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Winscombe Archaeology

The Roman road from the Lox Yeo Valley to Charterhouse

Part 1. An investigation into the location of the Roman road and other roads and trackways at Star

ALERT has been attempting to trace the Roman roads through the Vale of Winscombe and has succeeded in locating several features using geophysical investigation that could be interpreted as the remains of roads. At Yarborough Farm near Banwell a stretch of road has been described which may have been the course of an early Roman road leading towards Loxton from the east (Matthews, 2009). The line of this road can be seen as an agger south of Banwell Hill and a section was uncovered during pipeline work, but confirmation of its continuation beyond this point has been a matter of speculation. The Rev. John Skinner described a Roman road crossing the Bristol Turnpike ‘at the 14 mile stone’ in his diary for May 1830 (BM MSS 33,717 p.34). The milestone can still be seen but in a ruinous state (Somerset HER PRN 15266). No visible trace of the road exists today, and its precise location until the ALERT survey work had not been established (Tratman, E.K., Some ideas on Roman roads in Bristol and North Somerset, Proc Univ Bristol Specaeol Soc, 9, 159-176).

Figure 1. The suggested line of the Roman road where it crosses the A38 at Star

A resistivity survey of part of the field opposite Skinner’s milestone, known as Outer Horseleaze on the Shipham tithe map, has revealed parallel ditches about 12m apart running in precisely the right direction to meet Shipham Lane to the west and the crossroads of Broadway and Shipham Road to the east (Figs.2 and 3). Broadway, the continuation of Shipham Lane after it meets the modern A38, is not actually the line of the road, as it would appear to veer north of the line through Outer Horseleaze, although the start of Lippiatt Lane further to the east at the end of Broadway, is clearly on the correct alignment. A lidar image of Outer Horseleaze shows uninterrupted sweeps of ridge and furrow curving across the field, clearly post dating the parallel ditches. The premise that this is line of the Roman road that Skinner described is indisputable.

 

 

Figure 2. Outer Horseleaze, Star showing the area surveyed. The milestone seen by Skinner can be seen marked beside the A38.

 

The lidar image of the area reveals that Outer Horseleaze was probably much larger, as it appears to extend further to the north and west.  This is indicated by the lines of the mediaeval field system and present field boundaries (Fig.2). The northern boundary of the field lies on what is almost certainly a pre-historic trackway that can be traced from Rowberrow, passing to the south of the large chambered round barrow (Somerset HER PRN 10763), where it is called Philfare Lane. (An early date for this lane can be postulated as there is a clear ‘causeway’ connecting the barrow to the lane).  The lane can be followed along field boundaries to the north of Star and then west along a low escarpment to meet Shipham Lane. The eastern boundary of Outer Horseleaze was probably Horseleaze Lane, a continuation of the line of Mapleton Lane which passes close to the Roman villa at Star to the north. This suggests that this road was in use in Roman times and would appear to be confirmed by the location of a large coin hoard (Somerset HER PRN 15266) in the angle between the two roads. This road would appear to continue south to probably join the present Shipham Lane where there is a crossing of the line of hills.

 

Figure 3. The resistvity survey showing the line of the Roman road in Outer Horseleaze. The parallel ditches can be clearly seen.

 

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Edited version of an article in Camertonia no.49, 2011.