The Roads to Ragdale

Jul 06, 2011
Posted in: Ragdale Hall News   Posted by: Tracy Lawrence

Tim Norton, one of our Night Porters regularly gives evening talks to our guests on the history of Ragdale and he also likes to include a bit of local history. 

He recently did some research and about a local Roman Road, the Fosse Way, now known as the A46.  We all found it very interesting….I hope you do too.

Whether our guests have arrived at Ragdale from the north, south, east or west they will have travelled on a road built by the Romans.  The main road, the A46, is the Fosse Way.  This was completed in 47 AD only 4 years after the Romans landed. 

The road originally started at the fort on the Lyme Bay coast at Axmouth in South Devon and ran for over 200 miles to Lincoln.  Like all of the 8 – 10 thousand miles of Roman roads built in the first 100 years of occupation, it was built by hand by the Centurions.  Like most Roman roads it’s pretty straight, only varying 5 miles or so from point A to point B.

The name comes from the Latin for ditch and most historians think that for the first few years it was a military road signifying the boundary of Roman occupation at that time with a deep ditch dug to the west side of the road.  It is the only Roman road named from Latin.

The boundary was backed up by the Rivers Severn and Trent slightly further west creating a natural defence.  Over 60 Roman milestones have been discovered nationwide over the last few centuries with 2 between Ragdale and Leicester.  The stone found at the Thrussington crossroads only had 2 letters inscribed and visible but the stone discovered at Thurmaston/Leicester is the oldest and most complete ever found.  The Latin inscription can be accurately dated because it celebrates the passing by of the Emperor Hadrian visiting his wall in 120/121 AD as well as giving the mileage to Leicester.  This stone is now in the Leicester Jewry Wall Museum (it was first built into a lampstandard in Belgrave Gate in the early 1800’s!)

The nearest Roman settlement to Ragdale was 2 junctions up the Fosse Way at Willoughby (Roman name was Vermenetum).  This was a days march from Leicester – 14 miles – all up hill as Six Hills is the highest point between Leicester and Lincoln.  Starting off as a fort, Willoughby became just a posting station and small settlement when the Romans invaded into Wales and the North.  No remains exist on the site.  It is believed a Roman temple existed at Willougby and a burial site. 

When the Fosse Way was dualled in the 1960’s remains of a chariot, horse and soldier were discovered, however, this turned out to be Anglo Saxon not Roman.

The road that crosses the Fosse Way, also built by the Romans, is called the Saltway.  This came from the Wash, near Boston, crossing Ermine Street (the old A1) at Little Ponton, joining the Grantham/Melton road for a mile or so then continuing near Goadby Marwood (a Roman settlement) north of Scalford then to Six Hills, Barrow upon Soar and Woodhouse where its course is lost.  However, some historians think it linked up to another Saltway starting in Droitwich.  As the name suggests, salt was transported along this road.  Some think the salt was panned out of the North Sea and hauled inland by oxcart for distribution.  A long, slow trip by oxcart!

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