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Margary Number:

Other Numbering System:



10.5 miles or 7.7 miles, depending on route


N. Yorks. HER MNY36286

N. Yorks. HER MNY11412

HE Pastscape Mon. 1498157

Malton / Norton

Staxton Spital

East Riding of Yorkshire, North Riding of Yorkshire

The route of this road described by Margary (Margary 1973, pp. 424-5), branching off RR816 from Malton/Norton and heading to Scarborough, is drawn from Mary Kitson Clark’s account (Kitson Clark, 1935a, pp. 41-2). That route leaves the modern A64 at Sherburn, a little east of its junction with St.Hilda’s Street, and is the forerunner of the bridleway behind the church. A 2005 Google aerial photo clearly shows two causeways, one on the line described by Kitson Clark, and another, slightly to the east, which appears to have been more substantial. Both show well on lidar imagery. The western one was sectioned at three places in 1927 (Kitson Clark, 1935b, p.128) and was revealed it to be made of flint. The route of either is uncertain from Wykeham Ings to Wykeham although, prior to their disappearance in the Carrs, the routes of both appear to consist of short straight lengths, which suggest they have been planned and laid out, but not necessarily with a Roman origin.

The road was then supposed by John Kirk (Kitson Clark, 1935b, p.141) to follow a causeway running east from Wykeham Church through Hutton Buscel, passing north of Ayton Castle before following a terraceway down into the steep sided valley of the R.Derwent, before rising on the other side to head towards Seamer Beacon. The only possible route from here, however, would take a path down an almost impossibly steep slope through Rowbrow Wood, and then presumably through Throxenby and due east to the Roman signal tower at Scarborough Castle. The “road” was excavated east of Wykeham church in 1927 by Ormerod and Kirk (ibid.) near St Helen’s Spring, and was found to be a “hard rammed earth road some 2ft thick” with no mention of metalling and apparently resting on the gravel of the hill and containing two fragments of Roman pottery, which only tell us that the causeway cannot be pre-Roman.  Given the gap between the causeway at Wykeham and the two routes which disappear at Wykeham Ings, we cannot even be sure that this is actually one road although it cannot be totally ruled out.

The eastern end of the Vale of Pickering was still marshland in Roman times, and could only realistically be crossed at three points, at Yedingham, north of Sherburn, or near Staxton and via Seamer. The recent confirmation of a complex Roman military site just east of Staxton at Spital, some four miles further east of Sherburn along the A64 and the probable course of RR816, suggested a likely location for for a road junction. This possibility is not a new idea, although it had been virtually forgotten. In the early 18th century, Francis Drake recorded a road direct from Malton to Filey Bay, with another road crossing it at Spital heading north through Seamer to Dunsley Bay, with a short branch to Scarborough (fig. 1). Drake remarked of this branch road that

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.

Hinderwell, Thomas (1832); The History and Antiquities of Scarborough; 3rd Edition; Whittaker & Co., London

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

Kitson Clark, M (1935b); A Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire; Roman Malton & District Report No. 5

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 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

Pettersen, A; Pole, C; Robinson, G; Teasdale, A. (2012)  Post-Excavation Assessment Report. East Coast Pipeline, North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire. Northern Archaeological Associates. 04/2012

Thorp, F. (1976); The Yorkshire Archaeological Register 1975; Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 48, pp. 1-17; Leeds

Fig. 2 Part of Francis Drake’s map of Roman Yorkshire from Eboracum,  1734, showing his plotting of some of the Roman roads in eastern Yorkshire

Click Images to enlarge

RRRA Forum for RR817

Fig. 3  Straight hollow-way possibly representing approach of RR817 to Scarborough


Entry compiled by Mike Haken, last updated 13 November 2017                   

Fig. 1 Google Earth image from 2005, showing the paths of two former causeways heading north across the Vale of Pickering from Sherburn

“whoever surveys the way from Scarburgh by Seamour, to this last named place with an antiquary’s eye, will find several traces of Roman work on it. Particularly I aver it is very visible on both sides the bridge between Seamour and Spittal” (Drake, 1734, p.35)

The road was apparently discovered in the early 19th century in Seamer Lane (presumably  Seamer Moor Lane), about a mile from Scarborough (Hinderwell, 1832, p.8), although of course we cannot say with any certainty that what was uncovered, or what Drake observed, was indeed Roman. There is, however, a certain Roman road south of Seamer, 140m of which were revealed during excavations for the East Coast Water Pipeline in 2009/10 (Pettersen et al., 2012), and this has been interpreted as heading to  the Roman site at Staxton, although its alignment appears to be north west to south east, which cannot be correct for a road to Scarborough.

The eventual destination of RR817, whatever its route, may not be the signal tower, but an undiscovered Roman site buried beneath the medieval town, to the south west of the castle. A 5m wide road with shallow side ditches (probable Roman road) was discovered in Longwestgate in 1975, beneath a layer representing the burning of the town in 1066 (Thorp, 1976, p.9). How a road got to this point is less clear. Three nineteenth century accounts claim a Roman road being discovered on a line that would approximate to Londesborough Road (which apparently used to be called Street Lane), suggesting an approach approximating to the modern A64 (N. Yorks HER nos. 9399, 9400, 9401). The only other likely route is slightly more northerly via Stepney Hill and would account for the supposed Roman road at Seamer Lane route near the old racecourse. Lidar clearly reveals a straight trackway or road running directly towards the head of the steep valley at Stepney Hill, after which it appears to follow a terraceway that partially survives slightly down the slope from the modern road (A170). It is impossible from the image to make a determination of Roman origin, but it is certainly possible. The route has clearly been utilised for an extremely long period, as evidenced by braiding, a phenomenon created by foot traffic wearing short hollow-ways on un-metalled tracks (fig. 3), and the proximity of a square Iron Age enclosure adjacent to the road.

Further work is needed to determine whether either of the causeways at Sherburn and the rammed earth causeway at Wykeham are actually of Roman origin. Work is also needed to understand what relationship the small length of Roman road discovered at Seamer has to RR817. At the time of writing (Jan. 2018), Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society plan to investigate the feature identified by the author (fig. 3) near the A170 leading to Stepney Hill. This could determine if that is the Roman approach to Scarborough.

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Historic Environment Records, HE Pastscape and other records

Margary's Roman Roads in Britain, road 817