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Home Gazetteer of Roads Margary's Numbering Itineraries & Sources Glossary/Biography RRRA Website

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30 Miles


Yorkshire Dales HER.

Long Preston supposed fort (discredited) - Pastscape

The road was first mooted by Francis Villy some time before 1915, and is described by Codrington in the third edition of his Roman Roads in Britain (Codrington, 1919, p.102). Initially, Villy proposed a road between Skipton and Settle only, however If such a road did exist, it would logically continue further to the north-west past Ingleton to meet the western main road (RR7) , presumably close to the fort at Over Burrow near Kirby Lonsdale. Villy hinted at this possibility in his account of a medieval site near Ingleton (Villy, 1915, p.308), and eventualy revised his route to extend all the way to RR7, just south of Kirkby Lonsdale.

It seems that Villy’s attention was drawn to the apparent alignment of a straightish length of Raikes Road and White Hills Lane heading north-west out of Skipton with Shortbank Road to the south east of the town, which was then thought to be a Roman road (Codrington, 1919, p.102), part of RR72a from Ribchester to Ilkley, now known to take a different route. Closer examination shows that the two roads are not quite aligned, and it seems probable that their straightness was simply because they were turnpike roads, Shortbank Road being part of the Skipton - Addingham Turnpike, and Raikes Road part of the Keighley to Kendal Turnpike road (built in 1754). Whilst this does not preclude an earlier Roman road beneath them, no trace of it has ever been found, and this does cast doubt on the one piece of evidence upon which Villy’s entire notion of a Roman road was originally based.

The route Villy proposed In 1964 is essentially along the same corridor as the modern A65, skirting the south western edge of the Pennines just below the steeper slopes, although the modern road rarely coincides perfectly with it until north-west of Ingleton when the two are essentially the same. It is marked by Raikes Road and White Hills Lane out of Skipton, turning west in a straight alignment through Stirton and Thorlby, and then runs through or close to the modern settlements of Gargarve, Consiton Cold, Hellifield, Long Preston (where Villy claimed to have found a Roman fort), Settle, Lawkland, Austwick, Clapham, Ingleton, meeting RR7 near Cowan Bridge.

In 1964, the Ordnance Survey’s Archaeology Division Field Investigator, R. Lewis, looked at all the many features that Villy had used to support his theory and Lewis’s observations were added as brief annotations to the OS linear file of the road. Lewis could not find one single piece of confirmed Roman road, and he assessed every piece of supposed evidence that he could find as a mis-interpretation of other features (Ordnance Survey, c. 1977). For example, south of Thornton in Lonsdale, Villy identified a cambered terrace 25ft wide and 150 yards long, and a hollow way leading to the modern road junction, which he noted was “a very old road and possibly Roman”. Lewis’s annotation reads:   

West Riding of Yorkshire

Burnett, T. (1999); Lines of Sight Through Craven; North Craven Heritage Trust Journal, 1999, pp. 12-13

Codrington, T. (1919); Roman Roads in Britain ( 3rd Edition); Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London & The Macmillan Company, New York

Haigh, D. & Taylor, D. J. A. (1992-3); Some Investigations of the supposed Roman Site at Long Preston, North Yorkshire; Roman Antiquites Section of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Bulletin vol. 10.

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

Ordnance Survey (c. 1977); archive items - RR722 Roman Road strip map and record card, Historic England Archive, Swindon

Pastscape (2017); Monument No. 45517 http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45517 accessed 21/11/17

Ratledge, D. (2015); Pers Comms

Ross, P. (1915); unpublished letter to the Ordnance Survey in Ordnance Survey record, RR721; Historic England Archive, Swindon

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

Villy, F. (1915); An Intrenchment near Ingleton; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 23, part 90, pp. 308-310; YAS, Leeds

Villy, F. (1924); A Note on the Roman Fortifications at Long Preston; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal  Vol. 27 Part 108, pp. 410-412; YAS, Leeds

RRRA Forum for RR722


In his entry for RR722, Ivan Margary appears not to have been totally convinced by this road, despite awarding it a number, as is clear in the caution of his introductory sentence:

From Skipton, a north-westerly road has been suggested, on a course through Long Preston, Settle and Giggleswick, and there some grounds for accepting it although the whole course is not yet established.

Margary, 1973, p. 408

Those are just two typical examples. An update to the file dated 2nd February 1977 by a later Field Investigator concurs with Lewis, stating that there was no change to the field report of 1964. It would get worse for the road. The evidence for Villy’s supposed Roman Fort at Long Preston (Villy, 1924) was re-examined several times in the 1990s, and subsequent fieldwork including geophysical survey, has led to the site being completely discredited (Haigh & Taylor, 1993) and whilst it is generally accepted that he did find a ditch, and perhaps even a timber gateway, there was nothing to suggest that these were Roman (Pastscape , Mon. No. 45517), and certainly could not be extrapolated into a fort as Villy claimed.

The OS Investigators’ failure to find any evidence has been compounded more recently by analysis of lidar data from the Environment Agency conducted by no less than four independent researchers, none of whom could find any clear trace of a Roman road along this route (unpublished research by Bryn Gethin, David Ratledge, Hugh Toller, (Ratledge, 2015 & Toller, 2014) and the author).

The dubious nature of the ‘evidence’ for the road has been well recognised for over fifty years, but had actually been suspected fifty years before that. The potential consequences of publishing such evidence, and thus legitimising it, were something of which one of Villy’s contemporaries, the surveyor and antiquarian Percival Ross, was well aware. In a letter to the Ordnance Survey in 1915, concerning Villy’s method on this and other roads, Ross wrote :

Cambered terraced trackway described by Villy runs between boundary baulks of Rig and Furrow and appears to be contemporary with it. RL 2/64

Similarly, near Lawkland (approx SD 7768 6696), Villy’s account in the Bradford Antiquary refers to clear traces of Roman road ⅓ mile S.E. Of Cross Streets, of which Lewis reported

Indicated course follows lower terrace of lynchet group. No trace.  RL 2/64

Despite his obvious caution, Margary still chose to include the road in his Roman Roads in Britain, and the consequences, as Ross predicted, are that the belief in the road (and the fort) are hard to shake. For example in a relatively recent paper, the road is described as ‘proven’ and used as the starting point for a theory suggesting a chain of signal stations along its route, an interesting idea but one for which there is absolutely no evidence (Burnett, 1999).

In general, Villy’s research was not based on a pursuit of the evidence, rather it was the other way round, trying to find evidence to confirm his firm belief that a particular road or site was there, an approach leaving immense problems in its wake for those charged with assessing his claims. This is not to say that all of Villy’s substantial body of work is worthless, far from it, although it certainly needs very careful scrutiny before being relying upon.  Neither is it to say that a road from Skipton to Ingleton did not exist, merely that there is no evidence for it. Actually, a Roman road approximating to the A65 would make some sense, providing a lower altitude alternative to the crossing of the Stainmore (RR82) for traffic from York and Lincoln heading towards Carlisle. However, just because it is sensible does not mean it was ever built. Until and unless any evidence is ever found that tends to suggest the road really did exist, then it must be disregarded due to a lack of evidence.

False antiquities take a deal of undoing especially when they get onto maps and in books. I have had to deal with the author's road making before. He tried to make one from the Ilkley to Aldborough road branching off near Kettlesing and passing through Harrogate, Knaresboro, Golsbro and by Providence Green to York. He is now trying to fit one on or about the old Keighley and Otley road to Kendal from Skipton.

Percival Ross to Col. Gale, 1st March 1915

Entry compiled by Mike Haken, last updated 28 Nov. 2017                   

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 722

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