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812 (811 part)

A Roman road heading almost due east out of Norton has been recognised since the late 19th century at least (Maule Cole, 1891). Margary’s description of a road in Norton with a hard concrete-like mass 15 inches thick (Margary, 1973, p.423) is erroneous. In fact, the description applies to a different road, most probably RR816 to Filey, where it was discovered in Commercial Street, Norton, during drainage works (fig. 1). Indeed, excavation at Westfield Farm in 1952 directed by N. M. Mitchelson, revealed the cobble foundation of the road with most of the upper layers having been ploughed out. The road was 17ft 6 ins wide, and retained traces of a camber (Greene, 1953, p.262).

The line of RR812 leaving Norton was well established east of Wood Street (SE79527132) by R H Hayes in the 1940s and 1950s, although how this road relates to RR816 to Filey and RR81a to Stamford Bridge close to the probable bridge over the Derwent south of the fort at Malton is far from clear. Perhaps all that can be said is that RR816 and RR812 probably both branch from RR81a from Stamford Bridge, rather than branching from each other as suggested by Corder & Kirk (Corder & Kirk, 1928, p.69). As it leaves Norton heading east, RR812 can still be seen as a pale cropmark on most aerial photographs (fig. 2), but only as far as Settrington Beck. East of the Beck, the Roman engineers were faced with climbing the substantial obstacle of Settrington Bank.

In 1927, Philip Corder and John Kirk attempted to trace the road further and located a possible route swinging slightly north past Crosscliffe Farm to ascend onto the wolds north of Settrington Cliffs, and then turning south east to follow the ridgeway of Settrington High Street. In the course of tracing the road, they located an apparently extensive late Roman settlement north of Settrington (Corder & Kirk, 1928, p.77), which they investigated with a few test pits. It has never been fully explored. Most writers have speculated that the course of the road from Settrington follows the ridgeway of Settrington High Street at least to West Lutton (e.g. Margary 1973, p.423). There is no known evidence to substantiate the claim, and the road does not display any obvious Roman characteristics; indeed, it appears to follow the course of one the many linear earthworks forming a web across the Wolds. That said, its general course would represent a fairly logical extension of RR812 from Settrington, although a slightly more northerly route through Weaverthorpe is also possible.  Whilst there is no evidence for a Roman road along any of this route, we do start to pick up limited evidence again at Octon, and possible remains of agger at Rudston (fig. 3). Unfortunately, to really confuse things, the probable road from Octon eastwards has previously been regarded as part of a road from Fridaythorpe to Bridlington (see RR811) but it seems much more likely that it is actually the same road as RR812.

The first mile of the road east from Octon (TA 0364 6941), coincidentally almost exactly a Roman mile, is extremely straight. The modern road then deviates from the line but there is reason to think the Roman line may have gone straight on. If the alignment from Octon is projected to Rudston, it passes through the Rudston Monolith, a large standing stone in the churchyard, which is also a few yards from where the the road changes direction to head to Bridlington. This is a classic Roman road layout, utilising a highly visible sighting point and, even though similar characteristics are exhibited by many 18th century turnpike roads, High Street was never turnpiked (Macmahon 1964, p40).

Furthermore, lidar imagery (coverage starts at Rudston and continues eastwards), shows a length of straight earthwork only a few yards off the line which could well be part of the Roman road (fig. 3). Another straight feature is heading up to meet up it, clearly beneath the medieval rig and furrow, and can be traced down to the Gypsey Race where it changes alignment to head south, possibly being a link road joining RR812/811 with RR810 (Woldgate). Finally, a third straight raised feature, also beneath the rig and furrow, comes up to meet this possible link road, coming from an area close to the site of the Rudston Roman villa and is quite possibly the access road coming from it. If this interpretation is correct then, logically, it must be heading to a Roman road. For clarity, none of these features are part of the four neolithic cursus focused on Rudston.

Heading east from Rudston along High Street (B1253), the road does appear slightly sinuous for about a mile, and yet actually deviates no more than 20m from a line projected from the Rudston Monolith .  From TA 1151 6776, High Street bends slightly north wards, then follows the contours of the valley of the Gypsey Race. At the foot of Bins Dale (TA 1277 6781), where the road then bends sharply north east, there is an old road which continues straight on, before turning to resume the alignment from the Monolith fairly closely for 300m. This old road is marked on the 1854 Ordnance Survey 6 inch map just as “Course of Old Road”, although by 1912 it had become “Supposed Roman Road” (fig. 4). Lidar shows a few hints of agger, but nothing conclusive and the adherence to the apparent alignment from the Rudston Monolith is not close enough to state that this length of road is definitely Roman, but it is certainly possible. The raised earthwork running alongside the Supposed Roman Road, marked on the 1912 map south of Dicky Wood, is still apparent and may represent a surviving length of Roman agger (fig. 5).  

Further east, the possible course is unclear, although there is one further feature showing on lidar which merits further investigation which could represent two lengths of agger either side of a substantial cutting between TA 1581 6801 to TA 1665 6812. The feature runs straight for half a mile (fig. 4), heading very close to the site of a supposed Roman camp at Sewerby, now probably destroyed. The location of a major Roman site at or near Bridlington has never been confirmed, although has always been considered likely. On his map of 1734, Francis Drake showed a direct route from Malton to Bridlington (fig. 6) and, whilst Drake’s mapping of Roman roads is notoriously unreliable, a destination of Bridlington would make sense.

If the supposition that the eastern part of RR811 is actually part of RR812 is correct then the final stage of the first Iter of the British section of the Antonine Itinerary falls into place. This early third century document describes a route and distances from Eboraco (York) to Derventio (Stamford Bridge, 7 Roman Miles), Delgovicia ( a further 13 Roman miles) and finally a further 25 miles to Praetorio. Derventio and Delgovicia are almost certainly Stamford Bridge and Malton, leavingThere are three candidates for Praetorio: Filey, Brough-on-Humber and Bridlington. Filey is too close at 23.5  Roman miles, Brough too far at 32.5 (despite its Roman name of Petuaria being very similar), and Bridlington at 26 Roman miles a little too far, although the probable Roman site at Sewerby is about 27.5 Roman miles. The itinerary is well known, however, for having measured distances a mile or two too short, possibly because measurement was from settlement boundaries rather than centres, in which case Bridlington works well at just one mile more than the recorded distance.

Clearly, the key to resolving both RR812 and RR811 is to complete the missing link between Settrington and Octon. Without lidar coverage, the most likely method of achieving this would be by a series of geophysical surveys starting at each end and if possible, tracing the course of the road from both west and east.

Malton Roman Fort & Vicus

Norton-on-Derwent Roman Settlement

North Yorks  HER no. 4948 Settrington settlement

Sewerby Roman site

RR812 Pastscape

Codrington, Thomas (1903); Roman Roads in Britain, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London

Corder, P. & Kirk, J. (1928); Roman Malton: a Yorkshire Fortress and its Neighbourhood - Antiquity Vol. 2, pp. 69-82

Drake, Francis (1736); Eboracum: or the History and Antiquities of the City of York, London.

Foreman, M. (1994); An Archaeological Watching Brief during Roadworks on the B1248 at Fimber, North Humberside (July-August 1994)

Greene, D. (Ed.) (1953); Roman Yorkshire; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 38 Part 150

Kitson-Clark, Mary (1935); Roman Roads in East Yorkshire in Roman Malton & District Report No. 5

Jeffery, Thomas (1771); The County of York engraved by Thomas Jeffery, geographer to his Majesty, Plate IX

Newton, Sir Charles (1847); Map of British and Roman Yorkshire, Archaeological Institute of Great Britan and Ireland, London

Macmahon, K.A. (1964), Roads and Turnpike Trusts in Eastern Yorkshire, East Yorkshire Local History Society, York

Available online at http://www.eylhs.org.uk/dl/128/roads-and-turnpike-trusts-in-east-yorkshire accessed 19/7/17

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; the Antiquary, vol. 26, 1891, 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

Robinson, J. F. (1978); The Archaeology of Malton and Norton; Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds

Fig. 6 Map from Eboracum, by Francis Drake, 1734

Click Images to enlarge

Fig. 2 Parchmark showing the course of RR812 heading east from Norton-on-Derwent to Settrington

RRRA Forum for RR812


North Riding of Yorkshire, East Riding of Yorkshire

Fig. 1 1854 Ordnance Survey Map showing RR812 and RR816 heading east from Norton, with the evidence from Commercial Street

Fig. 3 Lidar image showing the probable Roman roads  or villa access roads in Rudston, E. Riding.

Fig. 4 Ordnance Survey, 6 inch map, 1912, showing Supposed Roman Road in Boynton, and earthworks

Fig.5 Lidar Image showing the earthwork next to the Supposed Roman road ,marked on the 1912 OS map, and further linear features near Bridlington

26 miles

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 812

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Entry Compiled by Mike Haken, last updated, 2 February 2017