Roman Road between Wigan and Walton-le-Dale

This particular Road leading north out of Wigan through Standish and on to Walton-le-Dale (Margary 70c) was first investigated by the Wigan Archaeological Society in the early 1980’s. The initial investigations centered around the accounts given by Thompson Watkin (Roman Lancashire 1883 p66-68) who was able to trace the Road in the late 19th century as far as Standish. However he could find little evidence of the Road north of Standish except for two earlier reported sightings in Worden Hall Park near Euxton (said to be 13 yards wide) and Bamber Bridge south of Preston.

For many years this was the excepted route i.e. a road called Meanygate (or Mainway Gate on early maps) in Bamber Bridge, lining up with a straight line path through Cinder Wood near Cuerden Hall and on south towards Worden Hall. However excavations in 1996 at Walton-le-Dale revealed a remarkable section of the road which pointed, not towards Bamber Bridge, but Leyland. It seemed to line up with Todd Lane, Stanifield Lane and on towards Euxton, lining up pretty well with Wigan Road (i.e. the A49) as it passes through Euxton village.

Image courtesy of David Ratledge (Roman Road Gazetteer)

This alignment has recently been confirmed by excavations in advance of a proposed new development site south of the M65 terminus. A section of the road was discovered in a field on the east side of Stanifield lane it to be a good 10 metres wide and in remarkably good condition. It was made of rammed cobbles and cambered on each site. On the east side there was a ‘V’ shaped ditch but the west side had been truncated by modern activity (you can see more details here).

Besides Watkin, another early reference to the line of the Road in the Wigan area is the One Inch Ordinance Survey Map which was first published between 1842 and 1844. A section of this One Inch OS Map north of Wigan shows the road as a continuation of Mesnes Street, crossing the railway line at a point where a factory is indicated. The line is then shown crossing the Wigan boundary at Brimelow farm and on past Brockhurst to Round Moor Farm. Here the line ends where the track from Round Moor to Wakefield’s farm crosses it. Curiously this line, from Wigan town centre to Round Moor, is not shown on the Six Inch OS Map of 1849 or any later edition.From Round Moor Farm, Watkin says the line follows a cart track towards Standish where it passes the Parish Church on the west side. However the line most probably changed direction at Prospect Hill which is the highest point in Standish. Passing the Church on the East side, the line would then align with Hic Bibi on the Standish Coppull border where Chorley  Arch Soc found evidence of the road in excavation in the late 60’s and early 80’s.

Brimelow Farm. Over the years ours Society have carried out a number investigations in the two fields at Brimelow including excavations. In 1988 we found evidence for the road in the north field and in 2004 we confirmed the alignment by finding evidence in the south field also (reported in Newsletter 75). You can see details of our 2004 investigations here.

At the time we struggled to detect the road using our resistivity equipment but recently we returned to Brimlow having access to GPR equipment. This was to see if it could detect anything where we knew the road to exist thus proving its usefulness in detecting the road in other areas. The results where a success and we were also able to detect other features off the alignment and the farmer Roy Brandon has kindly allowed us to investigate these too. You can see details of our 2016 investigations here   and our 2018 investigations here 

Standish Wood Lane. Further north Thomas Codrington favoured this road in his book “Roman Roads in Britain”. On what evidence he does not say but this old road is a popular choice with many historians. It is unarguably an ancient track as there are three Medieval cross bases located along its route. Recently Edmund Wadelove (Britannia XXXII 2001) cites this route because of its alignment with the known Roman road from Wigan to Warrington that runs south of Wigan on the other side of the Douglas valley. Wadelove concludes that Standish is the Roman settlement of Coccium (however this was before the discovery of the Roman bathhouse in the centre of Wigan). It is quite understandable, when examining this route on the ground, why historians have been attracted to it, as it is quite straight and follows a natural ridge south out of Standish.

Looking south along Standish Wood Lane as it passes Strickland House

Along a portion of its length, however, the road turns into a 4 metre deep hollow way which suggests a medieval origin (one of the Medieval cross bases is located part way along this section – adding credence to this suggestion). If, however, we consider the hollow way section to have been a later addition to alleviate the steep slope at that particular point, it is still possible to imagine this route as being the original Roman alignment (the route into Wigan via Brimelow Farm being a later diversion). To check this theory, in 2009 and 2010 the Wigan Arch Soc carried out fieldwork in this area including two resistivity surveys in fields either side of Lower Standish Wood Fold (now called Speckled Holly) on the projected line. The results however were negative. The lack of pottery in the south filed suggests it was not cultivated until recent times, which would give more chance for the road to survive if it was there. Our only conclusion is that, from these results, the road did not cross these fields and therefore Standish Wood Lane is unlikely to have been the Roman road. You can see details of our investigations here .

Row High Wood. In 2016 a section of the road just north of Coppull was suggested by David Ratledge after examining LiDAR images of the area.  To check this out we visited the site and you can see details of what we found here


12 thoughts on “Roman Road between Wigan and Walton-le-Dale

  1. Hi…We are currently investigating the possibility of a Roman road/ Track coming from the Wigan area towards our home town of Burned then towards Ilkley.
    Could anyone possibly be able to she any light on this please.

    Kind regards Dave Pendle Archaeological Society

    • Hi Dave – we are quite sure there was a road from Wigan to Ribchester (which corresponds to the information in the Antonine Itinerary – 20mp from Wigan) although we haven’t found anything specific on the ground. There is a well established route from Ribchester through Clitheroe, Barnoldswick and on past Skipton, but I haven’t come across one going toward Burnley. I’d be very interested any information you have on this route.
      Bill Aldridge

  2. I live near to A49 North of Wigan. I always assumed that this was the old main road through Lancashire via Wigan.
    When did it change from the Roman/Medieaval road to it`s present position?

    • Excavations at Walton-le-Dale in the 1990’s revealed a very impressive section of this particular Roman road. It’s heading going south was directly towards Todd Lane in Lostock Hall and Stanifield Field just north of Leyland. The projected line from there lines up quite nicely with the A49 at the Pack House Bridge (south of Buckshaw village). Incidentally the twist in the A49 here seems to have been there before the railway came. It seems quite likely that the Roman road followed the A49 south from here all the way through Euxton as far as the Bowling Green pub on the south side of the Yarrow valley. From here its line becomes vague until we pick it up again just south of Coppull. It crossed Coppull Moor Lane on an alignment with Hic Bibi Lane where Chorley Arch Soc excavated in the 1980’s. At this point the line is some way east of the A49 but crosses it at Standish to line up with the section we investigate at Brimlow Farm. Not at all sure when this section was abandoned in favour of the A49 but I do know that it was earlier than the Middle Ages as there exists a reference to the Boars Head pub on the highway leading out of Wigan. Hope this helps.
      Bill Aldridge

  3. Thanks. The main reason that I am asking is that as I understand it, the Battle Of Wigan Lane in 1651 was known as the Battle of the Bloody Mountains and resulted in the Royalists and Parliamentarians meeting along the road.
    I seem to remember that some time ago I read that the area was recorded on maps as being theBloody Mountains before 1651.
    Also, that Bottling Wood may have been a corruption of Battling Wood.
    A book in the History Shop at Wigan about the history of Wigan states that 4 of the 12 battles of King Arthur may have been fought on the banks of the Dhub Glas or Douglas. That Wigan may derive from Wig meaning fight and an making it plural, therefore, place of fights or battles.
    I did read that Vig is fight in Norse.
    I also understand that the description of the 4 battles is that they were fought in the Region of Linnuis or the Region of the Lake and that the Lake may be Martin Mere.
    If so, then the battles may have been fought taking the road into account etc as was the 1651 battle, and if so then the road would possibly have been along the current A49 when Arthur fought the Anglo-Saxons etc.
    Could it be that the Roman Road went out of use when the Romans left Britain etc?
    Would the Romans have chosen the path of the Roman road to fit into their road building patterns rather than follow higher ground etc. and that when they left the locals began to use higher ground etc.?

  4. The Roman road north of Wigan may well have gone out of use quite early -because, as you suggest, the locals may have preferred the higher ground.
    As for the King Arthur’s battles, it was Whitaker (an 18th century historian from Manchester) who suggested that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th were fought in the Wigan area. He linked them to the discovery of a large quantity of human and horse remains found when the Terminal Basin was built at the bottom of Wallgate (more details of this in our Q and A section which you can find here
    I’ve also come across the term Wig meaning to fight as being the origin of Wigan’s name. We explore this and other possibilities in an early newsletter (No. 15
    I must admit I haven’t come across any reference to the Bloody Mountains prior to the 1651 battle – but strangely enough the site is marked on the 1849 6″ OS map in the Bottling Wood area. This is on the other side of the Douglas Valley to where the actual battle took place which was quite definitely on Wigan Lane (by the maps of the Wigan area prior to the Civil War are quite rare – the only two I know of, Gough’s (1360) and Speed’s (1610) don’t have the reference).

    • Arthur’s 10th battle of Tibuit (Latin) or Traeth Tryfrwyd (British).

      In the ongoing discussions concerning the possible site of Arthur’s tenth battle of Tribuit, the River Ribble area receives mention. On the banks of the Douglas, a tributary to the Ribble estuary, lies the village of Rufford.

      The British term for this battle is Traeth Tryfrwyd. Rufford and (T)ryf(r)wyd sound remarkably similar.

      Traeth means ‘estuary’. While Rufford is now several miles from the present Ribble estuary in earlier days it was perhaps the first upstream settlement?

      Just a thought.

  5. In Roman mythology, the goddess Minerva had an owl.
    The emblem of Standish/the Standish Family included an owl.
    If the head of the goddess Minerva was found North of Wigan, is there any connection ?

  6. Could be but I haven’t heard of anybody finding the head of the goddess Minerva in Standish (that would be a find). By the way the Bloody Mountains reference only appears on the 1893 and 1907 OS maps to the south of Bottling Wood (not the 1849 map as previously mentioned) – in the area around West Mount and Vine Street.

  7. I am writing a short history of Appley Bridge and would like to include your 1849 O.S. Map showing the possible line of the Roman Road. This is a totally none commercial venture and we expect only a few copies will be produced mainly to go to school and local community groups. You would be fully acknowledged.

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