Roman roads were originally constructed by the Roman army to allow the legions to move quickly about the country. Repair and maintenance was the responsibility of officials called curatores viarum and the cost was borne by the local settlement whose territory the road crossed. From time to time, the roads would be completely resurfaced and might even be entirely rebuilt. There seems to be no standard width to a Roman road but major roads in Britain would typically be 1626ft in width. Watling Street averaged 33ft wide but it probably depended on the local geography.
Construction started with the stripping of topsoil and then a raised carriageway (agger) was built using local materials, preferably sand or gravel. It was bordered by deep ditches to take rainwater and keep the road structure as dry as possible. The strips of ground between the agger and the boundary ditches were used by pedestrians and animals, thus only roughly surfaced. The agger was then covered with broken stones (metalling) which was in two layers. The bottom layer consisted of medium-sized stones and the top was compacted gravel. If stone was readily available locally, the road surface might even be paved. The average depth of metalling was about 20 inches.
The Antonine Itinerary was a register of the stations and distances along the various roads of the Roman empire, containing directions how to get from one Roman settlement to another. It was probably prepared at the beginning of the 3rd Century under the patronage of Antoninus Pius, hence the name. The British section (Iter Britanniarum) was the first road map of Roman Britain. There are 15 itineraries, 3 of which pass through Shropshire. The itinerary measures distances in Roman miles, where 1,000 Roman paces equals one Roman mile. A Roman pace was two steps and 1 Roman mile equals 4,690ft or 1,430m.
Itinerary II - Portum Ritupis (Richborough) to Blatobulgio (Birrens) in Scotland
Pennocrucio Uxacona 12 miles
Uxacona Viroconium 11 miles
Viroconium Rutinium 11 miles
Rutinium Mediolanum 12 miles
Mediolanum Bovio 20 miles
Itinerary X Mediolanum (Whitchurch) to Clanoventum (Ravenglass)
Mediolanum Condate 19 miles
Itinerary XII Viroconium (Wroxeter) to Muridonium (Carmarthen)
Viroconium Bravonium 27 miles
1) Viroconium Uxacona (Redhill) - Pennocrucium (Penkridge)
This was part of Iter II in the Antonine Itineraries and continued to Dubris (Dover) via Londinium (London). It is known as Watling Street and remained in use as the modern A5, although diverted to reach Shrewsbury rather than Wroxeter.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Wheathill (SJ590099)
The route is overlain by the modern minor road from Wroxeter and then the B5061 for a short distance.
Wheathill (SJ590099) Burcotgate (SJ620106)
A short length of broad, low agger runs for about 150m across the field towards Blue Bell House. The OS map shows a short length of surviving agger beyond this but the route over the top of Overley Hill was destroyed when building the new A5 dual carriageway. It was sectioned at SJ61501057 and four Roman road surfaces were found. A trench at SJ61801057 found red clay and pebbles, with rutted layers of pebbles and gravel above. These are the remains of the Roman road and were overlain by the remains of the post medieval turnpike road.
Burcotgate (SJ620106) Haygate (SJ640107)
The route is overlain by the old A5 road (now renamed B5061). Road widening at SJ63611067 exposed the cobbled remnants of a road 30ft wide and a trench at SJ640107 revealed a Roman road surface.
Haygate (SJ640107) Uxacona (SJ723108)
The route follows the line of the old A5 road but this in turn has been destroyed in places by past mining operations and modern road improvements. A sewer trench in Oakengates found the remains of the Roman road surface but nothing is visible.
Uxacona (SJ723108) Stretton Wharf (SJ872107)
The route is overlain by the modern A5 road up to the county border in the direction of Pennocrucium, where it passes under the Shropshire Union Canal bridge. Along the way it passes the Burlington Marching Camps at SJ779106.
2) Viroconium Rutinium (Harcourt Mill) Mediolanum (Whitchurch) Deva (Chester)
This was part of Iter II in the Antonine Itineraries and continued beyond Chester up to Blatobulgio (Birrens) in Scotland.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Duncote Farm (SJ571115)
The route is overlain by the modern B4394 to Norton and Atcham Industrial Estate. Beyond here the route is obscure.
Duncote Farm (SJ571115) to Rodington (SJ571141)
This is where the road crosses of the River Tern (as does the modern A5 dual carriageway) and Roman masonry has been dredged from the river. There are stretches of possible agger on the north side of the river and a cutting on the river terrace marking the road's approach from the south. The previous sharp alignment of the river (since straightened) at this point may have originally been caused by the presence of an agger (possibly a substantial one leading to a bridge) acting as a dam. If so, then the river crossing would be expected in the area of the old mill pool. Beyond the river, field boundaries and the name "Drury Lane" near Rodington indicate the route.
Rodington (SJ571141) to Roden (SJ567166)
The route follows field boundaries and passes to the west of Roden Nurseries. Beyond the B5062, visible traces disappear but it crossed a stream here.
Roden (SJ567166) to Poynton Green (SJ563186)
The route follows field boundaries and traces of an agger indicate the line. Excavations showed a gravel road, 20ft wide and 9-12 inches thick, buried at a depth of 18 inches.
Poynton Green (SJ563186) to Moreton Corbet (SJ558233)
The route follows the line of the modern roads.
Moreton Corbet (SJ558233) to Rutunium (SJ557247)
The OS map shows a length of surviving agger. There was a Roman settlement at Rutunium and this is where the route crossed the River Roden.
Rutunium (SJ557247) to Moston (SJ556266)
The OS map shows a length of surviving agger on the east bank of the Roden. A road 9ft wide was found during the draining of the moor and here the remains of two Roman milestones were found
Moston (SJ556266) to Holloway (SJ554281)
The route is obscure but part of it probably followed the line of the modern A49.
Holloway (SJ554281) to Prees Green (SJ556305)
The OS map shows a length of surviving agger.
Prees Green (SJ556305) to Edgeley (SJ551395)
The route more or less follows the line of the modern A49. The present day Heath Road overlies it but a strip up to 3m wide survived alongside the western edge of the modern road. The ditches and pebble yards of a Romano-British settlement appeared alongside the road shortly after its construction. The northern limit of the settlement was marked by a stream, apparently forded by the Roman road.
Edgeley (SJ551395) to Mediolanum Fort (SJ541416)
The route follows the line of the modern B5395 to where the fort once stood. Along its route, excavations have revealed cobbled surfaces near the High Street at SJ541414 and SJ54204147.
Mediolanum Fort (SJ541416) to Higher Wych (SJ507444)
The route follows the line of the modern B5395 to Grindley Brook, where the OS map shows a length of surviving agger up to the county order in the direction of Deva.
3) Viroconium Bravonium (Leintwardine)
This was part of Iter XII in the Antonine Itineraries and continued beyond Bravonium to Muridono (Carmarthen). It is often called Watling Street West, since it connected to Watling Street at Viroconium.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Cross Houses (SJ548065)
The route crossed the River Severn by a bridge at SJ561082 and, just west of the river, the road was found at a depth of 18 inches below the surface. The OS map shows a length of surviving agger up to the modern A458 road and this can be followed along a green lane and footpath.
Cross Houses (SJ548065) Blackpits (SJ540046)
The route is not clear but it probably continued in a straight line until it meets the modern minor road. This road perhaps follows the line of the Roman road as it swung south to cross the Row Brook at Upper Cound. From there, the route is not clear but it must have closely followed the minor road towards Pitchford.
Blackpits (SJ540046) Acton Burnell (SJ521021)
The OS map shows a length of surviving agger which passes by Pitchford. It crossed a stream at SJ52500255 and the bridge abutment survives as large dressed stones on south bank.
Acton Burnell (SJ521021) Church Stretton (SO457936)
The route is overlain by the modern minor road that runs through Frodesley and Hollyhurst, to join the modern A49 road and thence to Church Stretton. A section was cut across the road here and the Roman road was found to be 16ft wide and composed of 8 inches of gravel lying on a layer of stones about 4 inches thick. There was little sign of traffic on the surface, which was marked by a blue mud line about 1½ inches thick. Above this was a rough layer of stones, followed by 2ft of gravel. The surface above this was roughly and imperfectly metalled.
Church Stretton (SO457936) Stretford Bridge (SO432846)
The route is overlain by the modern A49 as it heads south through Little Stretton to Marshbrook. Where the road bends south, the route continues straight on across the fields to Bushmoor. A footpath follows the route and the OS map shows it as a surviving agger. The route continues to Wistanstow along a minor road and crosses the River Onny at Stretford Bridge. Although the name implies a bridge, the separate parts Stret (road) and Ford indicate that it was only a ford in Roman times. The importance of this crossing is shown by the fact that there were three marching camps nearby at Cheney Longville and Stretford Bridge.
Stretford Bridge (SO432846) Shelderton (SO402768)
The route parallels the A49 for a short distance to Newington and the OS map shows that it follows a minor road south-west. This continues past Clungunford to just south of Shelderton, where it leaves the road and heads due south the county boundary at Shelderton, in the direction of Bravonium.
There has been a great deal of argument over the years about the route of this road and it has never been definitely confirmed. The route around Shrewsbury is especially confusing, since Roman remains have been found in different areas. Possibly there was another road of which we are not aware.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Kingstreet (SJ520075)
The route probably followed the Bravonium road over the Severn bridge as far as the A458 and then headed north past Berrington to King Street. The route of this section is unclear.
Kingstreet (SJ520075) Washford (SJ480099)
The OS map shows a straight path to Betton Abbotts that is probably the line of the route. From here, it follows a similar path down to Bomere Pool and then to a settlement at Sharpstones Hill (SJ489097). A segment of road was excavated here and a series of thin, compacted pebble surfaces were found. The maximum width was 4.8m but the road had gradually been encroached upon by the roadside settlement. The road had a distinct camber but no obvious drainage gullies at the side. Shallow traces of wheel ruts were apparent. From here the route went to Washford.
Washford (SJ480099) Day House Farm (SJ463102)
At this point the route crosses the Rea Brook, in the bank of which it is possible to see stone from the road. From here, it headed in a north-west direction to the south of Nobold Hall Farm and a track follows its route. Arial photography shows a low linear earthwork resembling an agger to the south-east of Day House Farm and two parallel east-west ditches to the south-west of the farm on the same alignment. The OS map in fact shows the Roman road to the north but this is wrong, unless it is a completely different road.
Day House Farm (SJ463102) - Cruckton (SJ429105)
The route heads westwards at this point and appears as a cropmark near Hanwood Bank between SJ45721026 and SJ45451032. The OS map shows a surviving agger heading west from SJ441105 to Cruckton, where there was a settlement.
Cruckton (SJ429105) Westbury (SJ359094)
The route is overlain by the modern B4386, which it follows through Yockleton to Westbury. A possible earlier road surface was seen in the village of Nox and between Yockleton and Stoney Stretton, the early road surface consisted of pebbles and gravel embedded on a formation of red clay sitting on top of natural subsoil. This formation is identical to several other excavated Roman road sites and therefore probably belongs to the Roman period. Between Stoney Stretton and Westbury, the early road material consisted of cobbles and broken rock, with a gravel and pebble surface.
Westbury (SJ359094) Stockton (SJ263010)
A trench at Brook Cottage in Westbury revealed a surviving pebble surface below 18th Century garden soil. A northerly route from here via Vennington has been proposed but not generally accepted. The commonly agreed route heads south-west and a 150m long section is visible at SJ351083. From here, the route follows a track and minor road through Aston Rogers and Aston Piggott to the B4386 at Little Worthen. It then follows the B4386 through Worthen to Marton, where the modern road has been diverted for a short distance. It then continues along the B4386 and a minor road to the county boundary at Stockton, in the direction of Forden Gaer.
5) Sharpstone Hill Pant Rhyn Park Forts
This road linked the Roman settlement at Sharpstone Hill with the Llanymynech Ogof copper mine at Pant and the forts at Rhyn Park.
Sharpstone Hill (SJ489097) Pant (SJ273220)
The route ran from Sharpstone Hill via Washford (SJ480099), where a ford crosses the Rea Brook, and on to Meole Brace. Interestingly, the modern road from Meole Brace to Copthorne is called Roman Road. From Copthorne, the route follows Shelton Road to the A458 and then on to Ford. From Ford, it follows the B4393 to Alberbury and then on to the A483 and north to Pant. From here, a side road led to the Llanymynech Ogof.
Pant (SJ273220) Rhyn Park Forts (SJ306370)
From here, the route continues along the A483 northwards to Morda (SJ289265) and then the B5069 through Oswestry. North of Oswestry, the route rejoins the line of the A453 and continues to Rhyn Park Forts.
6) Mediolanum Fort (Whitchurch) Pennocrucium (Stretton)
This road was called The Longford" and it linked the road from Viroconium to Deva with Watling Street.
Mediolanum Fort (SJ541416) Bletchley (SJ622335)
The route follows the road to Viroconium for a short distance to Heath Cottage (SJ556385), where it branches off left along a minor road to Twemlows Hall and then across the fields to Bletchley. The latter section is not obvious and has been ploughed out. There is supposed to be a short section of agger near Heath Farm, which may be at SJ589365.
Bletchley (SJ622335) Hinstock (SJ689269)
From Bletchley, the route follows the line of the A41 through Ternhill and Shakeford to Hinstock.
Hinstock (SJ689269) Whitleyford Bridge (SJ745238)
At this point, the A41 turns south but the route continues straight through fields and along minor roads past Ashfields to Ellerton. At SJ720255, the route follows the county boundary and it is marked on the OS map as a Roman road. It leaves Shropshire at Whitleyford Bridge in the direction of Pennocrucium (SJ902107).
7) Marshbrook - Ariconium (Weston-under-Penyard)
This road linked the Roman settlement at Ariconium (SO6423) with Watling Street West.
Marshbrook (SO442898) Strefford Ford (SO444855)
The route leaves Watling Street West at Marshbrook and heads south, following a lane through Marsh Wood. An excavation at SO444891 found a well-made level surface cut out of solid rock. It continues past Marsh Farm to Felhampton and this section was destroyed when building the railway. The route now parallels the A49 to the east and an excavation 100 yards south of Felhampton found a well-made stone surface. At Upper Affcot there was a marching camp and south of here the route follows a farm lane. An excavation at SO446860 showed a road, 11ft wide, made of large cobbles set in firm clay. In Strefford, the route joins a minor road down to the ford.
Strefford Ford (SO444855) Onibury (SO454792)
The route fords the Quinney Brook here and follows the line of minor roads through Lower and Upper Dinchope to Greenway Cross. At this point it crosses the Roman road from Greensforge to Levobrinta. It continues along a minor road through Norton to Onibury, where there is a junction with the road to Watling Street West at Shelderton.
Onibury (SO453790) Ludford (SO514741)
The route turns sharp left here and follows a minor road runs to the north-east of the railway. It passes Ludlow Racecourse and a marching camp at Bromfield. The route passes through the centre of Ludlow along Old Street and Corve Street to a ford at Ludford.
Between Ludford (SO51407400) and Overton (SO51507160) the route follows the course of the old Ludlow-Hereford road which, prior to 1832, ran to the east of the present road and adjacent to the River Teme. Its line can still be traced through field boundaries. From Overton, it runs southwards along the line of the A49 to the county border at Brimfield in the direction of Ariconium.
8) Greensforge - Levobrinta (Forden Gaer) and Caersws
This road was probably constructed early in the Roman occupation, during the pacification of the Welsh tribes. It would allow legions to move quickly into the heart of Wales.
Greensforge (SO863886) White Cross (SO814911)
The line of the road heads north-west, being overlain by a minor road, and enters Shropshire just east of White Cross.
White Cross (SO814911) Woundale (SO769934)
The route follows a minor road as far as Broughton and continues in a straight line towards Claverley. The surface was found in an excavation at SO797924. It then follows the line of a minor road south of Sandford and Chyknell.
Woundale (SO769934) Bridgnorth (SO718930)
At this point, the modern road turns right and the route continues straight on, following farm tracks to Roughton. Here, it bends sharp left and heads south of Swancote, where it is overlain by the modern A454 and B4363. It followed the line of the B4363 down the cliffs and crossed the River Severn by a bridge, probably located near the existing one.
Bridgnorth (SO718930) Ash Bridge (SO666942)
From the bridge, the route has been destroyed by later building in the centre of Bridgnorth but its line can be identified along Wenlock Lane to the A458. This road overlies it as it heads west to Morville and crosses the Mor Brook by the Ash Bridge.
Ash Bridge (SO666942) Corfield (SO573915)
From the bridge, the route roughly follows the line of the modern B4368 through Aston Eyre, Monkhopton and Weston.
Corfield (SO573915) Beambridge (SO532881)
At this point, the route leaves the B4368 and heads south-west along the south bank of the River Corve. It follows a minor road for much of the way and crosses the Trow Brook at SO536884 where its presence has been confirmed by excavation.
Beambridge (SO532881) Newington (SO433836)
The route crosses the River Corve at this point and follows the line of the B4368 through Munslow, Aston Munslow, Corfton and Greenway Cross to Halford Vicarage (SO440829). At this point it headed north-west to Newington.
Newington (SO433836) Bishops Castle (SO325883)
The route crosses the River Onny at this point and then follows the line of Long Lane, crossing the Roman road from Viroconium to Bravonium. It continues along the minor road through Basford to Red House Bridge, where it changes direction and heads north-west along Stank Lane to join the B4385 just before Bishops Castle.
Bishops Castle (SO325883) Offas Dyke (SO258895)
The route follows the B4385 until it turns right, continuing straight on along Kerry Lane. As the name suggests, this was also the route of the Kerry Ridgeway. The Roman road follows the line of the minor road, which becomes a sunken lane, over Moat Hill to Bishops Moat (SO289895). Here it forked, with one branch crossing the county boundary and heading north-west to Forden Gaer. The other continued due west to Caer Sws and was later crossed by Offa's Dyke at the county boundary.
9) Greensforge to Uxacona (Redhill)
This road would have linked an important marching camp at Greensforge with Watling Street and all its connections.
Greensforge (SO86268857) Sutton Maddock (SJ731020)
The route enters Shropshire at Long Common (SO826937) and follows the county boundary for a short distance to Hillend (SO810950). It then continues along a track and minor road to join the B4176 at Upper Ludstone. Shortly after this, the B4176 crosses the Stratford Brook and this name suggests a crossing of a Roman road. The route continues to follow the B4176 in a number of straight segments to just east of Sutton Maddock.
Sutton Maddock (SJ731020) Uxacona (SJ723108)
The route from here to Uxacona is not obvious but it may have passed through Kemberton and along the minor road from Knowlbank (SJ 734089) to Watling Street (SJ731108).
10) Viroconium Sutton Maddock
This road linked to the road from Greensforge to Uxacona and would give legions based at Greensforge a quick route into North Wales.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Rushton (SJ607081)
The route follows a field boundary from the gate at Viroconium, a track from Beslow (SJ580084) and a minor road from Charlton Hill (SJ591082). A Roman altar was found at Rushton so there may have been a settlement here for workers at the Wrekin limekilns.
Rushton (SJ607081) Little Wenlock (SJ646070)
The route roughly follows the line of a minor road to Rose Cottage (SJ614077) and then crosses the flank of the Wrekin along a track and field boundary to Spout Lane (SJ 621069).
From there, it follows the minor road to Little Wenlock.
Little Wenlock (SJ646070) Sutton Maddock (SJ731020)
The route follows the B5061 to Horsehay, where it turned south-east via Dawley to Sutton Maddock. The route through Telford has been destroyed by past mining activity and modern construction.
11) Viroconium Shelve Mining Area
This road was called Salters Way and allowed lead from the mines to be brought to Viroconium. There was no connection to salt as salter was an old term for a lead smelter.
Viroconium (SJ566093) Exfordsgreen (SJ460061)
The route followed the road from Viroconium to Levobrinta as far as Kingstreet (SJ520075). Here it branched off west and roughly followed the line of minor roads to Allfield (SJ503070) and then via Hunger Hill to Exfordsgreen.
Exfordsgreen (SJ460061) Pontesford (SJ410065)
The route continues to roughly follow the line of a minor road west to Longden (SJ441063), where it continues via a track and footpath to join a minor road at Plealey (SJ425067). It then follows the minor road to Pontesford.
Pontesford (SJ410065) Shelve (SO336990)
The route from here is not clear but it probably followed the line of modern roads to Poles Coppice (SJ392048) and then via tracks to Snailbeach Mine (SJ374021). From here, it probably followed the line of the minor road through Stiperstones village to Pennerley and Shelve. It is believed that Shelve was a centre for the local lead mining and other roads probably existed to mines at Roman Gravels (SO333999) and Grit (SO327982). In addition, there was probably a road to link with the Linley Mining area but the route of this is not known.
This was a short road linking Watling Street West and the road from Marshbrook to Ariconium. The route leaves Watling Street West at Shelderton (SO402768) and follows the line of the minor road through Shelderton Rock, Green Lane and Whittytree to Onibury (SO454792). A ford that crossed the River Onny here was still clearly visible in 1960 and just beyond this is the junction with the road from Marshbrook.
12) Stretford Bridge Marching Camp - Wall Town Fort Salinae (Droitwich)
This road was probably built to allow fast movement of the legions into North Wales. The exact route is not known but, from Stretford Bridge Marching Camp (SO429841), it probably went via the A49 south to Ludlow, A4117 to Cleobury Mortimer and B4363 to Wall Town Fort (SO692782). From here, the route follows the B4363 and B4194 to the county boundary at Dowles (SO773767) in the direction of Salinae (SO8963).
13) Mediolanum Fort (Whitchurch) Condate (Northwich) - Glannoventa (Ravenglass)
This was part of Iter X in the Antonine Itineraries and continued to Glannoventa. It presumably linked the remote frontier fort at Glannoventa with Viroconium and the rest of Britain. It leaves the Viroconium Deva road at Mediolanum Fort (SJ541416) and follows Tarporley Road to the A49. It follows the A49 north-east to the county border at Willey Moor (SJ39464), in the direction of Condate (SJ655736).
14) Broome Quarry Pitchford
It has been suggested that a Roman road existed from a sandstone quarry near Broome (SO521981), through Causewaywood to meet Watling Street West. Instead of Watling Street West, a possible route from the quarry follows a minor road north-east through Causewaywood, Ruckley and Acton Burnell to join the Viroconium Bravonium road at Pitchford (SJ530032).
15) Grinshill Quarry Moreton Corbet
It has been suggested that a Roman road existed from a sandstone quarry at Grinshill (SJ523237). The route probably followed the line of the footpath from the quarry to a minor road (SJ527235) and crossed the A49 road. The route from here has been built upon by Acton Reynald School but then follows the line of the minor road from (SJ539234) to the Roman road at Moreton Corbet (SJ557234).
16) Watling Street Pave Lane
It has been suggested that a Roman road existed between Watling Street at Burlington (SJ784109) and Pave Lane (SJ760165). A possible route would be following the line of the A41 from Watling Street to Woodcote (SJ773150) and then along tracks to Pave Lane. A road bearing the name of Pave Lane, leading through Chetwynd Aston to Newport, is marked on the OS map as a Roman road. However, there is no other evidence and no reason for a road to go to Pave Lane at that time so it is unlikely that it existed.
It has been suggested that that a Roman road existed between Oxon (SJ458139) and Ford (SJ416131) and that a stretch of road labelled as Roman appeared on maps between 1882-1927. The road in question was actually that running from Sharpstone Hill to Llanymynech and it bypassed Oxon to the south rather than going to it.
18) Robertsford - Duncote Farm
It has been suggested that that a Roman road existed between crossings of the River Severn at Robertsford (SJ520118) and River Tern at Duncote Farm (SJ570114). There is no evidence and the suggested route is tenuous, following a few parish boundaries. It is unlikely to have existed.
19) Viroconium West
It has been suggested that that a Roman road ran west from Viroconium and crossed the River Severn at Atcham (SJ540092). There is no evidence and it is unlikely to have existed.
20) Morton Common Redwith
It has been suggested that the minor road running south from Morton Common (SJ295250) to Redwith (SJ286211) was a Roman road. There is no evidence and it is unlikely to have existed.