The Quest Begins

How did the Romans move around the Hampshire countryside? There are few roads. Roman sites abound, but to me it’s unclear how they moved around with so few roads being recorded. The following sites are all miles from the nearest Roman road:

  • Lodge Farm near North Warnborough – site of a modest Roman villa. How did they transport the produce from the farm? (Or, if they had a farm shop, how did everyone travel to it?)
  • Alice Holt Potteries – on the eastern edge of Hampshire in the neighbourhood of Farnham. Alice Holt ware is found at many Roman sites, both in Hampshire, and further afield. It was a very successful pottery in later Roman times: how did they transport their pottery safely?
  • Bramdean Roman villa. Roman villas all over Britain were economically very important for the Romans. But for their full economic worth to be realised, good communications were essential. How did the surplus grain from Bramdean get to its market?

These, and many other Roman sites, are all ‘stranded’ in the middle of lovely Hampshire countryside, and no currently recognised road. I suspect that the roads are there, and we should start to look for them.

Comments switched off due to massive amounts of spam…

Comments are now turned off due to the hundreds of daily spam comments submitted for mediation. Once again the fascists of the global internet (aggressive spammers, ‘marketing departments’, hackers, drug peddlars) have conspired to force the closure of a potentially useful resource. The internet was once considered a great opportunity for international global discourse. WordPress is great, but it falls prey too easily to spamming attacks from the world over.

How the spam breaks down

About 30% foreign – Russian / Chinese (about I know not what)
About 10% web companies that try and sell SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consultancy. No thanks, not here.
About 20% big business marketing departments who unofficially pay kids to send out wordpress spam in order to market their stuff: trainers, shoes, athletic gear, online casinos, performance enhancing drugs etc
About 40% ‘online pharmacies’ – that is, those with chemicals to sell who lack the legality to sell on the high street.
I have had a handful of authentic comments. In future if you have a comment, send it to my email address (which can be subject to much more effective filtering). Send it to tyrone at romanroads.net.

Roman Road Ownership

All Roman roads so far traced across the landscape have been painstakingly researched by at least one person in the past. The researcher has spent hours looking at maps, aerial photographs, and has spent days in the field looking for traces. This research has sometimes been fruitless, with no evidence of a road being found. But where evidence has been found, and has been published to the world, we must be grateful. They have not only found a road, but they have consequently announced it to the world. In a sense they have ‘owned’ the road when researching it, but they are generous enough to share it with the world by publication of its route.

I certainly value the contribution of their discovery, but I also appreciate the public disclosure of it. I intend to highlight who has discovered a particular road (where an individual is known), and when this occurred. This is highly important as it is part of the roads’ provenance; like an old master or a Ming vase, this provenance is every part of the road’s history. After all, a new Roman road discovered and added to the canon of known routes is a big event. We must encourage discoveries, and publication of Roman road discoveries by mentioning who discovered it in the first place. It is almost like citing the author of a reference work.

If you have discovered a Roman road but have not yet gone public, let me know, and I will publish the details, and make sure you are cited as its discoverer. If two or more researchers have independently found the same road, they should all be classed as the road’s discoverers as they each reinforce the efforts of the other.

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John Michell, the New Age and the Roman Mile

New View Over Atlantis

John Michell’s New View over Atlantis

John Michell (1933-2009) was an author who had an enormous influence in New Age thought – he wrote The View over Atlantis in 1969, a follow up of his earlier Flying Saucer Vision of 1967. His writings spawned a balooning of public interest in previously obscure areas such as geomancy, divining and ley hunting. I was a ley hunter before becoming interested in Roman roads. Of course ley hunting is anathema to the traditional archeologist, but it gave me an early awareness of the English landscape, and provided me with an enthusiasm to read more about it. Not only was Alfred Watkins (The Old Straight Track) eagerly devoured, but so was anything to do with the English landscape. WG Hoskins’ The Making of the English Landscape was borrowed from Hemel Hempstead library, where I also found the exciting books by TC Lethbridge (Ghost and Ghoul, Gog and Magog etc) together with Landscape Archaeology by Michael Aston and Trevor Rowley (David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1974). Yes, that’s the late Mike Aston, of Time Team fame – Landscape Archaeology was his first book which was written as a manual on how to read and document the land. Other authors I read at this time included Colin and Janet Bord, Peter Underwood  and Geoffrey Ashe.

Of course, you don’t have to believe every theory put forward by these authors, but you have to admit, they’re entertaining, and usually thought-provoking; especially Michell: he made the world feel a much more exciting place than it seemed at this time.  With IRA car bombs going off, spectacularly bad music (I’m You’re Long Haired Lover From Liverpool etc), seemingly endless industrial strife, and increasingly worrisome fashion trends (I personally didn’t care much for flares or long floppy shirt collars), the English landscape was an easily accessible escape to a place where the problems of daily life simply didn’t exist.

I think it was an escape route for many at this time. In fact the 1970′s was a golden time for landscape studies. Many young people’s minds were switched onto reading the landscape in various ways, due to these books and a number of TV programmes which were produced at the time. I remember WG Hoskins’ book was adapted as The Landscape of England which became a landmark BBC series, with the author presenting it. Metal detecting was born about this time, and the Ordnance Survey went metric with their 1:50,000 scale replacements for the ’1 inch’ maps (scale of 1:63,360).  This magnified the scale giving increased detail.  People were constantly going out, divining for underground streams with metal rods or ‘witching’ sticks, metal detecting for gold or ley hunting, armed with their new metric map, a ruler and a pencil.  I remember there were psychic vibrations reported at the Rollright Stones, the Toronto Experiment proved conclusively that ghosts were real, and Yuri Geller meanwhile showed us that mental powers alone could bend metal.

So amongst all these 1970′s New Age happenings (some undoubtedly more New Age than others) I continued to follow Michell’s writings. In 1983, I bought his revised 1969 text – The New View Over Atlantis. In this book, amongst many other fascinating subjects, he wrote about ancient measurements, and how many of these measures still exist enshrined not only in modern systems, but within the structures of the ancient world – like Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Michell was trying to find a formula to unify the ancient Roman, Greek and Hebrew systems. Then, a moment of inspiration:

It was the good fortune and joy of the author in 1980 to find the key to defining the exact values of the ancient units of measure and thus of the earth’s dimensions as formerly reckoned. These were set out the following year in a book called Ancient Metrology. The discovery confirms the statements of many of the old writers, and the suspicions of many today, that the standard of science in remote prehistoric times was at least as high as that which has been achieved in this [the 20th] century.

(John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, Thames and Hudson, 1983, London, p.126)

Michell then relates how the various ancient systems of measure are sub-units of the proportions of the world. I won’t go into this in detail, as this will spoil a good read but the important point is that during this discussion, he relates that the Roman mile is equivalent to 4866.048 feet, or 1622.016 yards. This is very close to Smith’s calculation of 1618 yards, and is 173 feet shorter than Margary‘s calculation of 1680 yards. Judging by the persuasive arguments put forth by Michell, I would favour 1622.016 yards as being the most accurate measure of the Roman mile yet.

Naturally, I recommend Michells’ book, which is always refreshing to read.

See my page about The Antonine Itinerary for other calculations of the Roman mile’s length.

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Which Hampshire Archaeological Society?

In North east Hampshire, the world of archaeology is served comprehensively by three groups:

Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society
http://www.fieldclub.hants.org.uk/

This society goes back some years but it is “constantly evolving and is not bound by tradition”. They have a yearly O.G.S. Crawford Lecture, and an Annual Report of Archaeology in Hampshire, which is a report of all excavations in the county.


North East Hampshire Historical and Archaeological Society

http://www.nehhas.com/

They are

interested in historical and archaeological matters relating to North East Hampshire UK. We encourage members to take part in research, field work and excavations.

As an alternative, there is:


North East Hampshire Historical and Archaeological Society
(Field Archaeology Branch)

http://www.nehhas.org.uk/

These guys have been closely involved in the research of the recently discovered Winchester to Farnham route, and they are currently looking at a direct route from Winchester to Chichester (The Antonine Itinerary route goes via Clausentum (Bitterne), though the mileages given would suit a more direct route, hence the reason for looking for such a route.

Both NEHHAS and NEHHAS (FAB) have published details of the Winchester to Farnham route separately. It makes studying Roman roads in this area rather difficult, especially as both these societies are looking at Roman roads. Which society do I join? Can I become the member of all groups at a discount?

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Welcome to Roman Roads.Net!

How appropriate that the domain romanroads.net was available: the roman road system was one of the very first organised networks in the world.

We know about many Roman Roads, but I believe there are more waiting to be discovered – for example smaller, shorter ‘feeder’ roads that would allow access to the main routes to the local market towns. The movement of foodstuffs, and grain in particular, would have been significant in an economy that was based on large agricultural surpluses.

I will start by looking at the Antonine Itinerary.

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