Roman Roads In Britain Today
Created | Updated Mar 5, 2009
We are fortunate to have so much of the Roman road network left in Britain. Of the roads that we know of (there are about 80%1 that can be traced) the original main routes through, can be traced with some certainty by their alignment. Large parts of the less well-known roads have been lost due to ploughing out, or development. Some roads near rivers or in areas with soft ground may have simply been absorbed by the landscape. So the course of some roads have had to be reconstructed form the route of ancient lanes and rights of way. Also paths through old woodlands (bridle paths often called rides in old documents) and sections such as the Roman Iter II route (better known by its Anglo-Saxon name, Watling Street) which now form major roads today (in this case the A5) have been used to reconstruct the route. Placenames can often provide a clue as well as the archaeological records of the area and this often enables us to piece together the route.
There is no doubt that there was a network of smaller roads, tracks and service ways that have been lost without hope of recovery. The evidence that we do have is also locked in the landscape; this can be revealed by the study of field boundaries, ancient hedgerows, monuments and the position of isolated settlements.
The best way to trace the route of the road over today's landscape is with a map as you read the Entry.
Watling Street: from Dover or Richborough to Leintwardine and from Stone Street to Caerleon on Usk
From Richborough to Canterbury the modern A257 is the closest route to Watling Street. Dover to Canterbury follows the A2 and then the A2050, but both roads are far from direct and loop widely to either side of the original route. From Canterbury the unclassified road Church Hill and Faulkners Lane follow closest to the Roman route. Cross the A2050 east of Upper Harbeldown and join the road named Roman Road. This passes through Upper Harbeldown and joins the A2 which continues to Ospringe and Faversham. From the junction A2 and A299, Watling Street is known as the A2 Canterbury Road and leaves Faversham as the London Road. It passes through Sittingbourne as the A2 and the road skirts town the line of the road preserved in High Street and East Street. Watling Street continues as the A2, passing out of the town through Keycol Village. The road continues as the A2 until the A278 junction near Chatham is known for a brief stretch as Watling Street as it passes through Rochester The A5 has various names but crosses the Medway River as High Street.
The A2 leaves Rochester as Watling Street, but when it reaches the junction of Southfleet Road it passes south of the site of Roman Springhead which is near modern Swanscombe.
When the A2 passes north of the village of Bean it branches north as the A296 Roman Road. At the Princes Road junction it branches north again as Watling Street, and, as the A226, passes through Crayford. Watling Street continues on to London along the route of the A207 south of the River Thames.
From London the A5 Edgware Road2 and passes through Brockley Hill and changes to the A5183 as it crosses the A41. Just north of Elstree the A5183 changes name to Watling Street and turns north-west on the way to St Albans. As Watling Street approaches St Albans, it stops suddenly at its junction with Watford Road and St Stephen's Hill. The A5183 turns north-west of Watling Street up St Stephen's Hill and turns north-east on Verulam Road, continuing into Redbourn Road and rejoining the original course of Watling Street 400 metres south of Hogg End Lane.
Watling Street continues as the A5183 Redbourn Road and St Albans Road. When the road reaches the outskirts of the town of Redbourne, it continues as Redbourne High Street and Dunstable Road. The A518 takes a large curving detour to the eastern side of Watling Street, and rejoins the road 60 metres west of Luton Lane. Watling Street changes identity from the A5185 to the A5 as it crosses the M1. At the Chequers Hill junction the A5 runs south of Watling Street for 1.2 miles. The A5 then crosses north of Watling Street at Green Lane and runs to the north of the original route for a mile. The original road passes through the town of Markyate, in the area north of the High Street and the A5.
Watling Street continues into Dunstable as the A5, through Hockliffe and south of the A5 through Little Brickhill, but south of Wyness Avenue the road is lost here for approximately 1.5 miles. At the A4146 junction the A5 runs north of Watling Street to the junction of the A508. Watling Street runs through Fenny Stratford, Stony Stratford and Old Stratford, following the A5 from the A508 junction before continuing into Towcester. Watling Street continues on the A5 with slight variations to Weedon. From Weedon the course of Watling follows the A5, with slight deviations just north of Weedon and the west of Norton with the largest deviation round Daventry, where the road passes through and under the rail terminal. From Daventry to Atherstone the A5 and Watling Street follow the same route, at Atherstone Watling Street follows Witherley Road and Long Street before rejoining the A5 at Holly Lane.
At the M42 junction Watling Street runs south of the A5 through Wilnecote, Two Gates and Frazeley rejoining the A5 just west of Bangley. The A5 follows the route of Watling Street until Redhill Near Telford, where it is lost under the town's suburbs. The probable route was through St George's and Okengates to Ketley, and along the A5 to Wroxeter near Shrewsbury.
Then, on local roads to the Stratford Bridge Camp, Leintwardine Kenchester, the route of the road is confused in this section and there is too much speculation to be sure of the exact route.
Stone Street Local roads: The Continuation of Watling Street Into Wales
Stone Street:3: from Brecon Gaer The Roman Fort at Pen-Y-Gaer to the Roman fort at Abergavenny and Caerleon on Usk. The road south into Wales.
The Fosse Way
The Fosse Way: from Exeter to Lincoln: The western road to the north.
Take the A30 that runs out of Exeter to Honiton, this follows the approximate route of the Fosse Way. The road then splits: the direct route to Ham Hill is approximated by the A303, but the Fosse Way ran to the south (passing close to Chard). The indirect route follows the line of the A35 to Axminster, then north on the A358 to join the A30 and the direct route. The route continues on the A303 to Shepton Mallet, then on to Ilchester still on the A37. Stay on the A37 and join the A367 Bath Road to Nettlebridge that runs to the west of the Fosse Way. From its junction with Rock Road it runs on Fosse Way to where the A367 turns west and continues south-east of the Fosse Way, (the Fosse Way to Camerton is lost beneath the fields), then back on the A367 into Bath.
It is probable that the Fosse Way then passed via North Wraxall to Nettleton, then on to Easton Grey and Cirencester. The A46 and the A433 pass to the west of the Fosse Way
From Cirencester, the A429 follows the course of the road in spirit - if not in fact - to Bourton-on-the-Water. The A429 then to shifts to the east of the Fosse Way as it heads to Moreton-in-the-Marsh. The A429 is named the Fosse Way from Moreton-in-the-Marsh up to three miles south of Ettington, where it becomes a minor road. The Fosse way continues to Chesterton on Fosse and High Cross on the A5 (Watling Street). It is probable the Fosse way then passed via open fields and lanes to join the Coventry Road at its junction with Leicester Road, then into Leicester.
The A46 follows the route of the Fosse Way into Willoughby-on-the-Wolds and then on to East Bridgeford, East Stoke/Thorpe by Newark and Brough then the A46 joins the A4134 into Lincoln.
Local Road Lincoln to the coast
From Lincoln to Horncastle the road has gone but it was possible it passed to the north of Bardney and on into Horncastle. The A518 from Horncastle to Skegness is the closest route although there has been a shift to the north the original Roman roads.
The Roman Ferry no longer exists
The Peddars Way
The road from Holm next to the Sea to Kempstone is hard to trace but the Fakenham Road from the A418 to Docking seems likely to have been part of the route.
Ermine Street: from London to Lincoln: The eastern road north.
Start this journey by taking the A10 out of London towards Braughing. Then join the Roman road just to the east of the A10 signposted to Buntingford to Royston where Ermine Street. The A1198 can be used to travel towards Wimpole Lodge and on to Godmanchester. Use the A1 and A1(M) to Water Newton as they are very close to the Roman route (apart from the Stilton bypass).
The road from Water Newton to Great Casterton is the A1, otherwise known as the Great North Road. This road passes to the west of modern Saltersford and the Roman road leaves the A1 at its junction with the A151. It then picks up the line of a road known as High Dyke. There is a bit of a bulge to the west near Colsterworth, but try to visualise the road continuing over the fields. The High Dyke continues towards Ancaster but when it reaches the A153 crossroads just south of the town, the road changes its name to Ermine Street. Ermine Street passes through Ancaster and becomes High Dyke again just north of the town. The road disappears when it reaches the A17: however, there is a private road running through fields that follows the course of the road. You will have to go north on the A607 into Lincoln, though Ermine Street is likely to have taken a straight course north passing through RAF Waddington through Canwick and into Lincoln.
From Lincoln, Ermine Street follows the A15 to Owmby, apart for the detour east, round another airfield at Hackthorn Cliff. Still on the A15, head north to Hibaldstow, passing of the west of the modern town.
The A15 passes over the M180 and ends at the A18 junction. You can clearly see the route of the Roman road in the field pattern, between the junction and Appleby Lane. The modern road turns east and then north to follow Scawby Road, High Street (Broughton) and then Appleby Lane, before turning north and becoming Ermine Street again. Just north of Appleby Village, Ermine Street becomes a lane: it crosses Roxby Causeway and then Holmes lane.
At this point, approximately two and-a-half miles to the east of Ermine Street, and to the east of Roxby Road (in the fields South of Thealby Lane at its junction with Roxby Road) lies the Winterton Villa Estate - a large villa with mosaics and some outbuildings.
From the junction with Holmes Lane, Ermine Street continues past Leys Lane and Ings Lane to the junction with the A1077. Ermine Street continues a short way on the A1077 (Crockthorne Lane) and then becomes Ermine Street, turning north at the A1077 Sluce Lane junction. Ermine Street then continues into Winteringham, the site of the southern Roman Humber ferry terminal. To get to the next point, the best route is Scunthorpe, Eastoft to Goole (then joining the M62 followed by the A63 to Brough).
The Ferry no longer exists
Ermine Street North of the Humber
Brough-on-Humber is the northern Roman Humber ferry terminal. Ermine Street continues to York across country but this part of the route is now hard to follow.
Local Road: The start of the central road north.
Bosham via Fishbourne to Chichester on the A259.
Stane Street (And Other Roads): from Bosham to Lincoln.
Chichester: At the A285 to Ides Common the road disappears - it is probable that it went via Bignor and joined the A29 (Stane Street) near Watersfield. Arriving at Hardham you reach the A29 (Stane Street) to Alfoldean at the junction of the A29 and the A218. From Alfoldean the route is lost, (although there is a short stretch between Oakwood and Jayes Park) it is probable it then passed to the east of Dorking, Leatherhead and Epsom through Langley Vale and into Ewell. The closest likely modern route to London from Ewell is the A24.
The Fen Causeway
To Longthorpe the road is under Peterborough and can't be seen. The probable route to Downham West (Denver) is a cross-country one through Westry, Threeholes and Nordleigh: you will have to use the A47 and the A1122 to the north. The A1122 is close to the original route to Kempstone (apart from the detour round Marham airfield), but from the junction of the A1122 and the A47 it's guesswork (possibly via Great Palgrave and Great Dunham).
The Peddars Way
From Kempstone to Holme next to the sea is hard to trace, but the Fakenham Road from the A418 to Docking seems likely to have been part of the route.
A Ferry no longer exists
From Skegness to Horncastle the A518 is the closest route, although there has been a shift to the north of the Roman roads. From Horncastle to Lincoln the road has gone but it was possible it passed to the north of Bardney and on into Lincoln.
British Road List
- Akeman Street: 79 miles
- Cade's Road: 100 miles
- Dere Street: 180 miles
- Ermine Street: 190 miles
- Fen Causeway: 91 miles
- Fosse Way: 231 miles
- Icknield Street or Ryknild Street: 124 miles
- King Street: 40 miles
- Portway: 134 miles
- Peddars Way: 46 miles
- Stane Street: 65 miles
- Stanegate: 45 miles
- Stone Street: 63 miles
- Watling Street: 276 miles
- Wade's Causeway: Is a section of Roman road on Wheeldale Moor Yorkshire from the garrison at Malton to Eskdale. This two-mile section is regarded as the best-preserved Roman road in Britain, though the route of the road is uncertain.
- Via Devana: Is a road that ran from Colchester to Chester using large sections of Watling Street and Ermine Street, and so is regarded as a linking road.