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

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)

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

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

Available 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 (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

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

Fig. 2 Map from Eboracum, by Francis Drake, 1734

Fig. 4  Google Earth aerial photograph from 2005 showing the linear feature claimed by Maule Cole and others to be a Roman road

Click Images to enlarge

RRRA Forum for RR813

Fig. 5  Google Earth aerial photograph from 2005 showing part of the linear feature claimed by Maule Cole and others to be a Roman road, near Angus Farm, and showing possible ladder settlement.

Fig. 3  Aerial photo taken with a drone, looking along Beverley Road from above the A166, clearly showing how this road became thought to be Roman.


Like so many of the Roman roads in eastern Yorkshire, the Roman road from Norton-on-Derwent to Bainton has always had many question marks hanging over it, not least because of a paucity of archaeological evidence over the eleven miles from Norton to the junction of Beverley Road (B1248)  and the A166 just west of Wetwang. South of the A166, a supposedly straight road of unproven date was still traceable in the 19th century, at least as far as Bainton, and it was probably this feature that gave rise to the recognition of a Roman road leading from Norton. Its ultimate destination has always been a puzzle, as there is no known Roman site to which it could be heading.

It first appeared on Sir Charles Newton’s map of 1846 (Newton, 1847), marked as “ascertained”, although it is far from clear what evidence he saw to base his claims upon. In his description he took the Roman road (fig. 1) which heads eastwards out of Norton (RR812, probably to Bridlington) and is known as far as Settrington Bank, and then takes it heading south to North Grimston and south east to Wharram le Street and beyond. Such a route negotiating difficult terrain around Settrington bank would seem highly unlikely and un-necessary given the availability of much easier routes a little to the south west. Fifty years later, Maule Cole (Maule Cole 1898 p.40 & 43), with his greater local knowledge, shows on his map the road heading directly from Norton to Wharram le Street. Codrington (Codrington 1903 p.171) described a route along the Broad Balk, which heads south from Settrington Bank to Wharram-le-Street, whereas Corder and Kirk assumed that the road followed the line of Langton Road and the old road to North Grimston (Corder & Kirk, 1926). Margary (Margary 1973 p. 423), on the other hand, merely states that “it’s course is very direct to North Grimston”, although he gives no evidence.

The impression given by these many diverse suggestions is that all the writers after Newton were assuming that the road existed, and then setting out to suggest its route, rather than interpreting the evidence objectively. It is worth noting that the road doesn’t appear on Warburton’s map of Yorkshire of 1720, indeed he didn’t identify a single Roman road leading from Malton/Norton). Nor is it on Drake’s map of 1736 so its existence wasn’t obvious even in the early 18th century. Indeed, in order to account for a “street” place name, which to antiquarians of that period always indicated a Roman road, Drake moved Wharram-le-Street nearly three miles north from its actual location so it would coincide with his Roman road from Norton to Bridlington (812/811) (fig. 2)!

If such a road did exist, the most logical route would be something approximating to the modern Beverley road (B1248) which avoids most of the deep and steep valleys that characterise this part of the Yorkshire Wolds. The straightness of this road from Wharram-le-Street south eastwards appears to have been assumed by all the aforementioned writers as being down to it following an underlying Roman road. However, there is no road along this route on Jeffery’s map of Yorkshire (Jeffery 1771) suggesting that most of this road may not have been  built until some time after 1771. Traces of an earlier more direct road may have survived at North Grimston (Kitson Clark 1935, p. 39) (SE 951535), but they are no longer visible and were not excavated. The straightness is just as likely to be due to 18th/19th century road engineering, although it is fair to add that this road was never turnpiked (Macmahon 1964) so such a well engineered improvement of an earlier road would be unusual, but not unheard of. An Archaeological Watching Brief during roadworks near Fimber in the summer of 1994, found “no firm evidence of the Roman road” (Foreman, 1994, p.1), although medieval and prehistoric activity were recorded, including the possiblility that the modern road overlay what were described as possible defensive works, perhaps one of the linear earthworks which are so common in the Wolds.

South of the A166, the course of the road was described by Maule Cole as follows: “Up to the Enclosure Act for Wetwang at the beginning of the present century, it ran straight from High Towthorpe to Thorndale, leaving Wetwang a quarter of a mile to the left, and then it passed, as a raised mound, half a mile to the left of Tibthorpe, to Bainton, a little to the west of the village. It is still to be seen in the fields and hedgerows.” (Maule Cole 1899, p. 43). There are numerous aerial photographs in the Historic England archive which have been claimed to show short portions of a Roman road along Maule Cole’s route running from the A166 at least as far southeast as Bainton. Modern technology, however, allows us to look at the whole feature at once, rather than in short sections. Images on Google Earth from 2005 (fig 4.), and current ones from Digital Globe (presented by Apple) make it clear that this feature, whilst following a generally straight course, exhibits little sign of Roman layout or construction. It does incorporate one or two straight lengths, which could easily be interpreted as Roman when taken in isolation, but changes of alignment seem to happen for no reason of planning or topography. The feature taken as a whole is quite sinuous.

Parts of the feature as seen from the crop marks have more of the appearance of an Iron Age trackway rather than a Roman road, indeed the southern end of the “clear straight alignment visible….just west of Angus Farm” (SE 951535), identified from an RAF vertical image (note 9. In the Humber HER record) appears on the Google imagery to be far from straight and actually part of a ladder settlement (fig. 5). Some of these straight lengths do merit further investigation, to establish whether or not they provide evidence that the Romans may have improved a pre-existing trackway. As Maule Cole pointed out, “Former writers have frequently confused lines of ancient British entrenchments with Roman roads” (Maule Cole 1899, p. 37) so it would be highly ironic if he made the same error, or a similar error, in mistaking a road of prehistoric origin for a Roman one.

Fig. 1 Parchmark showing the course of RR812 heading east from Norton-on-Derwent to Settrington

Historic Counties:

Roman Sites on Route:

Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 813

N. Yorks. HER MNY2359

Humber HER MNY7657 Roman road Malton - Bainton

Malton / Norton


East Riding of Yorkshire, North Riding of Yorkshire


16 Miles


Norton-on-Derwent to Bainton

In conclusion, aerial photography suggests that RR813, at least in part, originated as a prehistoric trackway which was certainly in use in the late Iron Age, and seems to have been the main route from Malton and Norton to Beverley through the medieval period until the nineteenth century. Parts of it remain in use today. The frequency of Roman finds along its course certainly suggests that it was utilised during the Roman period, although whether or not Roman construction took place at places along it is currently unclear, and merits further research. It should probably not be regarded as a Roman road in the true sense, showing no evidence of Roman surveying, layout or engineering. Given that it cannot yet be entirely dismissed,  the route is shown as uncertain for its entire length on our mapping.

The modern East Riding of Yorkshire, the area approximating to the territory of the Iron Age tribe of the Parisi, was not heavily militarised during the Roman period. Unlike the territory of its neighbour to the west, the Brigantes, Roman military sites are rare. The lack of a known Roman military site, or a major settlement, which could have been a possible destination for this supposed road, should have been a warning to previous researchers. In general, roads were built either to serve the purposes of the empire, specifically the Roman army, or on occasion to serve important civilian settlements such as Civitas capitals like Petuaria, Brough on Humber. Given the handful of such sites in the East Riding, we should not be surprised if, when examining the evidence objectively,  we find that Roman roads are actually even scarcer than we previously thought.  

Entry prepared by Mike Haken.  Last updated, 2 June 2017