A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.
A map of the Saxon Watling Street overlaid on the Roman road network
|Length||276 mi (444 km)|
|Time period|| Roman Britain |
|From||The Kentish ports|
|Canterbury, London, St Albans|
Watling Street is a route in England that began as an ancient trackway first used by the Britons, mainly between the areas of modern Canterbury and St Albans using a natural ford near Westminster. The Romans later paved the route, which then connected the Kentish ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Lemanis (Lympne), and Regulbium (Reculver) to their bridge over the Thames at Londinium (London). The route continued northwest through Verulamium (St Albans) on its way to Viroconium (Wroxeter). The Romans considered the continuation on to Blatobulgium (Birrens) beyond Hadrian's Wall to be part of the same route, leading some scholars to call this Watling Street as well, although others restrict it to the southern leg.
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district of Kent, England. It lies on the River Stour.
St Albans is a city in Hertfordshire, England and the major urban area in the City and District of St Albans. It lies east of Hemel Hempstead and west of Hatfield, about 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of central London, 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Welwyn Garden City and 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of Luton. St Albans was the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and it became the Roman city of Verulamium. It is a historic market town and is now a dormitory town within the London commuter belt and the Greater London Built-up Area.
Westminster is a government district and former capital of the Kingdom of England in Central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames. Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Watling Street was the site of Boudica's defeat by the Romans and was later the southwestern border of the Danelaw. In the early 19th century, the course between London and the Channel was paved and became known as the Great Dover Road: today, the route from Dover to London forms part of the A2 road. The route from London to Wroxeter forms much of the A5 road. At various points along the historic route, the name Watling Street remains in modern use.
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. Danelaw contrasts with West Saxon law and Mercian law. The term is first recorded in the early 11th century as Dena lage. Modern historians have extended the term to a geographical designation. The areas that constituted the Danelaw lie in northern and eastern England.
The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.
The A5 London Holyhead Trunk Road is a major road in England and Wales. It runs for about 252 miles (406 km) from London to the Irish Sea at the ferry port of Holyhead which handles more than 2 million passengers each year. In many parts the route follows that of the Roman Iter II route which later took the Anglo-Saxon name Watling Street.
The original Celtic and Roman name for the road is unknown and the Romans may not have viewed it as a single path at all, dividing it amongst two separate itineraries in one 2nd-century list. The modern name instead derives from the Old English Wæcelinga Stræt, from a time when "street" (Latin: via strata) referred to any paved road and had no particular association with urban thoroughfares. The Waeclingas ("people of Waecla") were a tribe in the St Albans area in the early medieval period with an early name of the city being "Waetlingacaester", which would translate into modern English as "Watlingchester".
Common Brittonic was an ancient Celtic language spoken in Britain. It is also variously known as Old Brittonic, British, and Common or Old Brythonic. By the sixth century AD, this language of the Celtic Britons had split into the various Neo-Brittonic languages: Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, Breton and probably the Pictish language.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
The Antonine Itinerary is a famous itinerarium, a register of the stations and distances along various roads. Seemingly based on official documents, possibly from a survey carried out under Augustus, it describes the roads of the Roman Empire. Owing to the scarcity of other extant records of this type, it is a valuable historical record.
The original Anglo-Saxon name for the section of the route between Canterbury and London was Casingc Stræt or Key Street, a name still borne by a hamlet on the road near Sittingbourne.This section only later became considered part of Watling Street.
Sittingbourne is an industrial town situated in the Swale district of Kent in south east England, 17 miles (27 km) from Canterbury and 45 miles (72 km) from London. The town sits beside the Roman Watling Street, an ancient British trackway used by the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons and next to the Swale, a strip of sea separating mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. The town became prominent after the death of Thomas Becket in 1170, since it provided a convenient resting point on the road from London to Canterbury and Dover.
Watling Street has been used as a boundary of many historic administrative units, and some of these are still in existence today, either through continuity or the adoption of these as by successor areas. Examples include:
The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum is an agreement between Alfred of Wessex and Guthrum, the Viking ruler of East Anglia. Its date is uncertain, but must have been between 878 and 890. The treaty is one of the few existing documents of Alfred's reign; it survives in Old English in Corpus Christi College Cambridge Manuscript 383, and in a Latin compilation known as Quadripartitus. All translations below come from Dorothy Whitelock, English Historical Documents 500-1042.
The London Borough of Harrow is a London borough in north-west London, England, and forms part of Outer London. It borders four other London boroughs - Barnet to the east, Brent to the south-east, Ealing to the south and Hillingdon to the west - plus the Hertfordshire districts of Three Rivers and Hertsmere to the north. The local authority is Harrow London Borough Council.
The London Borough of Brent is a London borough in north west London, and forms part of Outer London. The major areas are Wembley, Kilburn, Willesden, Harlesden and Neasden.
The broad, grassy trackway found by the Romans had already been used by the Britons for centuries. The main path led from Richborough on the English Channel to a natural ford in the Thames at Thorney Islandnear Westminster to a site near Wroxeter, where it split. The western continuation went on to Holyhead while the northern ran to Chester and on to the Picts in Scotland.
There is a longstanding traditionthat a natural ford once crossed the Thames between Thorney Island (modern Westminster) and the Lambeth\Battersea boundary. Its location means it that it is possible that Watling Street crossed it.
Several factors may have slowed the river here, leading to the deposition of sufficient sedimentary material to allow fording:
The Romans began constructing paved roads shortly after their invasion in AD 43. The London portion of Watling Street was rediscovered during Christopher Wren's rebuilding of St Mary-le-Bow in 1671–73, following the Great Fire. Modern excavations date its construction to the winter from AD 47 to 48. Around London, it was 7.5–8.7 m (25–29 ft) wide and paved with gravel. It was repeatedly redone, including at least twice before the sack of London by Boudica's troops in 60 or 61. The road ran straight from the bridgehead on the Thames to what would become Newgate on the London Wall before passing over Ludgate Hill and the Fleet and dividing into Watling Street and the Devil's Highway west to Calleva (Silchester). Some of this route is preserved beneath Old Kent Road.
The 2nd-century Antonine Itinerary gives the course of Watling Street from "Urioconium" (Wroxeter) to "Portus Ritupis" (Richborough) as a part of its Second Route (Iter II), which runs for 501 MP from Hadrian's Wall to Richborough:
Some site in the middle section of this route is supposed by most historians to have been the location of G. Suetonius Paulinus's decisive victory over Boudica's Iceni in AD 61.
The two routes of the Antonine Itinerary immediately following (Iter III & IV) list the stations from Londinium to "Portus Dubris" (Dover) and to "Portus Lemanis" (Lympne) at the north eastern edge of the Romney Marsh, suggesting that they may have been considered interchangeable terminuses. They only differ in the distance to Durovernum: 14 and 17 Roman miles, respectively. "Stone Street"; it now forms most of the B2068 road that runs from the M20 motorway to Canterbury. The route between Durovernum and the fortress and port at Regulbium (Reculver) on Kent's northern shore is not given in these itineraries but was also paved and is sometimes taken as a fourth terminus for Watling Street. The Sixth Route (Iter VI) also recorded an alternate path stopping at Tripontium (Newton and Biggin) between Venonis (High Cross) and Bannaventa (Norton); it is listed as taking 24 Roman miles rather than 17.The route to Lemanis was sometimes distinguished by the name
The more direct route north from Londinium (London) to Eboracum (York) was Ermine Street. The stations between Eboracum and Cataractonium (Catterick) were shared with Dere Street, which then branched off to the northeast. Durocobrivis (Dunstable) was the site of the path's intersection with the Icknield Way. The Maiden Way ran from Bravoniacum (Kirkby Thore) to the lead and silver mines at Epiacum (Whitley Castle) and on to Hadrian's Wall.
By the time of the Saxon invasions, the Roman bridge across the Thames had presumably fallen into disrepair or been destroyed. The Saxons abandoned the walled Roman site in favour of Lundenwic to its west, presumably because of its more convenient access to the ford on the Thames. They did not return to Lundenburh (the City of London) until forced to do so by the Vikings in the late 9th century. Over time, the graveling and paving itself fell into disrepair, although the road's course continued to be used in many places as a public right of way. "Watlingestrate" was one of the four roads (Latin: chemini) protected by the king's peace in the Laws of Edward the Confessor.
A number of Old English names testify to route of Watling Street at this time: Boughton Street in Kent; Colney Street in Hertfordshire; Fenny Stratford and Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire; Old Stratford in Northamptonshire; Stretton under Fosse and Stretton Baskerville in Warwickshire. (The three adjacent settlements of All Stretton, Church Stretton, and Little Stretton in Shropshire; and Stretton Sugwas in Herefordshire have a Watling Street but they are not on the route).
Following the Viking invasions, the 9th-century Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum mentions Watling Street as a boundary.
It is assumed that the pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales used the southeastern stretch of Watling Street when journeying from Southwark to Canterbury.[ citation needed ]
The first turnpike trust in England was established over Watling Street northwest of London by an Act of Parliament on 4 March 1707 in order to provide a return on the investment required to once more pave the road.The section from Fourne Hill north of Hockliffe to Stony Stratford was paved at a cost of £7000 over the next two years. Revenue was below expectations; in 1709, the trust succeeded in getting a new act extending the term of their monopoly but not permitting their tolls to be increased. In 1711, the trust's debts had not been discharged and the creditors took over receivership of the tolls. In 1716, a new act restored the authority of the trust under the supervision of another group appointed by the Buckinghamshire justices of the peace. The trust failed to receive a further extension of their rights in 1736 and their authority ended at the close of 1738. In 1740, a new act named new trustees to oversee the road, which the residents of Buckinghamshire described as being "ruined".
The road was again paved in the early 19th century at the expense of Thomas Telford. He operated it as a turnpike road for mail coaches from Ireland. To this purpose, he extended it to the port of Holyhead on Anglesey in Wales. During this time, the section southeast of London became known as the Great Dover Road. The tolls ended in 1875.
Much of the road is still in use today, apart from a few sections where it has been diverted. The A2 road between Dover and London runs over or parallel to the old path. A section of Watling Street still exists in the City of London close to Mansion House underground station on the route of the original Roman road which traversed the River Thames via the first London Bridge and ran through the City in a straight line from London Bridge to Newgate.The sections of the road in Central London possess a variety of names, including Edgware Road and Maida Vale. At Blackheath, the Roman road ran along Old Dover Road, turning and running through the area of present-day Greenwich Park to a location perhaps a little north of the current Deptford Bridge. The stretch between London and Shrewsbury (continuing to Holyhead) is known as the A5 (between Elstree to just north of Dunstable (where the A5 naming resumes), the road is numbered A5183). Through Milton Keynes, the A5 is diverted onto a new dual carriageway while Watling Street proper remains and forms part of the Milton Keynes grid road system.
The name Watling Street is still used along the ancient road in many places, for instance in Bexleyheath in southeast London and in Canterbury, Gillingham, Strood, Gravesend, and Dartford in Kent. A major road joining the A5 in northwest London is called Watling Avenue. North of London, the name Watling Street still occurs in Hertfordshire (including St Albans), Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes), Northamptonshire (including Towcester), Leicestershire (Hinckley), Warwickshire (including Nuneaton and Atherstone), Staffordshire (including Cannock, Wall, Tamworth and Lichfield), Shropshire (including in Church Stretton along the A49),and even Gwynedd in north Wales.
Dere Street, the Roman road from Cataractonium (Catterick in Yorkshire) to Corstopitum (now Corbridge, Northumberland) to the Antonine Wall, was also sometimes known as Watling Street. A third Watling Street was the Roman road from Mamucium (Manchester) to Bremetennacum (Ribchester) to Cumbria. Preston, Lancashire, preserved a Watling Street Road between Ribbleton and Fulwood, passing the Sharoe Green Hospital.Both of these may preserve a separate derivation from the Old English wealhas ("foreigner") or may have preserved the memory of the long Roman road while misattributing its upper stages to better-preserved roads.
There are many Roman sites in Great Britain that are open to the public. There are also many sites that do not require special access, including Roman roads, and sites that have not been uncovered.
Ermine Street is the name of a major Roman road in England that ran from London (Londinium) to Lincoln and York (Eboracum). The Old English name was "Earninga Straete" (1012), named after a tribe called the Earningas, who inhabited a district later known as Armingford Hundred, around Arrington, Cambridgeshire and Royston, Hertfordshire. "Armingford", and "Arrington" share the same Old English origin. The original Celtic and Roman names for the route remain unknown. It is also known as the Old North Road from London to where it joins the A1 Great North Road near Godmanchester.
The Fosse Way was a Roman road in England that linked Exeter in South West England to Lincoln in Lincolnshire, via Ilchester, Bath, Cirencester and Leicester.
Londinium was a settlement established on the current site of the City of London around AD 43. Its bridge over the River Thames turned the city into a road nexus and major port, serving as a major commercial centre in Roman Britain until its abandonment during the 5th century.
The A2 is a major road in southern England, connecting London with the English Channel port of Dover in Kent. This route has always been of importance as a connection between the British capital of London and sea trade routes to Continental Europe. It was formerly known as the Dover Road.
Old Kent Road is a major thoroughfare in South East London, England, passing through the London Borough of Southwark. It was originally part of an ancient trackway that was paved by the Romans and used by the Anglo-Saxons who named it Wæcelinga Stræt. It is now part of the A2, a major road from London to Dover. The road was important in Roman times linking London to the coast at Richborough and Dover via Canterbury. It was a route for pilgrims in the Middle Ages as portrayed in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, when Old Kent Road was known as Kent Street. The route was used by soldiers returning from the Battle of Agincourt.
Roman roads in Britannia were initially designed for military use, created by the Roman Army during the nearly four centuries that Britannia was a province of the Roman Empire. It is estimated that about 2,000 mi (3,200 km) of paved trunk roads were constructed and maintained throughout the province. Most of the known network was completed by AD 180. The primary function of the network was to allow rapid movement of troops and military supplies, but it subsequently provided vital infrastructure for commerce, trade and the transportation of goods.
Dover is a local government district in Kent, England. The port town of Dover is its administrative centre. It was formed on 1 April 1974 by the merger of the boroughs of Deal, Dover, and Sandwich along with Dover Rural District and most of Eastry Rural District.
The decisive battle ending the Boudican Revolt took place in Roman Britain in AD 60 or 61 between an alliance of British peoples led by Boudica and a Roman army led by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. Although heavily outnumbered, the Romans decisively defeated the allied tribes, inflicting heavy losses on them. The battle marked the end of resistance to Roman rule in Britain in the southern half of the island, a period that lasted until 410 AD.
Dere Street or Deere Street is a modern designation of a Roman road which ran north from Eboracum (York), crossing the Stanegate at Corbridge and continuing beyond into what is now Scotland, later at least as far as the Antonine Wall. Portions of its route are still followed by modern roads, including the A1 and the A68 north of Corbridge.
Richborough Castle contains the ruins of a Roman Saxon Shore fort, collectively known as Richborough Fort or Richborough Roman Fort. It is situated in Richborough near Sandwich, Kent, in the United Kingdom.
Durovernum Cantiacorum was a town and hillfort (oppidum) in Roman Britain at the site of present-day Canterbury in Kent. It occupied a strategic location on Watling Street at the best local crossing of the Stour, which prompted a convergence of roads connected to the ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Regulbium (Reculver) and Portus Lemanis (Lympne). Considerable archaeological evidence of Roman activity has been found in Canterbury, much of which can now be found in the Roman Museum built on the remains of a Roman townhouse.
Staines Bridge is a road bridge running in a south-west to north-east direction across the River Thames in Surrey. It is on the modern A308 road and links the boroughs of Spelthorne and Runnymede at Staines-upon-Thames and Egham Hythe.
Events from the 1st century in Roman Britain.
Portus Lemanis, also known as Lemanae, was the Latin name of an ancient Roman fort, settlement and port in southern Kent. The modern village of Lympne derives its name from the ancient port.
Cound Brook is a tributary of the River Severn in Shropshire, England, running to south of the county town Shrewsbury. The Cound Brook rises in the Stretton Hills and discharges into the River Severn at Eyton on Severn after winding its way for 25 miles (40 km) across the southern Shropshire-Severn plains.
Sulloniacis or Sulloniacae is the name of a place in Roman Britain which is known only from an entry in the Antonine Itinerary, a listing of routes and facilities for the cursus publicus, the official courier service of the Roman Empire. Iter (Itinerary) II of the British section runs between Richborough and Chester (Deva), and this shows Sulloniacis on the road now known as Watling Street, nine Roman miles from St Albans (Verulamium) and 12 from London. Sulloniacis is usually identified with Roman remains found at Brockley Hill near Edgware in the London Borough of Barnet.
The Devil's Highway was a Roman road in Britain connecting Londinium (London) to Pontes (Staines) and then Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester). The road was the principal route to the west of Britain during the Roman period but was replaced by other routes after the demise of Roman Britain. The bridges at Pontes probably crossed Church Island. At Calleva, the road split into three routes continuing west: the Port Way to Sorviodunum, Ermin Way to Glevum (Gloucester), and the road to Aquae Sulis (Bath). Its name probably derives from later ignorance of its origin and history, having been replaced for travellers by other roads nearby such as Nine Mile Ride, which runs parallel to the Roman road about a mile away but at a lower height.
Noviomagus, also known as Noviomagus Cantiacorum to distinguish it from other places with that name, was a Roman settlement in southeastern Britain. It was just southeast of the Thames ford near Westminster on the British Watling Street and the Thames bridge at Londinium along the Roman route.
Durolevum was a Roman settlement in Britain. The only surviving mention of it from antiquity appears in the Antonine Itinerary, where it forms part of the Roman equivalent of Watling Street, connecting Rutupiae (Richborough) to Londinium (London). It is now thought to have been located at Ospringe in Kent, after the discovery of Roman ruins between Judd's Hill and Beacon Hill in 1931, but this remains uncertain.
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