Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Roman Road Excavation - Blog Diary July 2022

 Day 1: Monday 18 July 2022

We have returned to the site of our excavation from last October, to further explore this length of a Roman Road which lies on land owned by Hanson's Cement near Chatburn. The road linked Ribchester to Ilkley, and this stretch is clearly seen in the landscapes at several points through Chatburn, Downham and Rimington where a number of our contractors and volunteers have been investigating.

This fortnight is being led by professional archaeologists at ECUS, aka Northern Archaeological Associates who have been supporting the PHLP Community Archaeology project for the last 4 years: Holly and Craig.  Sadly Rebecca, our long term professional is recovering from Covid and unable to attend. Also on hand to support are knowledgeable local historian Brian Jeffrey, UCLan summer intern Sarah Hunt, and freelance archaeologist Jess Wight. Each day 5-10 volunteers are signed up to dig!

Last week Sarah visited the site:

This is looking along the length of the road we are investigating - you can see the slightly domed nature of the land where Sarah is standing, this is the camber of the road, it was built like this to shed water off the surface: good engineers those Romans!  

Last year we excavated the central section, this time we are unearthing the sections at both ends of this stretch. So early on Monday the digger started work:

You can see NAA team Cath and Craig checking the digger operator only removes the topsoil....

Both ends cleared, and topsoil piled in the centre, ready to be re-instated next Friday when we finish.

Then the volunteers arrived to clear the rest of the loose soil and to start work digging 2 trenches running across the road, to reveal a cross section of the construction. 

Working in intense heat, we created 2 trenches, both revealing the thick clay aggar (compacted earth) of the cambered road, with a hint of metalling appearing at around 20cms depth. 

A potential linear feature, running parallel to the north-west edge of the road, was found, within what appears to be a less disturbed segment of metalled surface. This potentially could be a roadside ditch....or equally a more modern service trench for an electric cable, inconveniently running along the same alignment. Hopefully Tuesday will show us more!

We didn't unearth any Roman finds yet, but we did find fragments of clay tobacco pipe, a rimsherd of a brown slipware bowl, and some fragments of glass bottle: all likely 19th century in date and related to the now disused footpath to the south of trench 2.


  1. Sounds like a very interesting archaeological dig.

  2. Is the Roman Road given the Margary Number: 72a, or is it passing up Pendle through the village of Great Mearley?

  3. I was on Downham Common several years ago walking with the late author John Dixon. We followed the course of the Roman road passing a cross base.