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Watling Street



(1) General Course

If the course of Watling Street from Dover to Wroxeter be followed on a map, it will be seen that it consists of 11 lengths of nearly straight road, which change in direction through considerable angles where they join. It would appear that Canterbury was made for because it was the highest point on the Stour to which Roman ships could ascend from Portus Ritupis, the usual port of arrival in England. At Canterbury the direction of the road changes 40°, while between Canterbury and Dover, 15 miles, and between Canterbury and Lambeth, 52-1/2 miles, no part of the road is one and a half miles away from an absolutely straight line, although on the latter length is the crossing of the Medway. The Thames must have been crossed at a point determined probably by a ford, and then a new direction was taken to Brockley Hill, Elstree, so nearly straight that no part of the road deviates one-eighth of a mile from it. North of Elstree the next length of straight road continues to Verolamium, and the stations Durocobrivae at Dunstable and Magiovintum at Fenny Stratford are passed through without any change of course, alterations in direction occurring on high points between them. The bend west to Towcester was probably made to avoid the lower ground of the valley of the Tove, and then there is a turn through 25°, and the road for 28 miles to High Cross (Venonae) is nowhere three-quarters of a mile away from an absolutely straight line. The situation of High Cross on the summit of high ground is in itself a sufficient reason for its having been a point to be made for, and there is there a turn of 29°, and the road goes on to Wall (Etocetum), 25 miles, passing through the station Manduesedum near Atherstone, nowhere a mile out of a straight line. At Etocetum Watling Street is crossed by Riknild Street, and the four roads converge on different lines. From Wall to Pennocrucium, near Gailey, a length of 13 miles is nowhere a mile out of a straight line, and thence to Wellington for 16 miles no part of the road is 100 yards out of a straight line. From Wellington a length of six miles with a slight turn ends at Wroxeter, on the Severn, the lowest point according to Camden at which that river was fordable.

Between London and Wroxeter Watling Street keeps on high ground,from which rivers flow away on either hand. It is crossed nearly at right angles by Iknild Street, the Foss Way, and Riknild Street, but there seem to have been few Roman roads which branched out of this part of it. The most important branch is that which turns off towards Chester at about 14 miles east of Wroxeter, from which, four miles south of Chester, another road turns off at right angles to Carnarvon. These branchings-off may be supposed to mark the advance of Roman dominion first to the Severn, then to Chester, and then to Carnarvon. The continuation of Watling Street beyond the Severn and southwards along the Welsh border may mark another move onwards.

If, as it has been supposed, a British trackway previously existed along the course of Watling Street, it is evident that the road was laid out and reconstructed by the Romans in their own manner.

There appear to have been two lines of road through Chester and Lancashire to the north, one by Northwich, Warrington and Wigan to Lancaster, and the other by Manchester, Ribchester, over the fells to the Lune valley, and then over the Westmoreland fells to Kirkby Thore and the Maiden Way. From Manchester and from Ribchester roads crossed the moors into Yorkshire.

(2) Dover to Canterbury

From Dover Watling Street ascended the valley by River very much on a line with the present road. In 1719 Harris apparently on the authority of Dr. Plot, wrote that between Buckland and Ewell the old road "lay fair and high where it joins the common road", but modern improvements have demolished it. To the south of Lydden, a piece apparently of the old road may be seen on the west side of the modern road at a higher level, and Harris describes it as plan enough to be seen at several places on the north of Lydden, where the modern road up the hill has since been constructed on a different line. At the top of the hill (455’), a parish boundary runs along the modern road for one-eighth of a mile, and then on in the same straight line, rejoining the road beyond the small Roman Camp on Barham Down, the modern road diverging to the west for about four miles. Harris describes the remains of Watling Street, apparently from Dr. Plot’s observations, along this line, and it is one of the many instances which prove the dependence that can be placed on parish boundaries to show the lines of Roman roads of which no other trace remains.

From the top of Lydden Hill to Canterbury, Watling Street was laid out in almost a straight line for nine miles. On Barham Down, Harris, and later Stukeley, describe it as entire with a high ridge composed of chalk and flint blended together, and in use as the common road. The modern road, which has since superseded it, is followed by two short lengths of parish boundary, but near Higham a straight parish boundary on the north-east of the modern road may perhaps represent Watling Street. At the end of the last century it was to be seen entire and high on the west side of Bridge. Beyond, from Stone Farm to where the new Dover road brnaches from the old road, a parish boundary runs along the existing road for three-eights of a mile. There are two lengths of parish boundary of a quarter of a mile and one-eight of a mile along the middle of the old Dover road, which is doubtless on the line of Watling Street. It leads to Watling Street in Canterbury, a name by which it has been known from an early date down to the present time. When Canterbury was sewered the hard crust of the Roman road was found near the north and south gates of the Roman Durovernum.

(3) Dover to Richborough and Canterbury

From Dover to within a short distance oough traces of a Roman road are plain. It creeps up a coombe by the cemetery on to the chalk down as a narrow sunk road, a parish boundary following it all the wayup, and on nearly to Whitfield. On gaining the high ground (200’) a straight road begins pointing to Woodnesborough (100’), and after winding slightly, it continues straight for six miles, except where interrupted for a quarter of a mile at Betteshanger Park, parish boundaries following it for more than half the distance. Woodnesborough is on the nearest high ground to Richborough, most of the intervening two miles being marsh still below the level of high water. Portus Ritupis must have been on an island in the channel between Thanet and the mainland in Roman times, as it is now cut off by marhs-land below high water level. This road is shown on the Tabula Peutingeriana, and also one turning off from it to Canterbury which represents the road from Portus Ritupis. It would seem from this that one causeway across the tidal land between that station and the mainland served for both roads. It is curious that there are very few traces of the Roman road from Portus Ritupis, the usual port of entry into Britain, to Canterbury. Those recorded by Harris, as observed by Dr. Plot and himself in 1719, are but vague, and between Shatterling and Richborough they could find no further traces. Stukeley, a little later, found no trace, and existing roads and parish boundaries give very little indication of the line of it. Between Shatterling and Ash a parish boundary runs along the road for half-a-mile, and another bit follows the road east of Ash, and thereabouts the two roads may have joined. The walls of Richborough enclose an area 160 yards from north to south, and 100 to 160 yards from the west wall to the cliff on the east.

(4) Stone Street

A Roman road from Canterbury to Portus Lemanis, called Stone Street, is also plainly traceable. Camden describes it as paved with stones. Its course in rising up out of the Stour Valley from the west of Canterbury is no doubt that of the present road, along which the city boundary runs for one and a half miles. It then makes straight for a point (600’) on the high ground north of Horton, 10 miles off, and for that length the deviations from an absolutely straight line are very slight, and are in hollows where the intermediate points from which the road must have been set out are not visible. The centre of the road is a parish boundary for more than three-quarters of the 10 miles to Horton. If the straight line had been continued further it would have led down a steep hill, falling 200 feet in a quarter of a mile, where it would have been commanded by the high ground it had quitted. The road therefore bends to the eastward, and keeping on high ground (550’ to 600’) for a mile, makes almost a semi-circle before descending to the 400 feet contour, a parish boundary following it for most of the way. A straight course is then resumed, pointing to West Hythe, the present road following it, with parish boundaries along it for more than half the way, through Stanford, and by Westenhanger railway-station to near New Inn Green. The present road bends to the east, but a hedge-row continues the line of the road for one eighth of a mile. No trace of the road then appears for three-quarters of a mile, and then at Shepway Cross the same line is taken up by a road, with a parish boundary along it, which descends to the old sea-shore at West Hythe. About half-a-mile to the west, below Lympne, are the Roman remains of Stutfall Castle extending down to the sea-level. The walls, of which portions remain, are said by Stukeley to have enclosed about twelve acres, "in form somewhat squarish." A good deal of the walls would seem to have been standing in Stukeley’s time, and also old foundations at West Hythe, where Stukeley with good reason placed the port. The construction of the military canal has since altered the ground.

The distance from Durovernum to Portus Lemanis in Iter IV, 16 M.P., agrees with the mileage from Canterbury to West Hythe.

Boundaries along roads suggest a Roman road from Watling Street at about three-quarters of a mile south of Canterbury, by Nackington and Street End, to Stone Street near Hermansole Farm.

Stone Street affords a good example of straightness of direction abandoned for a winding course when the form of the ground required it.

In the Tabula Peutingeriana no road is shown from Canterbury to Portus Lemanis, but one is shown from Dover, of which perhaps there are traces from Shorncliff to Shepway Cross. Further on are Court at Street and Stonestreet Green, so that this, the ancient place of assembly of the Cinque Ports, appears to have been at the crossing of Roman roads.

A Roman road is considered probable onwards by Smeeth, Ashford, and Charing, to Maidstone, but parish boundaries afford no evidence of it.

(5) Canterbury to Reculver and Thanet

A Roman road from Canterbury towards the north-east appears to have crossed the Stour at Forwich. A parish boundary follows the present road from the river at Fordwich through Sturry and for two miles on through Westbere. At about three-quarters of a mile from Sturry the road to Reculver branched off, represented by the present road through Up Street, which a parish boundary follows for two miles near Hoath. The present road through Westbere, Up Street and Sarre is supposed to be in the course of a Roman road across tidal land to the Isle of Thanet.

(6) Canterbury to Rochester

From Canterbury northwards, the course of Watling Street through Harbledown is uncertain, the road having been re-made, but from Harbledown Church the centre of the present road is the parish boundary, which seems to show that the modern road winding down the hill is on the site of Watling Street. At Harbledown Lodge a piece of straight road two and a half miles long, with a parish boundary along it for three-quarters of a mile, begins and leads to the high ground (317’) at Dunkirk. Between this point and the high ground (255’) on Chatham Hill a length of 19 miles of straight road was laid out. From Dunkirk to Norton, six miles, the road lies in one straight line, and the intervening six miles in the lower ground deviates less than a quarter of a mile from the same line. Parish boundaries follow the road at intervals for nearly seven miles out of the 19, and are now the chief vestiges of Watling Street. Harris in 1719, and Hasted in 1790, however, described the old road as being still visible between Harbledown and Boughton Street, and between Sittingbourne and Chatham.

Half-way between Canterbury and Rochester was the station Durolevum in Iter II of Antonine, and from Sittingbourne a Roman road is supposed to have gone to Maidstone, where many foundations of buildings and interments testify to Roman occupation, but no evidences of a road are afforded by parish boundaries.

From the Star Inn on the top of Chatham Hill a parish boundary runs for two and a half miles across country to near Lidsing, and appears to represent a Roman road to Maidstone by Boxley and Penenden Heath, where there is a parish boundary, and again for half-a-mile, and a quarter of a mile along the road beyond. A Roman road from Chatham to Maidstone is marked in the Archaeological Survey of Kent, continued on to Ightham, and as probably going on to Westerham and Limpsfield, and from Westerham to Keston and Lewisham. Parish boundaries afford no evidence of these roads west of Maidstone.

The course of Watling Street through Chatham was described in 1897 by Mr. G. Payne, F.S.A. From near the foot of Chatham Hill, to which parish boundaries follow the main road, the latter now continues on through the High Street of Chatham, on land reclaimed from the estuary of the Medway. Watling Street, however, kept on higher ground to the south, nearly in the line of New Road, and on by Old Street Road, and at the back of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and by Nag’s Head Lane, to the south-east gate of the Roman station Durobrivae at Rochester. A section of the road where it was exposed in Chatham exhibited one foot of small flints on the subsoil of brick earth, then a layer of mortar or grout, above which was a bed of gravel two feet thick grouted with mortar, and then flints to the present surface. It is probable that the gravel grouted with mortar is the uppermost layer of the Roman road remaining, from which a paving of some sort has been removed.

The south-east gate of Durobrivae has been proved to have been on the High Street of Rochester, which follows the line of Watling Street to the site of the north-west gate, opposite the modern bridge, and the site of the Roman bridge across the Medway. The Roman walls, as traced by Mr. Payne, enclosed an area measuring 450 yards from the south-east to the north-west, and in width from 150 yards at the south-east to 350 yards towards the north-west. In digging the foundations of the Technical School near the Guildhall in 1892, the Roman road was found: it consisted of a roughly-prepared bed of sand, earth, and flint, one foot three inches thick on the natural clay, on which was six inches of chalk rammed, then one foot of round and angular gravel, on which was six inches of flints laid in, and then another one foot two inches of round and angular gravel, making a thickness of four feet five inches, over which there was seven feet of earth and débris. No paving was found.

Piles of the Roman bridge over the Medway are said to have been met with in the foundation of the modern bridge in 1847.

(7) Rochester to London

On the Strood side of the river a causeway on piles has been traced almost from the bridge nearly to the foot of Strood Hill. It was cut through opposite Station Road in laying a drain in 1897. In the river mud, met with at about eight feet six inches below the present surface of the road, were remains of oak piles about four feet long with timber cills laid across them; upon these was a layer of flints and rag with fragments of Roman tiles, three feet six inches thick, then five inches of rammed chalk, then seven inches of flint broken fine, covered with nine inches of small pebble gravel mixed with black earth; and upon this was found a paved surface, six to eight inches thick, of Kentish rag of polygonal shape fitted together, and jointed with fine gravel. The width of the causeway was about 14 feet, and there were four ruts in the paving, three on the south side about three inches apart, and one on the north side, six feet three inches from the outer track on the south side. The paved surface was again met with where High Street is joined by North Street. A causeway branching off opposite Station Road, and inclining downwards past Aveling and Porter’s Works to the water’s edge, was also exposed in pipe-laying. It perhaps led to a ford or ferry which was superseded by a birdge. A boundary follows the line of the causeway from the river to the north end of High Street, Strood, and turns along Strood Hill.

The London road turns off at the north end of High Street after having followed the Roman road for 43 miles from Dover, and the course of Watling Street continues straight on up Strood Hill, where there is abit of parish boundary, and then along the north of Cobham Park, followed by parish boundaries for three and a half miles. There are traces of the ridge in Cobham Park close to the present road, and for a quarter of a mile from the cross-roads at Scales Hill. At the cross-roads there is a change in the general direction on to Springhead, but the road is not straight, and it is generally narrow, and sunk below the adjoining land. Harris, in 1719, says that the old road was visible between Cobham Park and Springhead with hedges standing on it, sometimes on the one side and sometimes on the other of the existing road. Parish boundaries follow it for nearly half the distance, and it may be noticed that where the ridge is visible the boundaries follow the road and not the bridge.

At Springhead, half-a-mile west of where the Gravesend railway crosses the road, there is a decided bend, and here considerable remains of a Roman town have been found. It may possibly be Vagniacae, the distance from Durobrivae corresponding. The road, followed by a parish boundary, ascends to Swanscombe Wood, and from this point (200’) to Shooter’s Hill (400’) there is a straight road for 10-1/2 miles, with very slight turns on high ground, only interrupted where the road drops down to cross the river at Dartford and at Crayford. Parish boundaries follow it almost continuously to Dartfod, and through Crayford, and from Welling to Shooter’s Hill. About half-a-mile east of Dartford the modern road from Rochester through Gravesend rejoins Watling Street, and on the common close by, the bank or ridge of the latter is evident, eight yards wide and two or three feet high. At the foot of East Hill, Dartford, the paved surface of the Roman road was discovered in 1897 at two feet six inches below the surface of the present road. It consisted of stones set in gravel, like the pavement at Strood. In 1790, according to Hasted, it was plainly visible on Bexley Heath and through Welling.

From Shooter’s Hill the straight line is continued with a very slight change in direction for one and a half miles further. Harris (1719) says that the road half-a-mile from Shooter’s Hill was very plain and high wih ditches on each side of it, and Stukeley observed that some of the agger was left in his time, and that from the top of Shooter’s Hill it butted upon Westminster Abbey. This is so, and a straight line of road from Swanscombe, ten and a half miles east of Shooter’s Hill, points direct to the passage over the Thames to Westminster, at Stangate, eight and a half miles further on.

Near Kidbrook End the straight line ends, and the road bends to the south, and parish boundaries which have followed the straight road continuously for four and a half miles from Welling follow the road on over Blackheath, where in 1719 Watling Street was pretty plain. Further into London it cannot now be traced, but Stukeley notices a Roman road in St. George’s Fields, and Bishop Gibson describes it as visible in 1772.

There is no doubt that the original course of Watling Street was by a ford or ferry across the Thames at Stangate to what was Thorney Island. The discovery of a Roman sarcophagus a mosaic pavement, fragments of Roman buildings, and Roman bricks in recent years has afforded proofs of the Roman occupation of the island which afterwards became the site of Westminster. With the building of London Bridge the traffic was diverted, and roads were made to it, one perhaps branching from Watling Street in about the course of Old Kent Road and Tabard Street, and joining near St. George’s Church the Roman road from Chichester, which has now to be described.

(8) The Sussex Stane Street

Chichester, the Regnum of the Itinerary of Antonine, is still surrounded by walls, which in position, and partly in construction, are Roman. They enclose an irregular area 770 yards from the east to the west gate, and 440 yards from the north to the south gate; as if a considerable town already existed when the walls were built. The Stane Street left Chichester by the east gate along the line of the street now called St. Pancras. It makes straight for nine miles to high ground (686’) on Bignor Hill, the modern road following its course nearly all the way to beyond Halnaker. The ridge is plainly visible on Halnaker Down, beyond which the present road takes the line for a quarter of a mile, and then the ridge is again traceable in the woods to the north of Eartham, where it is known as Stane Street. Towards Bignor Hill the ridge is covered by a hedgerow, and one the open down beyond it is conspicuous, five to six feet high, and two to two and a half yards wide, now of a rounded profile. On each side of the ridge, about thirteen yards apart, are the remains of trenches. A cross section of the road here has been given by Mr. P. J. Martin who shows two stone roads inside the trenches separated by a vallum two yards wide rising ten feet above the surrounding surface. There does not appear to be any sign of a stone coating on the side spaces, but the vallum or ridge between them was coated with gravel, some of which remains. It is possible that there are here the remains of a road with a middle and side spaces.

On Bignor Hill (686’) the nine miles of straight road ends. Looking towards Chichester the spire appears almost in line with the Roman road, and in the opposite direction Box Hill on the east of the Dorking gap in the chalk, through which the course Stane Street lies, can be seen. The road then leaves the high ground, slanting down the steep north-eastern side of the down. It is to be seen in Grevatt Wood, about a mile east of Bignor village, and according to Mr. Martin it has been traced to the north-west of Watersfield and Coldwaltham. The new Ordnance map shows it by a dotted line in this direction passing through Hardham camp, and across half-a-mile of land subject to floods to Pulborough Bridge. There is no trace of a causeway in this direction, but the present road is carried across the meadows between Hardham and Pulborough Bridge 600 yards on a causeway which is very nearly in a line with Stane Street on the norht of Pulborough, and may very possibly be of Roman origin. A continuation of this line soutwhards would however lead into ow ground bordering on the river Arun again, and there must have been a turn near Hardham if the present road to Pulborough Bridge represents Stane Street. Portions of the road between Hardham and Watersfield are in a straight line in the direction of Grevatt Wood.

From Pulborough (100’) to Tolhurst Farm the modern road appears to occupy the line of the old road, and for three miles it points to high ground (230’) on Toat Hill towards the north, and southwards to a point (400’) on the west side of the gap in the South Downs near Amberly station. Near Tolhurst (or Stallhouse) Farm the direction changes slightly to a point on high ground on Toat Hill about a quarter of a mile west of Hayes House, the road passing through Billingshurst and Five Oaks. From the high ground (? 250’) west of Hayes House to the south of Slinfold there is a good view along the line of the road in both directions, to the South Downs 13 miles to the south-south-west, and to Leith Hill and Anstiebury 10 miles to the north-north-east, the chalk hill to the east of Box Hill 15 miles distant appearing beyond the shoulder of the latter. It seems probable that from this high ground the general direction of the 18 miles of almost straight road from Hardham to Minnick Wood near Anstiebury was laid out by the method of ranging a straight line between two extremem points from two intermediate points, by shifting them alternately until they lie in a straight line with the extreme points. The general line having thus been got, intermediate landmarks were made use of as points of direction; but so close is the road to an absolutely straight line that no part of the 15 miles from Tolhurst Farm to Minnick Wood is one-eighth of a mile away from it. The modern road occupies the line of the old road through Billingshurst and Park Street to Rowhook, whence a Roman road is indicated on the new Ordnance map, on what evidence does not appear, branching in the direction of Guildford. From Rowhook the line of the old road is followed for two and a half miles by hedgerows and lanes to a public road called Stone Street Causeway, which passes through Stone Street, Ockley, to Bucking Hill Farm. Manning states that the causeway in Ockley parish had, in 1814, lately been dug through, and found to be four and a half feet thick of flints and other stones laid alternately and bedded in fine sand or gravel. About a mile north of Bucking Hill Farm, in the same lne, the old road has been since found beneath the surface. Opposite Minnick Wood the crown of the causeway four feet wide was found at less than two feet from the surface; the sides were broken up, but the width did not appear to exceed 15 feet. There was a thickness of one foot of flints set in mortar on sand beneath. So lately as September 1898 it was again exposed near the same place in a trench for laying a water main.

Heareabouts, about half-way between Anstiebury and Holmwood station, the direction appears to change rather more towards the west, and the course i uncertain. Not many years ago the old road could be seen a little to the west of Folly Farm, a mile and a quarter further on, beyond which the line lies a little to the west of the modern road to near the south end of Dorking. Aubrey says that the road went "through Darking churchyard, which they find by digging grave." The same line appears to be taken up on the north side of Dorking by the modern road, the east side of the Dorking gap having apparently been taken as a point to make for from the high ground near Minnick Farm. In 1861 a length of 200 yards of the ridge was to be seen in a meadow near Burford Bridge close to an parallel to the turnpike road. From Juniper Hall the old road seems to have wound up in about the line of Downs Road to the east of Mickleham, skirting the heads of the chalk coombes to Mickleham Down, on which the ridge is traceable. Further on, on Leatherhead Down, it is still very much as described by Aubrey, and fortunately it is fenced in and likely to be preserved. He describes it as in some places 10 yards broad and one a half yards deep. The mound is now in places upwards of four feet high, measuring from the surface of the Down on the lower side, and six yards wide across the top. The upper pat appears to be made of flints, and tertiary pebbles are visible in places. The old road here appears to have for a long time borne the name of Ermyn Street. Beyond Leatherhead Down a lane and hedgerow occupy the site of the road, the lane sometimes being upon and sometimes at the side of the mound. The old coating is visible in places, consisting of flints and tertiary pebbles; the latter, which must have been brought to the road, appear to have given the name "Pebble Lane" to the lane, which continues on in the same straight line to high ground (410’) near Thirty Acres barn. Towards Epsom and Ewell the line is lost, but in 1876 it was conspicuous for 200 yards in a field adjoining the Reigate road at Ewell. On the north of Ewell by North Cheam Pilford Bridge, the modern road in a straight line seems to follow it to Morden, and it seems to be continued by the present road through Tooting, Balhma Hill, Claphma Rise, and Kennington Park Road to Newington Butts. From Clapham Rise (50’) to Newington Butts the road points straight for two miles to the south of London Bridge. Watling Street must have been crossed near the Elephant and Castle. Newington Causeway and Stones End are names suggestive of the course onwards, but they lie rather off the straight line, in which, however, High Street Borough lies.

This road appears to have been joined by another on approaching London, the course of which through Sussex was described in 1780, when it was being dug up for the construction of the Brighton turnpike road. From Clayton, one mile south of Hassocks station, and seven miles from Shoreham, it was traced to St. John’s Common, where it was 18 to 20 feet wide, of flints eight inches thick. It passed to the east of Butler’s Green to Ardingly Church, by Wakehurst Place, and along the London road to Selsfield Common in a line pointing to New Chapel. A parish boundary along or near the road for a mile and three-quarters to the south of St. John’s Common, and along the London road for half-a-mile, are the only evidences now left. It would seem to be taken up by the road to Godstone, passing Cold Harbour and Stratton, and it is said to have gone by Caterham and Coulsdon. From the Brighton road near Purley railway-station a parish boundary follows a rough bank along the east of Russel Hill, and runs along Merebank to Waddon Court, with Cold Harbour close by, and seems to mark the course, which continues on in the same line to the Wandle between Waddon and Beddington, and on in the same direction to the railway. The road was formerly visible on the west side of Broad Green, from which the course appears to be by Streatham to Stane Street. At Woodcot, on this line of road, Camden and others have placed Noviomagus, a station ten M.P. from London on Iter iI, which rejoins Watling Street by a course which is not known.

Part of a supposed Roman road from Newhaven to London has been described, from Isfield, five miles north of Lewes, passing east of East Grinstead, and through Lingfield Camp, on what evidence is not apparent; the maps afford none.

(9) London to Wroxeter

The earlier Roman London appears to have extended eastward from Lambeth Hill and Old Change (a little to the east of St. Paul’s) to Miles Lane, Clement’s Lane, and Birchin Lane (a little to the west of King William Street); and from Cheapside and Poultry to Thames Street. The area thus enclosed was a rectangle about 800 yards by 400 yards, or perhaps rather less. The present Watling Street runs through the western half of it, and if, as Sir Christopher Wren supposed, it represents the Praetorian Way of the Station, it is suggestive of a still earlier station through the middle of which it would have run, extending southwards only as far as the brow of the slope to the river, marked by the line of Knightrider Street, Great St. Thomas Apostle, and Cloak Lane; and eastwards perhaps to Walbrook. This would enclose an area about 240 yards by 530 yards. From the west gate the Roman road must have turned towards the north to cross the Fleet. On the south side of Cheapside, Wren sunk 18 feet through made ground and then came upon a Roman causeway of rough stone firmly emented, with brick and rubbish at the bottom, and four feet thick, on which he founded Bow Church steeple. For various reasons he thought that the causeway ran along the north boundary of the older London, and his conclusion has been confirmed by its discovery, in 1765, at the middle of Birchin Lane. Outside the eastern wall, where the latter crossed Eastcheap (where the statue of William IV now stands), a raised causeway of gravel seven feet six inches in depth, and 16 feet wide, supported by walls of ragstone with layers of Roman tiles was displayed in 1831. It inclined to the north-east in the direction of Aldgate, and many cinerary urns on either side showed it to have been outside the station. The Roman bridge over the Thames, on the site of Old London bridge, was also outside the earlier boundary. It is supposed to date from the second or third century, after the extension of the city.

The enlarged Londinium extended east and west for about a mile and a quarter, from the Tower to the Old Bailey, and northwards from Thames Street for about half-a-mile to London Wall. From the Tower, by Aldgate, Bishopsgate and London Wall streets run inside the course of the Roman wall, and Minories and Houndsditch follow the ditch outside it as far as Bishopsgate. From the west end of London Wall the Roman wall turned south, and then west, and then south again by Newgate to Thames Street, the latter marking the line of the southern wall. The irregular shape seems to show that the walls enclosed an area already occupied by the buildings. Both Newgate and Aldgate stand on the courses of roads from the gates of the older city to the crossing of the Fleet and to Old Ford respectively. London was connected with the original Watling Street by a road which, after crossing the Fleet, followed the line of Holborn, Oxford Street, and Bayswater Road, and continued on to Staines and Silchester. The road from the Fleet to Tyburn is referred to in a charter of Edgar as Wide Here Street, i.e. military way. High Holborn is followed by a parish boundary and lies in a straight line with the older part of Oxford Street, and with the Bayswater Road. From Tottenham Court Road parish boundaries follow the straight road to Notting Hill. The original Watling Street coming from Thorney was crossed by this road at Tyburn, and the crossing of the two ancient roads very possibly fixed that as the place of execution.

Watling Street on leaving Thorney had to cross three-quarters of a mile of marsh, even now below the level of high tides, extending to the rising ground of Green Park. Tothill Street suggests a "toot hill" looking out over the ford and causeway, of which the course is unknown. It is likely that when the brow of the rising ground was reached the straight line was entered upon which continues to Brockley Hill, and if so the course of the road is now covered by the houses of Mayfair from Piccadilly near Down Street to near the top of Park Lane.

The first certain trace is at Tyburn. From that point, Edgware Road, and the continuation of it, occupy the line of Watling Street to Brockley Hill, 10-1/2 miles distant. From Kilburn to Brockley Hill, eight miles, the road is in a line between Brockley Hill (416’) and Sydenham Hill (350’), 17 miles distant to the south-east. It may have been set out from Brockley Hill in a line with Sydenham Hill, on which the Crystal Palace is now visible from Brockley, or it may have been set out from intermediate points, which may very well have been Shootup Hill, and near Hendon. At Kilburn there is a slight turn to the east, but only enough to throw the Oxford Street end of the road 100 yards away from the straight line. There are slight deviations all along the modern road, which appear the greater from the encroachments which have been made, but from the Marble Arch to Brockley Hill the road is nowhere one-eight of a mile out of a straight line. Parish boundaries run along the road from Oxford Street to the Brent, five miles, and from the Hyde to Edgware, a mile and a half.

The Roman paving has recently been cut through in a trench for laying a telephone tube along the Edgware Road. Beneath the wood paving and the concrete foundation, on about a foot of brick rubbish, there was generally found four inches to a foot of ordinary soil, but sometimes the brick rubbish rested immediately on the Roman paving. The latter was found to consist of large black nodular flints, weighing from four to seven pounds each, on a bed of rammed reddish-brown gravel of thickness varying according to the inequalities of the clay surface below. A large opening opposite Market Street showed that the gravel was supported by dwarf walls of gravel concrete a foot high, at the sides of a trench cut in the clay. On the levelled surface of the gravel, lime grouting appears to have been laid, in which the flints were set, every advantage having been taken of the protuberances of the nodules to dovetail and interlock them. The workmen found that it gave them much more trouble to break up than the modern concrete floor above. The trench extended for half-a-mile from the south end of Edgware Road, and the paving was cut through all along except where the trench was too near the footway. The width of the paved road appeared to be 24 feet. The flints are from the chalk of Hertfordshire, and the gravel is such as is found at Radlett. A block of Totternhoe stone from near Dunstable, a boulder of granite, and a sandstone block, possibly from the boulder clay, occurred in the paving.

Many Roman remains have been found on Brockley Hill, the site of a Roman station, Sulloniacae. From it a road is supposed to have branched off in the direction of Watford, King’s Langley, Berkhamsptead, and Tring, but parish boundaries afford no evidence of it.

From the station on Brockley Hill onwards Watling Street has a remarkable double bend, curving first to the north-east through Elstree and then back again, making a reversed curve one mile and a quarter long. From the north end of the curve a straight line runs to Verulam in a line with a point on high ground on the top of Elstree Hill (470’), which is half-a-mile to the east of the point on Brockley Hill, to which the road from the south is directed. The effect is to ease considerably the ascent of the hill coming from Verulam. That the course of the Roman road was along the double bend is shown by parish boundaries following it all through and along the straight road beyond, and it is another instance of that straightness which has been so much insisted upon, having been abandoned when there was cause for it. From Aldenham onwards Watling Street is now a narrow road, with signs that it has been encroached upon. The Midland Railway runs alongside it for two miles near Radlett station. At Park Street the straight line is again broken by a slight bend to avoid more than one crossing of the river; the road resuming the same line when the difficulty has been passed. At St. Stephen’s Church the road from Watford to St. Albans is crossed, and there are some traces of Watling Street on in the same line for three-eighths of a mile to the walls of Verolamium.

The area enclosed by the remains of these walls is a rough oval about 1500 yards from south to north and 850 yards from east to west. Watling Street, which passes through it lengthways, was dug up and robbed of its materials as far as St. Michael’s Church in 1800. Near the south side of the church it is crossed by Camlet Way, of which nothing is known in either direction.

On the north side of the Roman city Watling Street can be traced through the fields in line with the modern London and Holyhead road, which joins it about two miles north of St. Alban’s and thence follows the course of it nearly all the way to Weedon. The direction is at first between the higher part of Verulam (336’) and a point on high ground (416’) beyond Bylands Farm, four miles distant. There is then a curve to the west, with a parish boundary continuing along the middle of the road to another straight line two miles long, for the greater part of which Watling Street, as a narrow lane, lies to the north-east of the modern road, passing over a hill which the latter avoids. At Marykate Street the modern road rejoins Watling Street, and winds in a shallow valley with county and parish boundaries along the middle of it to Dunstable.

Horsley placed Durocobrivae at Dunstable, and it would seem correctly, judging from the distances apart of the stations as fiven in the Itinerary, although there is no river or water. Here Icknild Way crosses Watling Street, which runs straight through Dunstable for five and a half miles to a knoll (445’) beyond Hockliffe, having parish boundaries along the middle side of it for the last three and a half miles, and then goes on straight in nearly the same line for four miles to high ground (508’) half-a-mile south of Little Brickhill, parish boundaries following it all the way. The course thence down the hill is rather uncertain, modern road improvements here as in other places having interfered with the old road, but from one mile south of Fenny Stratford (Magiovintum) parish boundaries run along the middle of the road, which goes straight for seven miles, crossed by the North-Western Railway one mile north of Bletchley station, and then, with a slight turn on high ground, on for nine miles in almost the same straight line through Stony Stratford to Towcester, with parish boundaries following it for most of the way.

In Camden’s time the ridge of the old road was very conspicuous between Stony Stratford and Towcester.From Fenny Stratford strips of waste begin to be frequent at the sides of the road. Nearly all the way from London the width is 20 yards or more between the fences where the road has not been encroached upon, but encroachments are frequent, sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other, and the modern road in some degree loses the appearance of straightness to a traveller passing along it.

At Towcester (Lactodorum) Watling Street passes through a Roman camp, three sides of which can be traced in the town, the east side being now bounded by a branch of the river Tove. It is about 480 yards long in the direction of Watling Street, and 200 to 400 yards wide. On leaving the Roman station there is a decided change in direction, and the road for 28 miles is in straight lengths, making up approximately an arc of a circle of which no part is as much as three-quarters of a mile away from the chord. It is not difficult to trace how the line was laid out from intermediate points on high ground. The first point is near Pattishall (480’), four miles from Towcester, to which the road is straight, with a parish boundary along a mile of it; beyond, the present road is not straight, and a parish boundary which des not follow it in places may be the line of Watling Street. At Weedon the Holyhead road, after having followed the course of the Roman road for 45 miles, turns off to Daventry; and Watling Street, about 20 yards wide between the fences with a road 12 to 15 feet wide, continues on in the same general direction. It bends to avoid the Nene river, parish boundaries following it for half-a-mile. After the North-Western Railway has been crossed, a straight line begins which is in line between high ground over Weedon Tunnel (400’) and Watford Gap (500’), and for three miles out of six parish boundaries run along the middle of the road. On the west of Norton Park the road, followed by the parish boundary, turns out of the straight line to the east and back again to it in half-a-mile. In the field through which the straight line thus quitted passes, a shallow pit, in the summer of 1900, afforded fragments of Roman pottery, mortaria, etc., and about 18 inches below the surface there were traces of a pavement of flat stones too thin to be part of a road. Somewhere here, according to the distances in the Itinerary, sd be the site of Bannaventa, which Camden and stuk place at Weedon, three miles to the south, and Horsley at Borough Hill near Daventry, two miles away from Watling Street.

The same straight line is resumed, parallel to and less than half-a-mile west of the North-Western Railway, after crossing which the present road, 12 to 15 feet wide, winds between fences 20 yards or more apart. Near Watford in 1712 Watling Street is said to have run very high, and to have been seven yards wide. The ridge is still to be seen between Weedon and Norton Park, especially where a fence runs along the east side of it for some distance.

From near Watford Gap, with a slight turn, there is a straight line to Gibbet Hill (429’) seven miles distat. For half-a-mile the modern road follows the line of the older road, but from the cross-roads from Ashby St. Leger to Crick, Watling Street is now grassed over for two and a half miles. For one and a half miles there are hedges on both sides, 23 to 25 yards apart, and there is little or no trace of a ridge. Beyond, the old road is in a grass field with a hedge on one side; a brown track in the turf makrs the line all along, and as the ground falls the ridge is more evident. On the north of the road from Rugby to Crick it is as much as five feet high and eight yards wide. Stuk found the ridge hereabouts very high for miles together, but it has since evidently dug into for the sake of the gravel. A little further on there is not much ridge, but a stream that runs alongside has cut into it in places, exposing gravel a yard deep, with a layer of large cobble stones at the base on the clayey subsoil. A little further on the present road from Kilsby joins, and the hedges are 25 yards apart, with a hard road 12 or 15 feet wide between them. A parish boundary has followed the road all along, and here it becomes a county boundary, and for the next 21 miles Watling Street is the boundary between the counties of Warwick on the south and Northampton and Leicester on the north-east.

At Gibbet Hill (429’) there is a slgiht turn to Cross-in-Hand (429’), and then another length of straight road three and a half miles long reaches High Cross (440’), the station Venonae at the intersection of Watling Street and the Foss.

where Watling Street crosses the river Avon, about two miles east of Rugby, Tripontium, which appears in Iter VI. as eight M.P. from Venonae, has been placed; the position agrees with this distance from High Cross, but it is to b enoticed that from Venonae to stations further south the distance is three M.P. longer than it is by Iter II, or by measurement. It is possible that Tripontium was not on the direct line of Watling Street.

This part of Watling Street is now an unimportant thoroughfare where it is not grassed over and disused. It is generally enclosed by hedges 20 yards or more apart where there are no encroachments, and the modern road is not more than 12 or 15 feet wide. Towards High Cross the hedges are as much as 30 yards apart, a cart-way winding from side to side between them. Though the general direction of the road is straight from point to point, the straight line appears to have been slightly departed from in crossing streams and in hollows. Encroachments, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, and the devious course of the present road, detract from the appearance of straightness as one passes along the road. Though little used for road traffic, this part of Watling Street still serves as a main line of communication for one of the principal telegraph routes.

At High Cross there is a considerable change of direction to the westward, and the road makes for Wall (Etocetum) 25 miles off, by straight lengtyhs between intermediate points on high ground, none of which is as much as a mile out of a straight line from High Cross to Wall. For nearly eight miles from High Cross the road runs straight in the direction of high ground (300’) south of Highma-on-the-Hill, keeping to the north of the river Anker, and then there is a very slight turn more towards the west, and another straight line seven miles long to Hall End (343’) begins. Near Mancetter a straight road joins, pointing for five miles to Leicester, and continued on in the same line by other roads, which represents a Roman road from Leicester. At Mancetter, the station Manduesedum, a rectangle 233 yards by 166 yards, is passed through longitudinally, half the camp being in one county and half in the other. Beyond Atherstone, at Hall End, there is abend more to the west, and a straight road runs by Wilnecote railway-station, and through Fazeley, for six miles to high ground near Hints (400’), from which there is an extensive view in both directions. A change of direction occurs a quarter of a mile further on, on the north side of a large tumulus (380’), and thence the road went straight to Wall (Etocetum) (369’).

From High Cross to within two and a half miles of Wall a turnpike road was constructed along the line of Watling Street, and for 10-1/2 miles a county boundary follows it to near Atherstone. A highway continues the line one from Weeford Gate to within three-quarters of a mile of Wall.

The straight line of Watling Street on the east of Wall is crossed by Riknild Street, which makes a considerabvle turn at the point of intersection. At Wall (Etocetum), commanding an extensive prospect, more particularly to the south and east, there is a decided change in the direction of Watling Street, which runs straight due west for four and a half miles to high (500’) on the west of Brownhills, with a parish boundary following it nearly all the way. Camden describes a fair, bold and uninterrupted ridge running from Wall till it comes to the river Penk, and in Stukeley’s time the ridge was perfect for a great length, but it has since been destroyed in making the modern road.

On the high ground (500’) west of Brownhills the direction changes to west-north-west, and with a very slight turn on high ground (389’) south of Cannock, continues in the same line for eight miles, with parish boundaries along it in places, to the river Penk. Hereabouts, 12 M.P. from Wall, and two miles to the south of Penkridge, must have been the station Pennocrucium. The road then turns due west, and for 13 miles to Oakengates is nowhere more than 200 yards out of a straight line, which was probably laid out to pass on the north side of the Wrekin (1335’). It is made up of several straight lengths between points on high ground, for nine miles parish boundaries run along the middle of the road, and continuously for five and a half miles to Oakengates. stuk says that the old road was "laid very broad and deep with gravel not yet worn out, where it goes over commons and moor," and was raised a good height above the soil. On this straight length of road, 12 M.P. from Pennocrucium and 11 M.P. from Uriconium, according to the Itinerary, was the station Uxacona.

Through Oakengates and by Wellington the course is rather uncertain, but on the south-west of Wellington the London and Holyhead road joins Watling Street, and for two miles follows the course of it in a straight line pointing to the top of Overly Hill (462’), with a parish boundary along the middle. The modern road skirts round the north of the hill, but the old road at the beginning of the last century ran straight on over the hill and was used by coaches. Now only about 250 yards remain on the top of the hill, where it is narrowed from 20 yards to about four yards by a long strip of garden with a house on it; and beyond that a hedgerow and footway indicate the line of the old road. From where the modern road diverges to where it again joins Watling Street parish boundaries follow the old line of Watling Street almost continuously, and run along the modern road, after it rejoins Watling Street. From the top of Overly Hill the site of Viroconium or Uriconium at Wroxeter three miles distant is plainly visible, and Watling Street with a slight turn goes straight to it.

The later walls of Viroconium appear to have enclosed a rough oval about 1380 yards from north to south, and 1000 yards from east to west. Watling Street enters it at the north-east, and the ford across the Severn is opposite the village of Wroxeter at the south-west of the Roman city. Camden mentions the foundations of a bridge which Bishop Gibson says were still to be seen in his time, about 1700.

Parts of Itinera III and II of Antonine’s Itinerary make up the whole length of Watling Street from Dover to Wroxeter. They are here aranged in order, with the names of the Roman stations, and their distances in M.P., and the modern names with the distances in miles.

M.P. Statute Miles

Iter III

Portus Dubris ad Durovernum xiv Dover to Canterbury 15

Iter II

Durolevo xii Rochester 26

Durobrivis xiii

Iter III

Londinio xxvii London 29

Iter II

Sulloniacis xii Brockley Hill 13-1/2

Verolamio ix Verulam 8-1/2

Durocobrivis xii Dunstable 12

Magiovinto xii Fenny Stratford 11-1/4

Lactodoro xvii Towcester 15-1/2

Bannaventa xii near Norton Park 11

Venonis xvii High Cross 18

Manduesedo xii Mancetter 11

Etoceto xvi Wall 15

Pennocrucio xii Gailey 12-1/4

Uxacona xii Redhill 11-1/2

Urioconio xi Wroxeter 10-1/2

M.P. 220 Miles 220

It will be seen that the Itinerary distances make up a total tsame as the total in English miles, and that the intermediate distances agree fairly well.

(10) Wroxeter to Abergavenny

The name Watling Street is borne by a road from Wroxeter in a southwesterly direction. It crossed the Severn opposite Wroxeter, and after leaving the Severn valley and crossing Cound Brook the course is followed by a lane passing to the east of Pitchford, through Frodesley and Longnor Green, and then a parish boundary follows it for two miles, and the ridge is traceable, having a fence upon it for a considerable distance. A lane continues the line along the east side of the railway past All Stretton and Church Stretton railway-station, and at Little Stretton the ridge appears with a cart-track on one side. The general section of the road hereaabouts seems to be eight inches of gravel on a layer of stone one foot deep and raised two or three feet above the surface. For a mile the main road follows the course with a parish boundary along it. At Marshbrook Station it is crossed by the railway, and is followed by a lane to Wistanstow and Stretford Bridge, to the south of which another lane with a parish boundary along it for three-quarters of a mile takes up the line past Craven Arms station, half-a-mile west of which the railway crosses over it, and it can be seen ascending the hill in the direction of Clungunford. It passes through Leintwardine, near which, perhaps at Brandon, was Bravonium of Iter XII, 27 M.P. from Viroconium, and turning east of south by Stanway to near Wigmore, passes through Aymestrey to Mortimer’s Cross. From Wroxeter thus far, about 33 miles, the character of the road is different from that of Watling Street proper, due perhaps partly to the more broken nature of the country. There are no long pieces of straight road, but parish boundaries follow it and indicate the line. From Mortimer’s Cross a lane with a parish boundary along it runs straight pointing to high ground (400’) near Bush Bank, eight miles distant, immediately to the east of which Bayley Hill rises to 775 feet. The straightness of the road, which here bears the name of Watling Street, is deviated from at the crossing of the river Arrow near Stretford, where it is joined by the modern road. To the south of Bush Bank the present road occupies the course for two miles, the direction changing slightly to avoid the high ground (700’) of Nupton Hill. Then the present road turns towards the east, while the Roman road seems to have bent in the opposite direction, its course in about a mile being indicated by a lane which, near Tillington, joins a road bearing the name of Watling Street, leading straight to Magnae, the camp near Kenchester, passing through Credenhill, and by Credenhill railway-station, from which a parish boundary runs to the east side of the camp. The station Magnae, about half-a-mile east of Kenchester, on the north of the river Wye, is now represented by irregular earthworks about 500 yards from east to west by 300 yards, of which stuk gives a complete plan. A footpath and a lane due south by Old Weir House seem to indicate the course of the Roman road to the Wye, from the south bank of which a parish boundary continues the same line for more than half-a-mile, and then a hedgerow, and a road called Stone Street, carry on the same line for three miles further. Near Woodyatts Cross some of the pavement of the road remained lately. The road went on by Brampton and Carey’s Gate to Abbey Dore, where a section of it made in 1893 is described as being 13 feet wide, pitched with pieces of local limestone larger than a man’s head, and showing two distinct whell-marks four feet apart. It was again laid bare at Abbey Dore railway-station in 1901, of the same width and 18 inches below the surface, with deep ruts in the paving. Farther south the course is obscure. Iter XII of Antonine passes over this road coming from Caerleon by Burrium (Usk) and Gobannium (Abergavenny) to Magnae and on to Viroconium. The Itinerary distances agree with the mileage between these places.

Through Magnae a Roman road ran east and west, which will be reverted to (p. 364).

From Wroxeter it is probable that a Roman road went to Caersws, an undoubted Roman station three miles west of Newtown, Montgomeryshire, and 34 miles in a straight line from Wroxeter. The natural access to it would have been from Wroxeter, and a road to it would be in the direction of Higden’s continuation of Watling Street to Cardigan, but there is no trace of it.

Westward from Caersws the Ordnance map shows a Roman road for four miles to Rhyd-y-Carw on the river Taranon. A Roman road in continuation of the Brecknockshire Sarn Helen is supposed to have reached Caersws from the south, and to the north of it the course of Sarn Swsog was described in 1806 by the Rev. Walter Davies in great detail as far as the river Vyrnwy near Dolanog, about 14 miles. The Ordnance maps show it for three miles, beyond which the local names in the description do not help in an attempt to follow the course. The road was visible on the hills, where large side stones appeared, and the hard surface of the road could be felt by thrusting a stick down through the grass and moss. The width was five yards, and the space between the sides of large stones was filled in with stones and gravel, the middle being somewhat raised.

A paved road called Devil’s Causeway, generally referred to as being near Pitchford, but really three miles south of it, is described by Hartshorne as branching from Watling Street on the west of the Severn, and passing through Acton Burnell, to the east Cardington, and to Rushbury, where it turns to the south-east over Wenlock Edge to Tugford and Nordybank camp on the Brown Clee Hills. The paving of a local gritstone is very distinct for half-a-mile in the road near Causeway Wood Farm, but the road generally has nothing of the character of a Roman road. It points towards Worcester, from which a Roman road is said to have formerly been traced in a north-westerly direction.