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A History of Yorkshire
from Bulmer's Gazetteer (1892)


Part 3

ROMAN ROADS.

One of the first objects of the Romans after the conquest of a district was the construction of roads connecting the various stations or camps, and also communicating with more distant parts of the empire. These roads also afforded au easy and expeditious means of conveyance for troops and stores, which was absolutely necessary to enable them to hold the country in subjection; and, during the many centuries in which these were the only highways of the kingdom, the prosperity and even existence of towns depended upon their proximity to these great roads.

"These roads," says the Rev. C. Wellbeloved, "raised above the surrounding surface, were laid in as straight a line, between place and place, as could well be drawn, and composed of the most durable materials that the country through which they passed could furnish; occasionally, in part at least, of materials brought with great labour and expense from a considerable distance. In marshy lands they were constructed on piles. They were generally paved with large irregular blocks of stone, supported by strata of cobble stones or flints, of broken stones cemented with lime, of chalk, or gravel. They appear to have varied in breadth; some, exclusive of the footpath by the sides, being twenty, while others were only fifteen, thirteen, or eight feet wide. From the nature of their construction they were called Viæ Stratæ, whence the Italian denomination, Strada, and our word, Street. By the aid of this latter term we are now able to trace the line of some of these roads in our country, even when all remains of such works have disappeared."

To facilitate the rapid transmission of intelligence, posts were established on the roads, and couriers stationed at each. To obtain greater celerity relays of horses or mules were introduced, and the places where they were kept were called Mutationes or change-houses. At certain points along these roads, usually about 20 English miles or one day's journey apart, Mansiones or inns were established, where travellers might pass the night.

These roads traversed the country in various directions. One of them, known in after years as Watling Street, extended from Rutupia (Richborough), in Kent, to the Roman Wall. It entered Yorkshire near Bawtry, crossed the river Don at Danum (Doncaster), whence it can be traced to Pontefract, and thence to Castleford, the ancient Legeolium. From this station it continued to Calcaria, now called Tadcaster, and thence to Eburacum (York), the Roman capital of Britain. From this town it proceeded in a north-westerly direction to Isurium (Aldborough), and thence northward, on the line of the present Leeming Lane, to Catterick Bridge, the ancient Cataractonium. Crossing the Swale it continues northward, and, passing over, the Tees at Piercebridge, enters the county of Durham. About three miles north of Catterick a branch of the road strikes off to the left, passing Greta Bridge, to Bowes, the Lavatræ of the Romans, and thence on through Westmoreland and Cumberland to Carlisle.

Another military road described in the Second Iter of Antoninus connected Eburacum with Mancunium, or Manchester, passing on its way through Calcaria (Tadcaster), Cambodunum, supposed to he either Slack or Almondbury, near Halifax, and thence forward to Manchester. From York, according to the Antonine Itinerary, a road proceeded to Derventio, thence by Delgovicia to Prætorium, but the exact situation of these places is still a matter of discussion. Prætorium, we know, was somewhere on the coast, and a place of importance as the marine residence of the Roman Prætor or Governor. Patrington, near Hull, Bridlington, and Filey have each been assigned to it. Derventio was on the Derwent, and was probably in the neighbourhood of Stamford Bridge, and Delgovicia is now generally supposed to have stood either at Market Weighton or at Londesborough. This road, according to Drake, divided at Derventio, a branch proceeding to Dunsley Bay, the Dunus Sinus of Ptolemy. Its track lies on the old road known as Wade's Causeway, which is said to have derived its name from a certain Saxon Duke Wada, who resided in a castle near the coast. The route is thus minutely described by Mr. Hinderwell, the historian of Scarborough :- " There was also another Roman road which passed westward, through the range of towns called Street towns, viz., Appleton-le-Street, Barton-le-Street, &c. The great Roman road continues by the town of Barugh, and not far from Thornton Riseborough to the barrows near the little village of Cawthorn, where there is a small spring; and a house in the village still retains the name of Bibo, supposed to be derived from a drinking house of the soldiers from the barrow camps. Hence the road proceeds to Stopebeck, which it crosses in the line of the Egton road, and then continues, at a small distance from that road, to a cross called Malo Cross, which it passes at about the distance of forty yards on the west of the cross. It then runs northward to Keysbeck, which it crosses about sixty yards east of the Egton road, and pursues the northern direction until it crosses Wheeldale beck, at the point of junction of that beck and Keysbeck, whence it proceeds by the Hunt-house to July or Julius Park, to the ancient castle of Mulgrave, situate near Dunus Sinus, or Dunsley Bay, in the neighbourhood of Whitby, where several Roman urns have been found."

Another road, leading from Lincoln, crossed the Humber and entered the East Riding at Brough, supposed by some writers to be the site of the Roman Petuaria. Thence it proceeded northwards and joined the road before mentioned at Delgovicia.

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