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A Roman Road

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The line of an old Roman Road passes through Cleator Moor. The road once led from Papcastle to the River Ehen at Egremont. The road enters at the boundary stone on the road to Frizington, and pursues a south-westerly direction past St Mary's Church, and through Cleator village. The road may have continued as far as Ravenglass, or a lost Roman site at Beckermet. A network of roads for which the Romans were famous was probably in place by AD 90.
Estimated Route Of Cleator Moor Roman Road
Estimated Route Of Cleator Moor Roman Road

The materials of which the road was made, was from stones in the neighbourhood through which it passed: sandstone, limestone, or cobbles. Although much of its old-world appearance has been obliterated by modern improvements, distinct traces do remain.

The road is described in 1815 as taking a straight course from the south of Cockermouth by Street Gate, Lamplugh Cross, Frizington, and Cleator to Egremont. Towards Cockermouth it was six yards wide, and paved with cobbles and stone from the adjacent ground. Near Eaglesfield, it was found in 1794 as a paved way, seven yards wide, a little below the surface, and in 1877, though the road had been plundered of its boulders about 20 years before. In Frizington Park the road was found seven yards wide about 18 inches below the surface, and it could be traced near Cleator.
  • There may have been a Roman station or encampment in the area.
Magna Britannia (1816):
We have been favoured by the Rev Jos Fullerton with the following particulars of a Roman road leading from Egremont Castle to Cockermouth This road passed in a direct line through the Town head and the Woodend estates in the parish of Egremont through the Cleator hall estate and close by the village of Cleator through the estate of Todholes in which it is now 1815 digging up and part of the Wath estate in the parish of Cleator through the parish of Arlochden and township of Frisington through the parish of Lamplugh and close by Lamplugh Cross and Street gate and approaches Cockermouth in a straight line The road is eighteen feet wide and formed of cobbles and freestone all seemingly gathered from the adjacent grounds This appears to be the same road of which the following mention is made in Hutchinson's History of Cumberland Near Eaglesfield in the parish of Brigham was lately discovered in various places a little below the surface an old paved way seven yards in width bearing north and south formed of large flat stones chiefly of freestone. 
Roman roads were physical infrastructure vital to the maintenance and development of the Roman state, and were built from about 300 BC through the expansion and consolidation of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. They provided efficient means for the overland movement of armies, officials, civilians, inland carriage of official communications, and trade goods. Roman roads were of several kinds, ranging from small local roads to broad, long-distance highways built to connect cities, major towns and military bases. These major roads were often stone-paved and metaled, cambered for drainage, and were flanked by footpaths, bridleways and drainage ditches. They were laid along accurately surveyed courses, and some were cut through hills, or conducted over rivers and ravines on bridgework. Sections could be supported over marshy ground on rafted or piled foundations.

The roads varied from simple corduroy roads to paved roads using deep roadbeds of tamped rubble as an underlying layer to ensure that they kept dry, as the water would flow out from between the stones and fragments of rubble, instead of becoming mud in clay soils.

Roman construction generally took a directional straightness. Many long sections are ruler-straight, but it should not be thought that all of them were. Some links in the network were as long as 55 miles. The Roman emphasis on constructing straight roads often resulted in steep slopes relatively impractical for most traffic; over the years the Romans themselves realized this and built longer, but more manageable, alternatives to existing roads. Roman roads generally went straight up and down hills, rather than in a serpentine pattern.

How The Roman Road Was Found

Since 1998 the Environment Agency has used lasers to scan and map the English landscape from above to help with work such as flood modelling and tracking changing coastlines. But these LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data are also publically available and have been used to help with everything from building virtual worlds to managing forests.

This LIDAR data bonanza has proved particularly helpful to archaeologists seeking to map Roman roads that have been ‘lost’, some for thousands of years. Their discoveries are giving clues to a neglected chapter in the history of Roman Britain: the roads built to help Rome’s legions conquer and control northern England.

For decades after the 43AD invasion, a large region of the North (including Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria) was controlled by a Celtic tribe known as the Brigantes. Tacitus writes that it was the collapse of the marriage between Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, a Roman ally, and her husband Venetius that led to a showdown with Rome. Following their divorce, Venetius organised a revolt in 69AD and Cartimandua fled. The Emperor Vespasian then sent a force under Britain’s new governor, Quintus Petilius Cerialis, to put down the rebellion and conquer northern England. Building roads to link up forts and settlements across this rugged landscape was a vital part of this decades-long conquest of the North.

Roman roads were large structures, typically measuring 5-7 metres wide and reaching a height of around 0.5m in the centre. However, nearly two thousand years of weathering mean that they are often very difficult to spot at ground level.

With LIDAR, if aggers – a Roman embankment or rampart – can be spotted, and if you find 2 or 3 km of these running dead straight there is nothing it can be except a Roman road.

Point X marks the site of the Cleator Moor Roman Road:

LIDAR 3D render

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: A Roman Road
A Roman Road
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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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