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Watling Street Roman Road

A Scheduled Monument in Kilsby, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.3477 / 52°20'51"N

Longitude: -1.1604 / 1°9'37"W

OS Eastings: 457290.519585

OS Northings: 272512.385874

OS Grid: SP572725

Mapcode National: GBR 8QX.TQ0

Mapcode Global: VHCTZ.T8X2

Entry Name: Watling Street Roman Road

Scheduled Date: 8 May 2013

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1412692

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Kilsby

Built-Up Area: Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Kilsby St Faith

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


c2.5km section of Watling Street Roman road surviving as a substantial earthwork, consisting of a well-preserved length of agger with buried archaeological remains including road metalling and roadside ditches.

Source: Historic England


The monument includes a section of Watling Street Roman road which is aligned north-west by south-east along the boundary between the parishes of Crick to the east and Kilsby to the west. The road runs north-west from SP5795471281 (just north of the intersection of the M1 motorway and Kilsby Road) to SP5673773505 (where it intersects with the A5). The monument survives as a substantial earthwork approximately 2.5km in length consisting of a well-preserved length of agger with buried archaeological remains, including road metalling and roadside ditches. It is partly bordered by hedges and there is some tree coverage on the edges of the enclosure. The width and depth of the road varies along its length. It ranges in width from 19m in the north with a flat top 5m across, and 15m in the south with a flat top of 4-5m; and in depth from 1.25m in the north to 0.85-1m in the south. The composition of the road is also variable, and includes stones of different sizes supported by gravel resting on sandy clay.

At the northern end, the excavation of a section at SP5682873396 has shown that the road surface consists of 0.5m of hard flinty gravel on a layer of large smooth stones up to 0.3m in diameter, which rests on sandy gravel and clay. The road here is c3.5m wide, and in its surface has been dug two graves, probably of Saxon date, containing a female human skeleton, the bones of a dog and a human skull (Brown, 1978, p. 88). The agger is a well-preserved, visible earthwork until it is truncated by the A428 at SP5705672943. Just to the south of the A428, excavation has revealed a ditch measuring 0.8m wide and 2.8m long, aligned with the agger, but its excavation was prevented by waterlogging. The road has sustained some damage along this section due to off-road vehicles, and the damaged areas have revealed pebble metalling.

Approximately half-way along the road, a section dug at SP5739272341 has shown that the main carriageway is 10.4m wide and composed of gravel mixed with earth, rising to a maximum thickness of 0.3m in the centre. To the east of the central carriageway lies another of identical construction 5.4m wide and 0.1m high. To the east of this is a small gully 1.25m wide and 0.3m deep filled with sandy earth. To the west of the central carriageway is a discontinuous layer of gravel pebbles 0.1m thick and 5m wide. This has been interpreted by Brown as constituting a three lane highway. Finds in this section of the road include a fragment of Roman grey ware and seven worked Mesolithic flints.

Further to the south, the agger does not survive as a significant earthwork, although excavation carried out at SP5765471733 has revealed the truncated remains of two superimposed but undated gravel track-surfaces upon a make-up of naturally derived gravels and sand. Further to the south, a trench dug across the lane between the hedges at SP5777871638 has disclosed a road surface of cobbles 0.10-15m in diameter one stone thick resting on a layer of smaller stones which lay directly on the natural clay. This surface is 4.2m wide and lies towards the eastern half of the excavated trench (Brown, 1978, p. 87). Further south again, excavation has revealed a filled ditch 2.3m wide and 0.6m deep, adjacent to the agger. At the southern-most end from the point at which the road intersects the M45, no significant archaeological survival has been recorded.


The area of protection includes the agger and side ditches of the c2.5km section of Roman road. It excludes all modern fencing, modern road surfaces and paving, although the ground beneath is included. The railway lines and fenced easement of DIRFT (Daventry International Railway Freight Terminal) at the southern end of the Roman road lie outside the area of protection.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The c2.5km section of Watling Street Roman road, one of the roads created by the Roman army after circa AD 43, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: the condition of the road is variable along its length, but overall the major elements survive well, with a clearly defined agger (the raised embankment formed by material from side ditches), metalled road surface, and sections of parallel drainage ditches. Numerous archaeological excavations carried out between 1947 and 1995 have produced important evidence of the construction methods used by the Roman engineers, the composition of the road surface, and the dimensions of the side ditches;

* Historic interest: the network of roads established by the Romans constitutes a major feat of engineering. It is seen as one of the most distinctive legacies of the Roman occupation of Britain, and the constructed, metalled roads they introduced were not emulated on any scale until after the Middle Ages. This section of Watling Street represents a significant stretch of one of the major Roman roads linking important towns, nationally and locally;

* Rarity: Watling Street has been overlaid by the A2 and A5 roads but a divergence in the modern route has left this stretch relatively undisturbed. It is quite rare for such a long section of Roman road to survive in so well-preserved a state;

* Potential: the excavations have already demonstrated that the monument retains highly significant archaeological evidence, therefore unexcavated areas have further potential to retain important archaeological deposits which will contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the form and construction of this important feature of Roman infrastructure;

* Archaeological documentation: the excavation reports constitute a significant archive of archaeological documentation.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northampton: Volume III, pp. 206-7, (1981)
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology, 13, pp. 87-95' in Watling Street And The Gartree Road: Some Work On Two Roman Roads In Northamptonshire, (1978)
Northampstonshire Archaeology , Watling Street: An Archaeological Investigation to the South-West of Crick , 1995,
Northamptonshire Heritage , Watling Street at Crick and Kilsby: Management Plan, 1998,
RPS Clouston, Report on Evaluation Excavations to define the width of Watling Street and associated features , 1995,

Source: Historic England

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