Thursday, 17 November 2011

A lost road

Anstey Lane is a relatively straight road that connects our village to the city centre. It passes several stretches of ridge and furrow on its way, which shows how these landscapes were intensively used during the Medieval period. Lately these areas were used for pasture so the features survived the beginning of more intensive ploughing.

However, it was not this end of a possible ancient route that made people excited about the possibility of an earlier road line. No, it was the stretch of road at Kegworth that attracted attention. Long Lane there presents an ‘aggered’, raised and cambered, profile and straight alignment. If the Romano-British origins are real, this road would have joined the Roman settlement at Red Hill near Radcliffe-on-Soar to Ratae Corieltauvorum (Leicester).

Stephen Lycett discussed the possible existence of a Roman road on this route, originally suggested by Peter Liddle, the current community archaeologist in Leicestershire, in 1982. The argument depends greatly on the current alignments of public footpaths, their alignments and their connectivity but the alignments of footpaths together with those of field boundaries often do preserve ancient linear features. Further evidence are an eroded agger south of Kegford, the name of Bradgate, ‘broad road’ (brad – gata) or ‘broad gap’ (brad – geat) and a stretch of a double linear feature at Anstey, now under a relatively recent housing development. The distribution of Swithland slate, the product of this Charnwood area, reached Roman settlements of Little Chester, the destination the road took – or was likely to take – from Red Hill.

The author is relatively positive about this hypothesis. The recently published excavations at Beaumont Leys (Thomas 2011) together with the existence of a kiln site nearby and an Iron Age hill fort farther away along the route show that this area needed a line of communication during the Iron Age and Roman times.

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