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Watson's Roman Roads

Ryknild Street - RR18c.
East of Letocetum to Derventio - 24½ miles (39.4 km)


Ryknild Street is a Roman road in England, 112 miles long (180 km), with a route roughly south-west to north-east. It runs from the Fosse Way at Bourton on the Water in Gloucestershire to Templeborough in South Yorkshire, and passes through Alcester, Studley, Redditch, Metchley (Birmingham), Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield, Burton upon Trent, Derby and Chesterfield.

Much of the Midlands route of the Icknield Street is used by modern roads, most notably the A38 from Lichfield to Derby; and many sections retain the name "Icknield Street", but not always accurately as in Hockley, Birmingham and in Redditch, Worcestershire where there is also a road called Icknield Street Drive' which stands near the course of the Roman road. "Ryknild Street" is still in use in Lichfield and "Ryknild Road" in Derby.


Thomas Codrigton description (1918)

Riknild Street seems to have reached Watling Street at about half-a-mile to the east of Wall, and left it northwards still more to the east. Another long straight line of 22 miles succeeds, inclining 24° to the east of the course to the south of Watling Street. A lane following the course of the old road for most of the way from near Wall, is crossed by the North-Western Railway just east of Lichfield station, and joins the Lichfield and Burton Road at Streethay. The latter road occupies the line of Riknild Street nearly as far as Branston. In Stukeley's time " part of Rigning Way north from Wall was very fair with a high straight bank." [1] The same straight line appears to have continued through Burton-on-Trent, and on to high ground (340') near the Knoll, Littleover, two miles from Derby. The modern road from Burton to Derby occupies the course of Riknild Street from the middle of the former town to near the river Dove, where the straight line is deviated from for a mile in crossing the river, and then resumed. Onwards, parish boundaries follow the present road in places for about half the way to Derby. In the beginning of the eighteenth century the road on Burton Moor was paved ; [2] in Stukeley's time it was the common road, and in 1769 a considerable length appeared on Egginton Heath, [3] but it has since been obliterated by the making of the turnpike road. Stukeley notes that " upon the hill south of Littleover, Rigning is under the eye as far as Etocetmn, and the hills beyond it." [4] It is perfectly straight from Watling Street for 22 miles.

1 Iter Boreale, p. 21.
2 plot's Staffordshire, p. 400.
3 S. Pegge, Roman Roads in the Country of the Coritani, p. 5.
4 Iter Boreale, p25.

At Littleover the modern road turns to the east, and the course of Riknild Street onwards is said by Stukeley [1] and Pegge to be over Nuns Green and down Darley Slade to a bridge over the Derwent, on the east of which a gravelled road in continuation passed on the north side of the Roman station at Little Chester1. Stukeley describes the river there as being broad and deep, with steep banks, and impracticable for a ford. His plan shows the piers of a bridge, the foundations of which he and others say were visible under favourable conditions, and could be felt with a staff. [2] It is doubtful, however, if Riknild Street originally crossed the Derwent by a bridge at an unfordable place. Half-a-mile farther down the river, in the heart of Derby was an ancient ford, superseded by St. Mary's Bridge, but kept in remembrance by Ford Street and Ford Lane, to which the principal roads on both sides of the river converge. The ford there seems to be a more probable crossing-place for Riknild Street, superseded perhaps when the fort and the bridge at Little Chester were constructed, and again reverted to after the Roman bridge fell to ruin. There seems to be no trace of the Roman road from Little- over either to the ford or to the bridge at Little Chester. The Roman fort was between the river and the Great Northern Railway, and according to Stukeley, who traced the walls all round,[3] it measured 200 yards by 166 yards.

1 Iter Boreale, p. 25.
2 Itinerarium Curiosum, p. 54, pi. 86.
3 Iter Boreale, p. 25.

'Roman Roads in Britain' Third edition 1918, 226-7. Link

The route described by Ivan D Margary

From the crossing with Watling Street (1) Ryknild Street was laid upon a new alignment, more to the north-east, and this was closely followed for the entire length of this section. The alignment was evidently sighted from high ground at Knowle Farm, 1 mile to the north, as there is a slight bend at that point. No trace of the road is visible in the west of the railway at Lawton Grange where the road crosses, but the course to the north-east after it crosses the modern road east of Wall, and then the railway, is clearly marked by a ridge beside a line of trees until this reaches the main Birmingham-Lichfield road [the current A5127]. After crossing this, the old old road remains in use as a by-road to Streethay, padding a mile to the east of Lichfield and crossing a surprising number of roads leading into that town. The road is now very narrow, and much of it is deeply sunken between high banks which may represent the remains of the agger, but it keeps to the alignment very closely. Telephone poles of suite unusual height overshadow it and seem to emphasize its narrowness.

From Streethay the main road [A38] follows the alignment to the outskirts of Derby, save for a few local diversions, and is a fine highway, very straight and well raised, generally by 1-3 feet at first, and the more noticeably, by 2-3 feet beyond Alrewas, perhaps because it is there passing over low ground near the River Trent, which is crossed by a number of bridges, the Wychnor Bridges, just beyond Alrewas.

Near Branston, on the outskirts of Burton upon Trent, the present road curves a little to the west, to keep away from the river, and it is possible that this may be an original modification for that reason.  The old line is now lost at the entrance to Burton, where the present road swings to the east, but it may be represented for a short distance from the north end of Branston by the course of Clays Lane, and then, after a short gap, by Wellington Street in Burton, and by Derby Street till it joins the main road again, which then follows the alignment onwards.

At Stretton the River Dove had to be crossed near its junction with the Trent, and the present road [A5121] curves westward in doing so, but it is likely that the old road made a direct crossing which has long since been destroyed by the rivers, and by the works for the [Trent and Mersey] canal which also crosses there.

Then the modern road [A38] runs very straight all the way to Littleover, on the outskirts of Derby, and is very noticeably raised, by 2-3 feet, a fine example of a Roman road still in use. Parish boundaries follow it for 3 miles near Findern. The Roman site for which the road was making lay at Little Chester on the northern edge of Derby, a mile to the north of its centre, and to this the road was closely directed. Thus it seems probable that is crossed the river Derwent close to the site, rather than at or near the present St Mary's bridge in the centre of the town. Bridging .this river would have given no difficulty, and the site of the fort lay on relatively low ground just beyond the point where a direct crossing on th alignment would have taken the road. In support of this line north-east of Littleover is the fact that part of Uttoxeter Old Road also follows it, after an interval of a mile, and then approximately the course of Nun Street and Kedleston Street.

It is probable that the western road from Stoke on Trent (181) joined this road just before reaching the bridge and made joint use of the crossing.


1. V.C.H. Staffordshhire, 1, 186
2. V.C.H. Derbyshire, 1, 243
3. W, Stukeley, Iter Curiosum, 2 ,21
4. S. Pegge, Roman Roads though the counntry of the Coritiani, 5
5. W. T. Watkin, Derby A, & N.H.S/J., 8, 206

'Roman Roads in Britain' Third edition (1973), 305-6.

The route recently described

On leaving the Watling Street crossroads, the Roman road takes a new alignment to Strutts Park, Derby. It is followed for most of this part by the A38, but for the first 3½ miles it's a more modest affair. The route passes through a field, across the former A5, under the Birmingham to Lichfield railway, and through a small covert to reach the A5127 at the beginning of Knowles Lane (SK112068). The lane continues to cross the A5206 at the Shoulder of Mutton pub. From here it is Cricket Lane to the A51 crossroads. It then makes its way through the modern suburbs of Lichfield to arrive at the A5192 roundabout at Boley Park. The Roman road can be followed through the industrial estate to the north, but it terminates at a disused level crossing. At the roundabout, though, turn left and then right at the next roundabout on to the A5127 up to Streethay. Here the Roman road joins again and both this and the A road merge into the A38 trunk dual carriageway. From here the line of the Roman road is under the southbound carriage way of the modern road to near Gallow Bridge, south of Burton-upon-Trent. Before that, the modern road bypasses Barton Turns to the east where the old road can be seen to the left. At the milepost 200 yards short of Gallow Bridge the A38 swerves away north on its current course while the Roman road continued on its alignment to pass through Branston. After crossing the B5018 near The Blacksmiths Arms, it follows Clays Lane and through Beans Covert, where the Roman road's agger can be seen (SK228218).

From Beans Covert the A5121 runs alongside the Roman road - crossing the A5189/B5017 on the way - as far as the one-way system by the Town Hall. From here the A road is on the Roman line again to the A511 junction at Derby Turn, then to the B5018 roundabout at the Pirelli Football Stadium (home of Burton Albion FC), and on to close by the Claymills Pumping Station. Here the A road swings north to meet the A38 at Clay Mills GSJ while the Roman road continued straight to the river Dove crossing at Monk's Bridge (SK267269). Shortly after the bridge the road is joined again by the A38 and is beneath the southbound carriageway. It passes under GSJs for the A5132, the A50 Junction 4 (Toyota Island), and under the next GSJ continues the alignment to leave the trunk road and become Ryknild Road at SK309323. The road is followed to the top of Pastures Hill, where it heads for the river Derwent via Constable Lane (SK330350), Uttoxeter Old Road, over Markeaton Brook at Nuns' Street, and along Kedleston Street. It is joined near here from the west by the Roman road from Chesterton (RM180). The river was bridged opposite the Old Chester Road leading to the west gate of the Roman fort (Derventio) at Little Chester (SK352375).

The Roader's Digest: the SABRE Wiki (2014)


1. This is incorrect, the road alignment would have terminated at the Claudian period fort to the west of the River Derwent.

A new description and commentary

Section 1. Watling Street to Streethay 4 miles

From OS Grid Reference SK 1061 0620, 100m above sea level

Section 2. Streethay to River Trent 4.25 miles

From OS Grid Reference SK 1427 1047, 75m above sea level

Section 3. River Trent to Tatenhill Brook 3.32 miles

From OS Grid Reference SK 1830 1581, 54m above sea level

Section 4. Tatenhill Brook to River Dove 5.39 miles. Under construction!

From OS Grid Reference SK 2160 2014, 53m above sea level

The section of the road from the Roman forts and settlement at Wall near Lichfield to those at Little Chester in Derby is known by modern commentators as 'RR18c' after the number assigned by Ivan D Margary. The section in this study is shown in Map 4.1.

If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 'The National Forest' (West sheet) in front of you, you'll see Ryknild Street entering the sheet at Streethay, by Lichfield and exiting south of Derby at the A38/A50 interchange. This provides a good overview of street's route as it travels through the Trent valley. You can also see the line of the ancient road is perfectly straight across the map.

Although greatly improved over time, the northbound carriageway of the modern A38 south of Burton rests on the Roman agger. Raised on a broad causeway the Roman road would have stood above all but the highest river flooding.

The approach to Burton, and the starting point of our study, is a turnpike milestone (Burton 3, Lichfield 9) beside the A38 southbound carriageway (figure 4.1). Map 4.2 shows the position of the post at location 'B'. The post was originally approximately 300 metres further south (A) but moved at least twice to accommodate the trunk road and large scale 'Burton Gateway' commercial development. The northbound carriageway of the milestone's former position is close to the Roman road alignment.

After a short distance the modern road veers away west from the Roman alignment and crosses Tatenhill Brook at Gallow Bridge. The Roman road would have cross the brook a little to the east (C). There is no record of the the bridge's structure, no doubt due to extensive gravel extraction and drainage management.

For the next 1.3km all trace of the road is lost due to extensive gravel extraction. There is no reason to believe the Roman road diverged from its alignment as the modern dual carriageway does. The Ordnance Survey map of 'Roman Britain' Third Edition (1956) depicted a kink in the road in this area, but the following edition (1979) straightened it out.

  Fig 4.1.

The road leaves the modern floodplain to cross Branston Brook (D) and Green. The alignment crosses Old Road, Branston (E) and then Main Street at point location 'F' (near The Blacksmiths Arms), and is rejoined a short distance along Clays Lane (G). The road is accompanied by the lane to the southern end of the recreation ground (H). At his point it can been seen as a low ridge running under a tennins court and a car park . After crossing the corner of the ground it enters Bean's Covert (I) alongside the unmade footpath. After a short distance the Roman road's agger can be seen to the left (west) for about 250 metres, averaging 18 meteres wide and 0.3 meteres high (see figure 4.2).

  Fig 4.2.

On leaving the covert the road is lost among modern commercial development for a considerable distance to Shobnall Brook (P). However, 18th and 19th century mapping provides considerable detail of the area prior to the road's destruction by modern works.

Fig 4.3.


Section 4 location points - south to north

A. Original Turnpike milestone position SK 2121 1960       M. Watercourse SK 2361 2276
B. Current Turnpike milestone position SK 2146 1988 N. Old field boundaries begin SK 2367 2284
C. Tatenhill Brook SK 2162 2014 O. Old field boundaries end SK 2382 2301
D. Branston Brook SK 2304 2104 P. Shobnall Brook SK 2386 2305
E. Old Road SK 2362 2111 Q. Boundaries at rear of properties begin SK 2387 2307
F. Main Street SK 2240 2118 R. Boundaries at rear of properties end SK 2410 2334
G. Clays Lane begin SK 2261 2145 S. Alignment with Derby Street SK 2421 2349
H. Clays Lane end SK 2278 2166 T. Alignment with Derby Road (old Derby Turn location) SK 2461 2401
I. Bean's Covert begin SK 2286 2177 U. Horninglow Brook (Hornbrook) and Parish boundary SK 2451 2504
J. Bean's Covert end SK 2300 2196 V. Stretton Brook SK 2568 2539
K. Ordish Covert SK 2321 2222 W. Modern road diverges SK 2601 2581
L. Brook and Parish boundary SK 2327 2229 X. River Dove Bridge SK 2686 2692

Section 4 Monument Record sources

Monument Number: 929354. Location: SK 2283 2170. Ryknild Street at Bean's Covert. (Taken from annotations on large scale map strips with Linear Archive File RR 18c). (SK 2284 2170 - SK 2287 2175) "Ploughed down agger as gravelly ridge 18m wide and 0.3m high across ploughed field." V J Burton/19-MARCH-1958/Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigator.

(SK 2294 2183 - SK 2301 2193) "Agger survives through copse averaging 10m wide and 0.5m high." Surveyed at 1:2500. D J Chapman/22-JAN-1975/Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigator. (SK 2284 2170 - SK 2287 2175) Slight ridge across playing field.(SK 2294 2183 - SK 2301 2193) No change. D J Chapman/22-JAN-1975/Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigator.

The agger (between SK 2284 2170 - SK 2287 2175) described by authorities 1 and 2 was not seen on good quality APs. However, cropmarks of four ditches on slightly different alignments (with a maximum length of 142m) were seen. These probably represent flanking ditches of the road which may have been recut, hence the differing alignments. (Morph No. FR.86.19.1). Antonia Kershaw/21-APR-1993/RCHME: National Forest Project

Monument Number: 929355. Location: SK 2317 2212 Potential cropmark ditch of Roman date seen as a single linear feature defined by one ditch, with a maximum length of 68m. This is probably a flanking ditch belonging to Rynkild Street. Mapped using good quality AP's. (Morph No. FR.86.20.1). Antonia Kershaw/21-APR-1993/RCHME: National Forest Project

Section 5. River Dove to Staker Flats 4.79 miles

From OS Grid Reference SK 2686 2692, 47m above sea level

Section 6. Staker Flats to Little Chester 3.68 miles

From OS Grid Reference SK 3117 3250, 70m above sea level; to SK 3536 3459, 49m above sea level.


The Lez Watson Inexperience

The author - Leslie (Lez) V Watson - has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
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v19.3 :: November 2018