, where RR189 takes up the alignment eastwards, RR710b now bearing north west towards Templeborough. It is fair to say that no convincing evidence has ever been found for any variant of the route over Stanage Edge, and whilst there can be little doubt that Preston’s excavation on Lodge Moor did find a road, 31ft wide between side ditches, there is nothing definitively Roman about it.

The Long Causeway route is attractive as a potential Roman route, as it is a close approximation to a straight line route between Navio and Templeborough. It does, however, have one major drawback - the ascent from Bamford to Stanage Edge. A direct approach is impossible because of the severe gradients (see fig. 3) and several valleys intervene, but a crossing of this obstacle for Roman engineers would not have been an insurmountable problem. That there were minor post-medieval routes across the edge is beyond doubt, but given the lack of firm evidence for Roman construction, was this the correct route? The first serious questioning of the Long Causeway/Stanage route came not from an archaeologist, but a geographer, Tom Welsh (Moorhouse, 1978, p.11), who “adopted the tactic of intensive landscape survey to propose only a partial route while the archaeologists, and proponents of the northern route, played join-the-dots between the Roman forts of Templeborough and Navio.” (Inglis, 2016, pp. 46-7). Welsh identified a road on the ground which was consistently five to six metres wide, sometimes on a raised embankment up to eight metres wide. The features Welsh identified were over a three mile stretch which appeared to form part of a Roman road which ascended the hill on the Derbyshire side at Hathersage, crossed the highest part of the escarpment near the hill fort of Carl Wark, about 2.7 miles south of the “cleft” on Stanage Edge, climbed onto Burbage Moor and then descended towards Sheffield from Houndkirk Moor and past Ringinglow. Unfortunately, despite presenting the evidence in an objective and rational manner, Welsh was dismissed for daring to challenge the received wisdom, a not uncommon problem in this field as the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society have found to their cost over forty years of work on RR712.

Some thirty six years after Welsh made his discoveries, Bryn Gethin and Hugh Toller recognised a series of features in the area around Scraperlow near Hathersage, which they identified as being likely to be part of a Roman road (Toller 2014). This information was passed on to the Time Travellers, a Sheffield based community archaeology society, whose Roman Group were re-examining the route of RR710b. It was quickly recognised that the features seen on lidar were some of the same features identified by Welsh and, following a survey of the features in the field (Jeffery 2014), it was becoming very clear that Welsh’s analysis had been correct. Two of the features near Scraperlow, where the agger is very clear on the ground, are shown opposite in figs. 4 & 5. The lidar is presented in Fig. 6. If this was indeed  the Roman road from Navio, then it was clear that rather than climb on a direct, but very difficult route north of Bamford, it simply followed the northern bank of the R, Derwent as far as Hathersage where it then made a much easier ascent to cross the escarpment at its southern end, skirting south of the hillfort of Carl Wark. This route is, it has to be said, nearly one and a half miles longer than the Long Causeway route.

There were still issues, one of them being the long linear feature which descended from Houndkirk Moor (fig. 7). When it passed Sheep Hill Farm, Ringinglow, it looked most uncharacteristic of a Roman road, being too wide, and with what appeared to be a single huge ditch. The writer now must admit to announcing at the time that he was “not convinced”! In late 2015, the Time Travellers, led by David Inglis, excavated a one metre trench across the north western part of that feature, which revealed that this was indeed a well engineered road built on a raised platform, and with a rock-cut flat bottomed ditch of monumental proportions some 5m across and up to 1.3m deep, with a probable drainage channel cut into the base (fig. 8). (Inglis, 2016, Appendix 4). Similar sized ditches had been found only months earlier on a length of RR712 above Marsden, Huddersfield, in a very similar location coming down off the moor. Subsequent excavations in 2016 (Inglis, forthcoming), have established that the road surface at this point was a least 12m wide, later divided into two carriageways, and with huge rock cut ditches either side, the south eastern one being used s a quarry in the post Roman period to provide repair material (fig. 9). Even more intriguing was the discovery of further metalled surfaces outside the ditches.

There are now four known sites, all high on hillsides with commanding views, where the road engineering was hugely oversized, and it seems possible that this was intended to make a striking statement in the landscape. This is by far the biggest, although the length of this monumental widening has not yet been determined. The fact that the site had a commanding view over a huge area, with a clear line of sight as far as Lincoln, probably played a major part in the choice of route.

The road continues on the same alignment as far as Limb Brook, and whilst features on the alignment can be seen along its length, it is not clear how far the monumental scale of engineering continues. The recent discovery of the site a Roman signal tower, which appears to date from the Flavian period, AD69 - 96, on the ridge to the north of the Limb Brook less than half a mile from the road suggests that the road was also Flavian. It has been suggested that the presence of the tower might indicate that the Limb Brook represented part of the pre-Flavian Roman frontier, ie pre-AD69, and that the frontier might have extended to Navio (Wilson, 2017 p. 349), in which case the road could have been part of the frontier itself. The Limb Brook has certainly had significance in the past, being thought to have represented part of the frontier between the early medieval kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria (Hey 2010, p. 10). It is also worth noting that the Roman Estate Centre at Whirlow Hall Farm, about a kilometer from the signal tower, exhibits evidence of metal working (Wilson, 2017, p.349), which could have been a processing site for metal coming along the road from the Peak District, prior to export at either Littleborough or Templeborough.  

Beyond the Limb Brook however, all trace of the road seems to disappear, presumably long since ploughed out. The most likely course would have been for the road to maintain the same alignment crossing Ringinglow Road just west of Firs Farm, and then close to the length of footpath that links Cottage Lane to Common Lane,  which might fossilise the line. A slight change of alignment would be needed to avoid the small stream just to the east, and there is a feature showing on lidar adjacent to the houses at the bottom of the hill on Whiteley Wood Road, running for about 50m, which could possibly be the remains of agger (SK 3126 8504). Assuming that this line is correct, the road would have crossed the Porter Brook and then climbed gently past Hanging Water to Ranmoor, where a short length of Hangingwater Road north of Nethergreen Road might represent it, although where Hangingwater road bears north, the Roman line would have gone straight on before bearing more easterly to head down into modern Sheffield, possibly approximating to the modern Fulwood Road. It would then have met Preston’s proposed route through Sheffield (Preston, 1957) at Summerfield, with Fulwood Road continuing to represent it until it approaches the city, where eventually its line is marked by Western Bank, Brook Hill, Broad Lane and then the eastern part of Campo Lane.

From here it aligns fairly well with the western extension of the Catcliffe to Oldcoates road, RR189 (Greene 1955, p.548), which raises the question of whether or not the two are actually part of the same road. Alternatively, the original road may have turned north east in what is now Darnall, following the south east bank of the R.Don to Templeborough. The approach to Templeborough from Sheffield may have been identified by Greene in 1955 although a full excavation could not be conducted(Greene, 1957). It seems to align reasonably well with the road leading out of the south west gate, identified by Leader  as leading to Park Hill in Sheffield (Leader 1879, p.605). Either way, the road does seem to have served as a primary route for the export of lead at one or other river port.

Bidwell, P. & Hodgson, N. (2009); The Roman Army in Northern England ; The Arbeia Society

Drage, c. (1993); Brough-on-Noe, Derbyshire: Excavations in the Vicus 1983-84. In M. J. Dearne (ed.), Navio: The fort and vicus at Brough-on-Noe, Derbyshire. : BAR 234, Oxford pp. 65-98.

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

Greene, D. (1957); The Roman Roads in the Don Valley: The Roman Fort, Templebrough -The Western Approach. Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society. Vol 7: pp. 281-294.

Hey, D. (2010)  A History of Sheffield;  Carnegie Publishing; Lancaster:

Inglis, D. H. (2016); The Roman Road Project ; dissertation project, University of Sheffield

Jeffery, T (2014); Report on return visit to Sheffield by the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society to look at two possible routes for a Roman road between Brough and Templeborough and follow-up investigations in October and November 2014 Time Travellers Roman Group

Leader, J. D. (1879); Roman Rotherham. In J. Guest (ed.) Historical Notices of Rotherham. Robert White, Worksop. pp. 593-613.

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

Moorhouse, S. (Ed.) (1978); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register: 1977 in Yorkshire Archeological Journal Vol. 50 pp. 7-19

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

Toller, H. S. (2014); Pers. Comms.

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

Wilson, P. (Ed.) (2017); Roman Britain in 2016; Britannia Vol 48; Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies; London pp. 332-358

Wroe, P. (1982); Roman Roads in the Peak District, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol 102 pp. 49 - 73

RRRA Forum for RR710b


Fig. 1 Composite low resolution lidar image superimposed on Bing aerial photo, showing probable line of RR710b running down the Hope Valley past Bamford.

Fig. 2 Composite low resolution lidar image superimposed on Bing aerial photo, showing probable line of RR710b running down the Hope Valley past Bamford.

Fig. 3, Stanage Edge. Ask yourself, if you were a Roman surveyor would you plan a road crossing that? © Dan, some rights reserved.

Fig. 5  The recently landscaped lawn at Scraperlow,nr. Hathersage. The agger of RR710a is clearly visible. Photo © Tim Jeffery 2018

Fig. 4  Clear raised feature, probably the agger of RR710a at SK24138123, south west of Scraperlow,nr. Hathersage. Photo © Tim Jeffery 2018

Fig. 6  Lidar image overlaid on Bing aerial photo, showing the line of RR710a heading east from Hathersage, working its way around the hillsides and through the deep cutting known as Winyards Nick

Fig. 9  Excavation of RR710b in 2016 at Sheephill Farm, in the south east ditch. This is one of just a handful of such monumental scale works now starting to be recognised

Fig. 8  Monumental scale rock-cut ditch to the north west of RR710b measuring some 5m wide and 1.3m deep, with a drainage channel cut into the flat bottom; excavated at Sheep Hill Farm, Ringinglow, Sheffield, by the Time Travellers in 2015.

Fig. 7  Google aerial photo showing the clear line of RR710b crossing Houndkirk Moor and descending to the Limb Brook

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 710b

Click Images to enlarge

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