“A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome”; Alain de Lille, 1175
All content © Roman Roads Research Association 2016, all rights reserved; unless otherwise stated.
a charity registered in England & Wales, no 1163854.
Ivan Margary’s “Roman Roads in Britain”, last published in 1973, represented a fairly comprehensive assessment of the nation’s Roman road network as it was understood at the time. Unfortunately, it has all too often been assumed that after Margary’s work our knowledge and understanding of the Roman road network was reasonably complete, an assumption that has led to a lack of serious study within professional archaeology (with the notable exception of roads in Wales), and a failure to acknowledge that we are probably only reasonably certain of about 40% of the network at best.
For the last forty years and more, the serious study of Roman roads has largely been left to a handful of disparate individuals and small amateur groups, with little or no co-
It’s a bit like asking, “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Every day millions of us still drive along roads first laid out by Roman surveyors nearly 2000 years ago (such as Oxford Street in London, and large parts of the A1, A5 and A66); roads that link many of our major towns and cities such as London, Manchester and York, all with Roman origins. It’s no exaggeration to say that Rome laid some of the foundations upon which our country was eventually built. We are all rightly proud of this island’s heritage, but how can we hope to fully understand the part played by Rome without first understanding the road network which kept Britannia functioning?
Roman roads are all too often seen as merely links between Roman sites, with the emphasis placed upon the sites themselves rather than the whole infrastructure. We cannot understand the whole picture if we do not first understand how and why the infrastructure developed, why forts are where they are and why settlement patterns developed; we can do none of that without an accurate picture of the development of the road network.
Who are we?
RRRA was established by two experienced Roman roads researchers and independent archaeologists, Mike Haken and the late Hugh Toller, and is now a charity registered in England and Wales.
Membership is open to everyone, and our hundred or so members come from a wide range of backgrounds from those with just a general interest in our Roman heritage to professional archaeologists from both the public sector and commercial units, alongside seasoned Roman roads researchers.
Over the last couple of decades, the technologies available to us for archaeological research, such as LiDAR and Geophysical survey, have enabled researchers to identify the remains of hundreds of miles of previously unknown Roman roads, along with associated Roman sites. At the same time, modern agricultural methods with bigger and ever more powerful machinery, alongside ever expanding urban development, have been steadily removing these features from the landscape.
It is now often a race against time to discover and record what we can of the 60% of the Roman road network about which we are still uncertain, whilst there is still evidence left to find.
Where do we operate?
The RRRA is currently based in Yorkshire, however we are very much a national organisation, with an international membership. We were formed to advance knowledge of the Roman road network and promote the study of Roman roads and Roman heritage throughout the former Roman province of Britannia, which includes the modern countries of England, Wales, and at different times in the Roman period, much of southern and eastern Scotland.
What are our main aims?
The Roman Roads Research Association was formed to advance knowledge of the Roman road network and promote the study of Roman roads and Roman heritage throughout the former Roman province of Britannia. Our three main aims in pursuit of those objectives are to
How will we achieve our aims?
Thanks largely to modern technologies such as LiDAR, our knowledge has moved on substantially since Ivan Margary published "Roman Roads in Britain" in the 1950s, yet the 1972 edition of his book remains the standard reference work on Roman roads in Britain. Our first objective is to complete a new survey of all the known Roman roads in Britain, collating and re-
This work will also highlight areas and sites which need further work, such as excavation or geophysical survey. To foster greater cooperation between different groups, we will be working in partnership with local organisations to carry out the fieldwork identified during the national survey. We will also be arranging a series of events including talks, seminars and conferences all over the country.