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HE Pastscape Mon. 1325785  Various features

HE Pastscape Mon. 53155  Thorner, branch road

HE Pastscape Mon. 1369579   RR72b Guiseley Moor,

HE Pastscape Mon. 1374229 RR72b West Carlton

HE Pastscape Mon. 1374240  RR72b Otley Old Rd.

HE Pastscape Mon. 1374262   Otley Old Road

HE Pastscape Mon. 1371477  RR72b Cookridge to Adel

HE Pastscape Mon. 53155   Thorner, branch road

HE Pastscape Mon. 1200012  RR72b Newton Kyme

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other online records

Roman Sites on Route:

West Riding of Yorkshire

Ilkley (Olenacum? or Verbeia?) Pastscape

Roman Britain.org

Adle (Cambodunum?)   Pastscape  Roman-Britain.org

Newton Kyme Fort  Pastscape

Newton Kyme Vicus  Pastscape

Tadcaster (Calcaria)  Pastscape

24.6 Miles


Although there are still many gaps in our knowledge (especially at its eastern end), this is one of the best preserved Roman roads in Yorkshire. Yet, despite this, very little of it was ever marked on Ordnance Survey maps, indeed the current 1:25000 map only shows a short portion between Scarcroft and Tadcaster and half of that is probably wrong!

The road, which runs down Wharfedale from Ilkley maintaining a course along the southern side of the valley to Tadcaster, appears on John Warburton’s Map of Yorkshire (Warburton 1720), although as usual his draughting of the route is very vague. Francis Drake also recorded it (Drake, 1736, p.19), although he seems to have relied on Warburton, stating that “Mr Warburton who traced this road and has delineated it in his map of the county says its stone pavement is yet in many places very firm being 8 yards broad.” Almost two centuries passed before Percival Ross surveyed the road in detail, a work that still forms the basis of our current understanding (Ross, 1918).

For the first mile and a half, Ross’s description is quite vague presumably because the road wasn’t easily visible, taking the line along Green Lane (now called “The Grove”) past the station then “along a line of fences and short pieces of road to Ben Rhydding House”.  This is probably represented by a line approximating to the B6382 Springs Lane and then beneath the modern housing estate. Where Ross first describes it in detail is just east of the modern estate, and sure enough a feature that looks like the remains of an agger, the raised mound on which Roman roads were built, can be seen on lidar emerging from beneath the clubhouse of Ben Rhydding Golf Club (fig.1). The feature agrees perfectly with the line on the 1851 OS map (fig. 2) although, curiously, by 1895 the OS had removed it from the map, never to return. The road remains visible on lidar until it crosses Ben Rhydding Drive at about SE14254677. Ross lost it here as well, but picked it up again in Burley in Wharfedale, which is also where modern evidence starts to appear, a section being excavated in 1979 (Jones, 1980) at SE16354555 .

In 1963, the road was claimed to be discovered in a sewer trench at Menston Hospital, at SE175444 (Ramm, 1964, p.172), however the location is some 200m south west of Ross’s line. A continuation of this feature was investigated by Donald Haigh and others in 1989, along the Bridle way (which Haigh claimed was along the road line) just north east of Burley Road, and aiming for the probable road crossing at Ellar Ghyll (Finney, 1990, p.20). This line, running almost due West - East, is at odds with the general course of the road, which Ross claimed was visible just east of Gill Mill (approx SE17924442), passing north of Oaks Farm. Possible traces of the road near the Gill Beck have also been found in the 1990s, all these features aligning well with other firm evidence further east (fig. 3). There are three possible explanations for this peculiar deviation from the alignment.

  1. That Haigh wrongly identified a later road as Roman, and that the Roman line was correctly identified by Ross
  2. That the road identified by Haigh and in the Sewer trench was a different Roman period road branching from RR72b, possibly to an unknown villa.
  3. That Haigh was correct in his identification, and RR72b deviated from a straight course to avoid overly wet ground, or some other obstacle.

Option 1 seems unlikely, as Donald Haigh was a highly experienced and knowledgeable researcher, but can’t be ruled out entirely. Option 2 is most likely, other branch roads of unknown purpose are known off RR72b further east. Option 3 is a possibility, but less likely. The road discovered in 1963 was clearly built on unstable or wet ground, being built above rows of small piles (up to 3ins wide) driven into the natural clay, which tends to support this alternative. The truth is, however, that we simply don’t know with any certainty - it is hoped that future fieldwork will help solve the issue.

As just referred to, further east, the road is known with certainty to the south of The Chevin, on Guiseley Moor. Ross excavated a section across the road in 1917 at approx SE19674380 (Ross 1918, p, 297), revealing a road some 13ft 6 inches across (just over 4m), including kerbs constructed of small rocks and boulders, and a well cambered structure of small stones rammed together, about 30cm thick resting on bedrock (fig. 4). This does seem somewhat narrow, as Roman roads are generally at least 17ft (5m) on top of aggers which are often much wider. Aerial photography seems to show an agger which could be up to 11m wide (fig. 5), so the discrepancy is puzzling, especially as the road is wider further on. Ross, in 1918, described a standing stone on the line of the road, which he interpreted as a milestone. The stone has since been removed.

Coming off the moor there is no evidence of the road on aerial photos, nor could Ross find it, for over a mile, although the probable line passes south of Majentta Farm then just south of East Carlton. It starts to become apparent again at about SE 2249 4280 where it cuts at an acute angle across a public footpath, just west of Harrogate Road (A658). Two trial trenches were cut by Archaeological Services, WYAS, prior to laying a pipeline in 1996, where the road structure was found to be 0.6m thick and about 6m wide, with flanking ditches 3m beyond that (Burnham, Keppie & Cleary 1997, p420). This 12m overall width (approx.) between ditches is consistent with most of the other excavations on this road. From there it is clearly visible on aerial photos, including Bing and Google Earth (fig. 6), as far as Otley Old Road, where it was sectioned by A Womersley in 1978 (Moorhouse 1979, p.6). Womersley found the road to be between 4.8 and 5.3m wide, with a thickness of 0.45m, and a camber rising to 0.125m above the kerb on the north side. He also found a central spine of large stones in the foundation, a feature found in some other Roman roads, which is thought to have been a method for setting out the line of the road (fig. 7). Womersley also found a “v” section ditch cutting across the road, which may relate to the feature visible on aerial photos which could be a branch road, or perhaps a later re-routing. The road can be traced on aerial photos until SE2428 4191, although it is assumed that it continued on a straight alignment to SE 2481 4161 where it changed direction slightly to head more ESE.

The road follows this new alignment for about two and a half miles, the agger being still visible in places, especially between SE 25246 41531 and SE 25566 41464, where it was sectioned  in 1966 (Radley 1967 p.2). The line is then marked by a continuous line of hedges and walls, incorporated into one of which Ross observed several “curious trough- like stones, which had been used to convey water under the road ; similar stones I have seen at both Vindolanda and Borcovicus” (Ross, 1918). His assumption that they were originally part of a culvert cannot be verified, nor can we be sure they were even Roman in origin, although the possibility that they came from the settlement at Adel cannot be ruled out. From Cocker Hill Farm, the road is again visible as cropmarks for a short distance before it disappears again, reappearing in the woods south of Adel Dam.

The road was excavated near the crossing of the Adel Beck, by Archaeological Services, WYAS, in 2002, after initial investigation by the Adel Archaeology Group. Beneath the Roman road a lattice of narrow timbers, similar to a technique usually referred to as corduroy, was revealed (fig. 8). This is a well known technique, utilised by the Romans and still used in the 19th century, to carry a road across marshy ground. However, when dated by Carbon 14, the timbers were found to date from the mid 1st century BC (possible date range of 180BC to AD30, with 95% confidence) (Jefferson & Roberts, 2006). The inescapable conclusion was that the Romans utilised the same crossing of the beck as an earlier Iron Age trackway. It may also be evidence that Roman style construction techniques were already in use in Britain in the in the pre-Roman Iron Age. Whether this is indicative of greater contact between the two cultures than was previously thought is far from clear. Similarly, whether or not the entire course or perhaps just part of RR72b follows an earlier Iron Age route, is also unclear, although a routeway following the valley of the R. Wharfe in the Prehistoric period seems highly likely. The excavation lies within the general vicinity of the poorly understood but well known Roman settlement and recently confirmed fort (Burnham 2007)at Adel. Its Roman name is not known with certainty, but there is a suspicion that it might have been Cambodunum, listed in Iter II of the Antonine Itinerary (Wilson, 2016 & Haken, 2012), and later said by Bede to have housed a Royal palace of the post-Roman kingdom of Elmet. If this is correct then in order to follow the Itinerary towards Manchester, there must be a road heading in a southwesterly direction joining the main Manchester to York road (RR712). Such a road is not known, however aerial photographs show a linear feature about half a mile to the south just north of Adel village, which appears to be a Roman road (fig. 9). This feature is on the line one might expect for such a road, but it has not yet been investigated.

Continuing eastwards, the agger can be easily traced across Headingley Golf Course, with the remains of a later hedgebank on top of it in places. Pastscape, rather oddly, state that “no remains of Roman Road can be distinguished.…in the area” (see Pastscape Mon. 1371477). The road then climbs to the high ground near Alwoodley, where on the far side of the summit, a good sighting point, it makes a slight change of alignment, now heading close to due east, on a line probably close to Alwoodley Lane The line was confirmed at its western end in Alwoodley by excavation prior to housing development (Abramson & Fraser 1994), and  can be seen at its eastern end on lidar imagery on Alwoodley Golf Course (fig. 11), however most of it in between has probably been destroyed by housing and the modern road.

Just before reaching Manor House Lane (SE 3194 4070), at another high point, the alignment changes to head ENE The road is very clear on lidar (fig. 10) until RR729 bears off Eastwards at about SE 3426 4119. Up to the junction with RR729, the line as now known by excavation and modern techology agrees almost to the letter with Percival Ross’s description. From this point however, Ross regarded RR729 as the main road and traced it almost perfectly, finding traces in Bramham Park where none now survive.

Returning to RR72b, it is thought to have headed NNE from the junction with RR729, towards Scarcroft. Nothing survives above ground over this stretch and, despite good lidar coverage, this technology does not help until the other side of Scarcroft. This part of the road was labelled “Hancaster Rigg” on John Warburton’s map (Warburton 1720), a name which persisted as Hawcaster Rigg until very recently when applied to the agger of RR72b crossing Alwoodley Golf Course. Exactly what or where the “caster” may be is not known. Warburton marks the road with a dotted line, and perhaps he did not visit himself, as he would surely have spotted the clear agger of RR729, which he does not mention in his journal or on his map. Wherever his information came from, the implication is that it was not visible through Scarcroft. The supposed line heads across two more Golf Courses, this time the Moor Allerton Golf Club and the Scarcroft Golf Course, but on this occasion there are no obvious remains of the road. It is assumed that it headed to the Bardsey Beck, close to the notorious site known as Pompocali, where a mile long length of surviving agger begins.

A serious alternative to the conventional route would be one that branched from a point south of Scarcroft Lodge, and headed up the valley of the Scarcroft Beck to Pompocali. There are a few hints to this on lidar, but nothing totally convincing. It is worth noting that this route would have involved building 2km LESS road, and is only 300m further overall, making it a very attractive option. This would of course mean that RR729 was the principal route to Tadcaster. Both alternatives are marked on our mapping.

Eighteenth century antiquarians, notably Ralph Thoresby, could not interpret the large mounds at Pompocali and ascribed them to the Romans, giving the place its name after an unidentified place in the Ravenna Cosmography. For the avoidance of doubt, Pompocali is just a quarry, of unknown date, although possibly with Roman origins. The place name Pampocalia, or Pompocali, is thought to have been a scribal error conflating the two places Campodunum (possibly Adel) and Calcaria (Castleford) (Richmond and Crawford 1949, p43).

From Pompocali however, the course is well known, and appears clearly on lidar. It probably had a slight kink going upstream to avoid the steam slopes of the beck valley, possibly approximating to the modern right of way east of Bardsey Beck. Certainly, once emerging onto easier ground above the Beck, the road is represented by the footpath, with follows the remains of the agger for 400m, before bearing away to the SE leaving the Roman line to continue across the fields (fig. 12). It eventually meets Thorner Lane, where the Roman line is assumed to being followed for about two miles before disappearing in the village of Bramham. Lidar suggests that another road branches off north north eastwards at about SE 3999 4284. Its destination is not known, heading too far east to be going to the villa at Dalton Parlours.

From Bramham, the conventional line takes it along the very un-Roman Toulston Lane, then York Lane and eventually the A659 to join RR28e approaching Tadcaster. There is a single excavation by Herman Ramm which claimed to support this idea but the results of the excavation when examined objectively found nothing that is convincingly Roman, or even potentially Roman. If this route is actually Roman, then we would expect at least some evidence of straight lines cutting the many bends of the modern road, but there are none. This proposed part of the route makes no sense. RR729 takes a quite direct route to get to Tadcaster, why have another just a mile to the north?  

Click Images to enlarge

RRRA Forum for RR72b


Fig. 1 Lidar image showing agger on Ben Rhydding Golf Course.

Fig. 2  Line of RR72b superimposed on 1851 OS six inch map, showing how lidar confirms the original map survey.

Fig. 4  Photo of the excavation by Percival Ross in 1917 on Guiseley Moor, Otley Chevin.

Fig. 6  Google Earth 2006 image showing line of RR72b past Green Gates Farm, Otley Old Road, as well as a possible branch road

Fig. 5  Bing aerial photo of the Chevin, Otley, near Moor View Farm, showing a cropmark indicating the remains of the agger of RR72b.

Fig. 7  The central spine under RR72b near Otley Old Road, which was used to set out the line of the road. Note the marks from the plough, which has removed much of the road structure.

Ambramson, P. & Fraser, R. (1993); Lakeland Crescent, Alwoodley: An Archaeological Evaluation. Northern Archaeological Associates report.

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

Boutwood, Yvonne (1996); Roman Fort and Vicus, Newton Kyme, North Yorkshire;  Britannia, Vol 27. Cambridge University Press, pp. 340-344

Burnham, B. C., Keppie, L. J. F. and Cleary, A. S. E. (1997) “I. Sites Explored,” Britannia Vol, 28. Cambridge University Press, pp. 395–453.

Finney, Anne. (1990); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register 1989, YAS, Leeds

Haken, M. (2012), Cambodunum, A re-appraisal.  Roman Yorkshire vol. 2.  pp.8-15

Jefferson, P & Roberts, I., (2006) Adel Roman Road, Adel, Leeds, Archaeological Evaluation, Archaeological Services WYAS Report no. 1468

Jones, D. (1980); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register; The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 52. YAS, Leeds

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

Moorhouse, S. (1979); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 51. YAS, Leeds

Pastscape Mon. No. 1200012 (2017)  http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1200012 Accessed 14/8/17 Historic England, Swindon

Ordnance Survey (2011) Roman Britain 6th edition  Ordnance Survey, Southampton

Radley, J. (1967); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register; The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 52. YAS, Leeds pp. 2-9

Ramm, H

Ramm, H. (Ed.) (1964); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register; The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 41 (part 162) pp. 160 - 177

Richmond, I. A., & Crawford, O. G. S.. (1949); The British Section of the Ravenna Cosmography in Archaeologia vol. 93 pp1-50

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

Ross, Percival (1918), “Roman Roads in Yorkshire - Ribchester to York -The Road between Downham Park and Bramham Moor.” in Bradford Antiquarian, vol 6, pp 33-64. Bradford.

Ross, Percival (1921), Roman Road Excavation on Otley Chevin.;  Bradford Antiquarian, vol 6, pp297-298. Bradford.

Warburton, J. (1720) A New and Correct Map of Yorkshire in all its Divisions. London

Wilson, P. (2016); The Roman Period Name for Adel; Britannia Vol, 47., Cambridge University Press, pp.280–285

Fig. 8  Timber lattice found beneath RR72B at Adel Beck, and dated to 1st Century BC.

Fig. 9  Bing aerial image showing line of probable Roman road heading NNE to meet RR72a at the Roman settlement north of Adel.The feature has not been investigated.

Fig. 10  RR72b crossing Headingley Golf Course, Leeds, looking west toward Ilkley. The low agger and northern flanking ditch are clear to see. Photo taken with the kind permission of Headingley Golf Club.

Fig. 11  Lidar showing RR72b across Alwoodley Golf Course, and its “junction” with RR729.

Fig. 12 Lidar image showing RR72b NNE from Pompocali.

Fig. 14 The revised road network west of York, showing the network of surveyed alignments

Historic Counties:

Fig. 3 Terrain map illustrating route of RR72b near Menston and the road found in 1963 and 1989 on a different line

Lidar and aerial photography provide the answer. A linear feature has been identified starting at SE 4290 4331 aligned with the end of Thorner road as it turns just west of the A1 (fig. 13). This line would have taken a road through Bramham and crossing Carr Beck where the gradients are easy to negotiate. After just 110m, the feature changes alignment and heads ENE as far as Windmill Road when it is lost. The line is, however, taken up by a second faint but clear linear feature which can be traced from SE 4405 4380 to SE 4486 4418, skirting the southern edge of Oglethorpe Hall Farm. If these features are the remains of a road, it would be heading towards the fort and settlement at Newton Kyme. Heading ESE from Newton Kyme, a second road has been identified from aerial photographs taken in 1995 and 1996 which runs ESE from SE 4589 4446 to SE 4672 4417 (Pastscape Mon. 1200012, 2017), in the general direction of Tadcaster. If both these features are projected, they meet at a point on the known road that head through the settlement and into the fort at Newton Kyme (RR280, Rudgate) about 700m south of the southern gate of the later fort at the very edge of the extra-mural settlement or vicus (Boutwood 1996. P.342). Even more curious, they meet the original line of RR280 at almost exactly the same angle (69° and 68°).  This symmetrical arrangement is not unique in Yorkshire, a similar pattern being observed near Hayton, just east of RR2e on what is probably the access road to an unknown villa (see RR2e, fig.5). Just in case there were any doubt, a line projected back from the point where these three roads meet, to the junction of RR72b with RR729 also runs along the western half of the mile long stretch of agger WNW of Pompocali.

It seems, therefore, that RR72b was planned to meet RR280 at the southern fringe of the extra-mural settlement or vicus, and then head off to Tadcaster. Whether the two roads either side of Rudgate should be regarded as separate roads is moot, as they were clearly planned at the same time as part of one system. This planning provided a more direct road link from Newton Kyme to York and to Adel and Ilkley. It also clear that the portion of RR280 leading to Newton Kyme was built before either RR72b or RR729, but as to whether RR729 should be regarded as part of the main road from Ilkley to York (rather than the eastern bit of RR72b), as Percival Ross so accurately described, the jury’s still out.

Fig. 13 Lidar image showing the newly discovered probable agger heading past Oglethorpe towards Newton Kyme

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 72b


Entry prepared by Mike Haken - Last updated, 16 January 2018