Roman Roads

It is generally accepted that there were three Roman Roads leading into Wigan. These were identified and traced by two nineteenth century antiquarians, the Reverend Edmund Sibson (minister of Aston-in-Makerfield) and W. Thompson Watkin.  Both were keen advocates of Wigan being the Roman settlement of Coccium. This is a station which appears in a 3rd century Roman document known as the Antonine Itinerary.  The 10th Iter of the Itinerary places Coccium 20 Roman miles from Ribchester and 17 from Manchester. However Wigan is not on the direct route from Ribchester to Manchester so, not surprisingly, other candidates for Coccium have been claimed (and still are). These include Edgeworth, Belmont, Blackrod (assuming the A6 is a Roman road) and even Standish has been mooted.

Chance finds over last 150 years have always suggested that Wigan had Roman origins, but it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that excavations in the Wiend in the town centre, provided for the first time, real evidence for Roman occupation. This was followed in 2005, with the discovery of a large Roman bathhouse in the Millgate area, proving once and for all that Wigan was a very significant settlement in the early 2nd century AD. It is now generally accepted by academics and the general public that Wigan stands on the Roman settlement of Coccium.

The antiquarian’s case for  Wigan was base on the distances quoted in the Itinerary, which are ‘reasonably’ correct (far closer than any other claimant). There is a problem, however, with the accepted route from Wigan to Ribchester, which is via Walton-le-Dale and  Preston. It is actually 26 Roman miles and is also not in a direct line. A direct route in fact would be much more accurate – in fact almost spot-on. Could it be that, by the late 3rd century, a route this way had been established? Various map alignments in this direction have been looked at over the years, in particular David Ratledge of Lancashire County Council and also Jack Smith formally of Chorley Archaeological Society, however up to now there have been no investigations on the ground.

Very little has been seen in recent years of the roads the antiquarians detected in the 19th century. However Wigan Archaeological Society have carried out many investigations on the three accepted routes leading into Wigan. You can see details of the investigations on the road leading north out of Wigan here.

6 thoughts on “Roman Roads

  1. Used to have a map that was quite old showing the route of what was marked as”roman road” it followed atherton road in Hindley green and converged slowly into atherton road eventually joining it at holt street.

    Just wondered if anyone has any further info on this would appreciate any help with my reseach.


    • I also noticed that there are a couple of old bridges that cross borsdane is quite ornate and presumably has been protected from further delipdation by a metal frame. It crossed my mind that one of these bridges must have been roman in origin?

      • Hi George,

        It would be fantastic if we could identify a bridge of Roman origin. However I suspect the these in Hindley are later as the Romans tended to use fords (unless the River was too large). When I get chance I’ll take at the ones you mention.


  2. Hi George – the old map you mention is probably the 1849 6 inch OS map which shows the the line of the Roman road on later editions in Hindley and Hindley Green. And you are right that the line seems to cross Liverpool Road roughly where Holt Street is now. Here is a link to some of our research on this particular route – (we have carried out more research since this was published particularly in the Higher Ince area which you can find if you search through our Newsletters – starting at No.99).

  3. We have just started a group called Golborne Village Archives which is not just a discussion site for old memories of Golborne, but a historical research site. What are the chances of Golborne being a Roman Settlement back in the day? A “donkey bridge” was found under Tanners Lane which was originally thought to date back 1800 years but a borough surveyor commented that they wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it being a sandstone bridge over a stream built by the Romans?

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