Pendleside Roman Road Survey

This project aims to investigate the section of Roman Road  running through the civil parishes of Downham and  Rimington. This is part of the roman road running from Ribchester (Bremetennacum Veteranorum)  to Ilkley via Elslack  and then to York. Ivan Margary who literary wrote the book on roman roads  listed this road as number 72a.

Aims of the project

To evaluate the current physical condition of the monument and assess any current and possible future threats especially those that might arise from changes in farming practice in response to climate change or Brexit. We will also be evaluating if the current projected line of the road is correct and looking for other sites along the line of the road. This project will be run in partnership with the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Community Archaeology Project.

We hope to start survey work as soon as Covid 19 restrictions allow please contact us if you would be interested in getting involved with this project.

To increase local awareness of this important local archaeological site and create a comprehensive record of this section of the road.

To provide an opportunities for people to gain an understanding of and practical experience of archaeological investigation techniques.

The first stage of the project will be to conduct familiarisation visits to the sections of the road accessible from public rights of way. Subject to landowner permission this will be followed by a walkover survey in particular to compare the extent of current upstanding earthworks with that recorded in the past.

This preliminary survey will also be used to identify potential sites for more detailed none invasive survey.

The second stage again with landowner permission will comprise Topographical and probe Surveys across the sections of the road.

A possible third stage might involve geophysical surveying and limited excavation.

The project length will be split into 4 sections.

Section One will run from the East side of the A59 to Hay House Farm.

Section Two will run from Hay House Farm to Stopper Lane.

Section Three will run from  Stopper Lane to the A682.

Section Four will run from the A682 to Coal Pit Lane.

The Roman Road on early Ordinance Survey Maps.

Below is a detail from a 1844 six inch OS map. The line of the road is clearly shown. In many places the road is show as an earthwork in places where no earthwork can be seen today.

You can download a set of higher resolution images (3000 x 2000 approx. at 300 pixels per inch) of the 1844 Lancs. and 1849 Yorks. OS six inch maps covering the project length.

OS Six-inch 1844 1849 RR project ZIP File 16.2 mb.

Roman Road revealed by Lidar.

Below is the western half of Section one with the A59 on the left edge and Downham Hall on the right edge. The Roman road in this image can be seen as an earthwork between the red lines which indicate the probable course of the road. Black lines are modern field boundaries.

To view more visit the Lidar Page

You can download higher resolution Lidar images (1500 x 800 approx. at 300 pixels per inch) of the project length.

Roman Road Lidar ZIP File 8.7 mb.

Roman Roads in a nutshell

Generally there was an embankment (agger), raised above the level of the surrounding land but this also could be a terrace cut into a hillside. There were usually drainage ditches on either side. The agger would be built up in a series of layers often comprising a foundation of large rocks, followed by smaller stones, gravel and sand laid down in successive layers and rammed into place however in detail there is much variation presumably due to availability of local materials. Like modern roads roman roads had a camber to shed water from the surface. Agger widths varied from about 5 metres to more than 10 metres presumably in response to traffic volume and importance. There were often two more ditches set some distance from the agger perhaps to define some sort of wider road zone. Initially roads were built to facilitate rapid movement of military forces and supplies between forts and to troops in the field during campaigns.

It is a myth that roman roads are always run in a straight line. It is true that roman engineers always tried to follow the most direct route possible between two points but were quite happy to go around hills and zig zag up and and down steep slopes. It is true that roads tend to be made up of a series of straight sections. In fact at the start of our project area the road makes a sharp bend because the Romans decided it was more sensible to go round Pendle Hill.

When was the road built

The Romans came to Britain in AD. 43 initially our local tribe the Briganties whose lands probably occupied most of northern England. For the first couple of decades the Briganties led by their queen Cartimandua  allied themselves with the Romans. During this time the romans conquered most of southern England. In AD. 51 the Brigantian queen went so far as to hand over to the Romans a defeated southern war leader who had come north seeking sanctuary. However peace did not last, the Brigantians split into pro and anti Roman factions, the anti faction being led by the queens husband!  in AD. 69 the anti Roman faction got the upper hand. After this time there were several campaigns of conquest notably by Agricola who was Roman governor of Britain between AD 77 – 83   our road was probably built sometime during this period. The first fort at Ribchester was built around AD72 but was probably only permanently occupied during and after the Agricolan campaigns. These campaigns usually involved two armies moving simultaneously north on both sides of the Pennines, so east west communications  such as provided by our road would have been very important so it is possible our road was built at this time

A sneak peak

The line of the new Downham to Chatburn bridleway crossed the Roman Road near the entrance to Downham Hall this provided archaeologists with an opportunity to do a watching brief during construction work. Chatburn Downham WB report revised.


Roman Roads Research Association becoming a member is highly recommended.

Margary, Ivan D. (1973); Roman Roads in Britain, John Baker, London

David Shotter  2002 Cerialis, Agricola and the Conquest of Northern Britain

For comparison work done by nearby local societies on their Roman Road

Wyre Archaeology group have dug some of their local roads

Wigan Archaeological society

Huddersfield and District Archaeology Society investigated the Roman road from Castleshaw to Slack. Roman Road across the Pennines Roman Road Excavations Pule Hill Marsden Roman Road Pule Hill 2015