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Gazetteer of ROMAN  Yorkshire
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Roman Roads

With such a large geographical area covered, it should come as no surprise to learn that the network of Roman Roads in our region is quite complex. What is perhaps more of a surprise is that for a region which surrounded the capital of a Roman Province (York), our understanding of the network is often sketchy. Whilst we have a good idea that certain roads existed, the precise routes of many of them is still not known.

That said, the picture has improved greatly since the publication of Ivan Margary’s Roman Roads in Britain Vol II in 1957, which nearly 60 years later remains the best gazetteer type work on the subject. For example, aerial photography has clarified the situation around Stamford Bridge, and 30 years of work by the Huddersfield Archaeological Society have established the route of RR712 from Castleshaw to Slack . Perhaps the most significant recent development has been the re-discovery of the road (now numbered M732) from Bainbridge northwards, traced as far as Stang Top.

The aim of this section is to initially give an overview of the Roman roads in Yorkshire, in a relatively brief form, and whilst I apologise for the delay in getting this prepared, I am pleased to say that this should be ready during May 2014. We very quickly realised that the task of presenting a full picture of the current state of knowledge of the system in Yorkshire is going to be a massive task, involving collating antiquarian material, recent published work, “grey literature”, and carrying out fieldwork where necessary. At the time of writing, the compilation of data has begun, commencing with RR720a, Manchester to Ilkley, and the whole task is expected to take up to five years.

Currently, this is being carried out by Hugh Toller, who has conducted similar work previously in Wales and Cumbria, and myself Mike Haken. If you would like to get involved in any way, no matter how small, please get in touch.

The numbering system used is that created by the late Ivan Margary. The Ordnance Survey and other organisations numbered some newly discovered roads after Margary’s death with RRX numbers, however most researchers have found those numbers confusing as they do not follow Margary’s logical method. When the road from Bainbridge northwards was recently identified, it was decided to return to Margary’s original system. Hence it is now known as M732 - we hope other researchers will follow our example. Some roads have not yet been allocated a number, including several identified recently from aerial photography, and so are refered to simply by a description of their route.

In preparing this part of the gazetteer, the first and greatest problem we faced was in deciding which roads to include. We have to consider not only those roads which are known for certain to be Roman, but many that have often been regarded as Roman even if the evidence is sometimes a little thin, and some for which there is local tradition but no obvious evidence at all. it seemed sensible to categorise them into groups based upon the weight of evidence for them. You will see on the Interactive Map (which has been made as comprehensive as realistically possible, that we have categorised roads into four groups; Known, Probable, Possible and Claimed. This is a simplified version of the six level categorisation developed by Richard Whaley and the North East Hampshire Historical and Archaeological Society, as follows.

Known, (incorporates classes 5 and 4 of the NEHHAS system) includes any road where Roman origin is certain and where the route is known with reasonable certainty from  field work and excavation.

Probable; (NEHHAS class 3) Accumulative evidence upon the alignments, but without the excavation evidence. Quite a lot of the Margary entries are of this class. Individual pieces of evidence may be coincidence, but the whole gains credibility the more alignment evidence is gathered, until it becomes quite probable that the alignments are Roman.

Possible (HEHHAS Classes 1 & 2): Sound documentary theory, including long lines of parish, township and field boundaries, placenames, medieval charters, aerial photography, but without sufficient field evidence upon alignments to be able to declare a “probable” Roman origin. Some Margary entries of this class.

Claimed (NEHHAS Class 0): Based on limited documentary or field evidence, and local tradition. Not possible to assign any probability of Roman origin from the evidence available. Margary entries in this class exist.

Because some roads have sections that fall into two different categories, to avoid the need for duplicate entries when compiling the website structure, we have placed roads in two groups, those where Roman origin is at least probable, and those where that distiction cannot be made with confidence. You will perhaps notice that there are many roads commonly regarded as Roman that fall in this second group. Individual roads can be selected from the Interactive Map, or from the drop down menus above.

The Roman Roads Network