Last year David Ratledge gave the Society a talk on recent discoveries he had made using LiDAR imaging. Of particular interest to us was this image of what he suggests is the Roman road between Coppull and Charnock Richard. It crosses a field called Row High Wood and looks quite promising so last month we thought we'd have a look. The Roman road from Wigan to Walton le Dale has always been problematic, particularly in the area between Coppull and Euxton, e.g. it was only in the late 1990's that excavations at Walton le Dale suggested that north through Euxton the route follows the A49 - that is until Pack Saddle Bridge, south of Leyland, where it deviates north through Leyland, joining Stanifield Lane and Todd Lane towards Walton le Dale.
Row High Wood lies just to the north of the old Coppull Ring Mill (now Coppull Business Centre) on the west side of Spendmore Lane. The field is separated from the mill site by a disused railway line that once connected the Blainscough Colliery to what is now the West Coast main line. To the north, the field is bounded by a deep ravine which has the Clancutt Brook running through it. When we arrived on site we noted a path in the field leading from a field gate. It was only when we got into the field that we saw, just to the west of it, the feature in the field that the LiDAR had picked was a subtle depression. It was just about evident on the south side of the field where the railway embankment cut through it (view below is looking south along the alignment with the railway embankment cutting across it in the background).
However the depression was more prominent on the north side as it approached the wood with the ravine in it. It was difficult to estimate the width of the depression but it was certainly big enough for a Roman road i.e. 8 to 10 metres wide. It is also on the alignment of the road as generally accepted running south of Coppull along Bic Bibi Lane. Another clue maybe the name of the area to the north of the ravine which is called White Gates.
The big question however is what happens when the road reaches the ravine. The usual thing is for the road to deviate onto a terrace which would enable the traffic to negotiate the steep valley sides. Looking into the ravine the only possible way would be for the road to turn to the right. However there didn't appear to be anything particularly obvious in the wooded area of the ravine, although there does appear to be a lot of disturbance possibly due to erosion from water coming off the fields. There is also an issue with the area to the south of the field on the other side of the railway embankment where there is another ravine; admittedly not as deep but still needing terracing to allow traffic to negotiate it. Here there seems to be a possible terrace but again there is much disturbance, but this time it's more likely to be industrial activity as there is plenty evidence of coal mining.
The feature in the field is certainly on the road alignment as projected from the accepted route along Hic Bibi lane south of Coppull but if this is the continuation, it makes you wonder why the Romans didn't make life easier for them by diverting to the west and avoiding the ravine. Probing in the depression in various areas showed that the sub-soil was a deep layer of soft clay suggesting a resistivity survey would struggle to find anything. Maybe GPR would pick something up if the road is deeply buried. The intention is to find out who owns the field and see if we can get permission to do a survey.
Wednesday 4th Mayin the Standish Suite at the Brocket Arms (7.30pm as usual). This month we have a team from the Lancaster and District Heritage Group who carried out excavations last year on what turned out to be a Roman site at Quary Meadow on the outskirts of Lancaster. Andy Reilly, their Chair, will be telling us all about their successes on this dig and also filling us in on the history of their group. Sounds like a fascinating talk - hope to see you there, BA.