If you take a look at the road system of Britain, you start to see certain patterns. One thing that is very clear is that some are particularly straight and direct. These road networks allows us to travel across the country with relative ease. It is also one of the many reasons we are able to deliver products and transport items so quickly and effectively. As specialists in Transport Insurance we understand how important our road networks are to the economy and our society in general
Why is this the case? The answer lies deep in the mists of the Islands history. As we moved out of caves and began to build settlements, the need to establish routes for communication and trade between each other became very important. The easiest way to do this was to establish the straightest routes possible. We tend to think that the Romans built all of our straight roads. However, all that they did was simply follow the routes that the Iron Age people had developed from those before.
As the Roman influence ended, the technological advances that they brought fell into disrepair. The new settlers to Britain were not interested in the old ways of Rome. They had new ideas, and one of them was not to bother with the stone roads and buildings their old enemy had made. Over time the needs for better infrastructure became very apparent. As the Middle Ages came and went the existing routes were still in use. The movement of troops during the Civil War really put the focus on rapid passage around the country. As the Scottish and Welsh became rebellious the need to bring troops and supplies to the most inhospitable regions in the British Isles became more necessary.
Where are these ancient roads and can we still see them? There are several examples, some modern roads are even built on top of them. Here are some examples and where you can find them.
The Fosseway – This is one of the longest and most famous examples of Roman Engineering. A series of stone roads connected the major cities of Londinium (London), Corinium (Cirencester). Glevum, (Gloucester), Deva (Chester) and Ratae (Leicester). The most prominent is the Fosse way. It’s thought to have began life as a defensive ditch
The longest and most spectacular, it was a significant achievement, stretching over hilly areas like the Cotswolds and Ridgeway of the Thames valley and the marshes of the Somerset levels. The road starts in the South at Dumnorium (Exeter) and runs all the way in a North Easterly direction to Lindum Colonia (Lincoln). It was a major spine road and crossed over other routes such as Ermine Way and Watling Street.
The route is now fragmented with elements of the M69 and A46 incorporating the old road
Ermine Way – Starting in Gloucester, through Cirencester and ending in Silchester, Ermine way was a road that linked together some of the most powerful and influential towns in the Romano-British Empire. The route is very easy to follow and much of the modern roads in use now stick to it closely. Starting in Gloucester, it runs straight out of the old city through the suburbs of Barnwood, Hucclecote and Brockworth. It then become the A419 to Cirencester for a long stretch before peeling off the run by the Village of Stratton, which itself translates to mean “paved road’. This runs into the town of Cirencester. It is known as Gloucester road, coming into the town and Gloucester Street when in it. It then becomes Dollar Street and then Cricklade Street after
ally passing through the centre of the town and it’s market place. It then becomes the A419 and makes its way to Swindon , the A419. After Swindon it becomes the B4600 all the way to Wantage.
As with the Fosse it gets lost amongst the many country B and A roads.
One of the functions of these early roads wasn’t just for the movement of goods and services. They were also away to move troops quickly. In the case of Ermine Street, this was because the three towns were some of the richest and needed protecting. In the case of the next example, it was to bring order to a nation.
General Wades Military Roads. The Scottish Highlands was a lawless and rebellious place in the late 1700s. The Jacobite’s, supporters of the Catholic King James and his descendants, were a fierce and passionate people. The terrain was difficult and the need to move troops quicky was vital.
Wades roads were used, like the Romans before them, to supress the locals and stop any dissent. Troops and supplies could be made available to the defensive towers that littered the Highlands, the jewel in the Crown being Fort George. Sections of the military roads make up parts of the A93 and the A82 and A83. There are some preserved examples. One f the most complete old sections is on the Eastern side of Loch Ness running from Fort Augustus to just east of Inverness.
There are lots of other examples that have not become part of the British landscape and are mainly used for trekking and recreation.