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Coordinates: 52°39′22.5″N 1°55′37.7″W / 52.656250°N 1.927139°W / 52.656250; -1.927139

Watling Street

A map of the Saxon Watling Street
Watling Street
overlaid on the Roman road
Roman road
network

A stretch of modern-day Watling Street
Watling Street
in Buckinghamshire

Route information

Length 276 mi (444 km) [230 mi (370 km)] Rutupiae
Rutupiae
to Viroconium

Time period Roman Britain Saxon Britain

Major junctions

From The Kentish ports

  Canterbury, London, St Albans

To Wroxeter

Watling Street
Watling Street
is a route in England and Wales that began as an ancient trackway first used by the Britons, mainly between the areas of modern Canterbury
Canterbury
and St Albans
St Albans
using a natural ford near Westminster. The Romans later paved the route, which then connected the Kentish ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae
Rutupiae
(Richborough), Lemanis (Lympne), and Regulbium
Regulbium
(Reculver) to their bridge over the Thames at Londinium
Londinium
(London). The route continued northwest past Verulamium (St Albans) on its way to Viroconium
Viroconium
(Wroxeter). The Romans considered the continuation on to Blatobulgium
Blatobulgium
(Birrens) beyond Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
to be part of the same route, leading some scholars to call this Watling Street
Watling Street
as well, although others restrict it to the southern leg. Watling Street
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
Dover
Road: today, the route from Dover
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
Watling Street
remains in modern use.

Contents

1 Name 2 Used as a boundary 3 History

3.1 British 3.2 Roman

3.2.1 Battle 3.2.2 Subsidiary routes

3.3 Saxon 3.4 Viking 3.5 Norman 3.6 Modernity

4 Other Watling Streets 5 Gallery 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 Bibliography 10 External links

Name[edit] 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
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")[1] were a tribe in the St Albans
St Albans
area in the early medieval period[1][2] with an early name of the town being ‘Waetlingacaester’ which would translate into modern English as ‘Watlingchester’. It is uncertain whether they were considered part of Middlesex or Essex or a British remnant (wæcla being a possible variation of Old English wealhas, "foreigners", which gave the Welsh their English name). The original Anglo-Saxon name for the section of the route between Canterbury
Canterbury
and London was Casingc Stræt or Key Street, a name still borne by a hamlet on the road near Sittingbourne.[3] This section only later became considered part of Watling Street.[3] Used as a boundary[edit] Watling Street
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:

Watling Street
Watling Street
was used as a boundary in the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum and it is often inferred that this made the road the SW boundary of the Danelaw It is the boundary of Leicestershire
Leicestershire
and Warwickshire, this may be a legacy of the treaty described above. Watling Street
Watling Street
forms part of the boundary of four London Boroughs (Harrow, Brent, Camden and Barnet) and is sometimes described as the boundary of West and North London.

History[edit]

The road at Richborough
Richborough
Castle, one of the Romans' Kentish ports

Watling Street
Watling Street
near Crick in Northamptonshire

British[edit] The broad, grassy trackway found by the Romans had already been used by the Britons for centuries. The main path led from Richborough
Richborough
on the English Channel
English Channel
to a natural ford in the Thames at Thorney Island[4] near Westminster
Westminster
to a site near Wroxeter, where it split. The western continuation went on to Holyhead
Holyhead
while the northern ran to Chester
Chester
and on to the Picts in Scotland.[5] Roman[edit] The Romans began constructing paved roads shortly after their invasion in AD 43. The London portion of Watling Street
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.[6] The road ran straight from the bridgehead on the Thames[7] to what would become Newgate
Newgate
on the London Wall
London Wall
before passing over Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill
and the Fleet and dividing into Watling Street
Watling Street
and the Devil's Highway west to Calleva (Silchester). Some of this route is preserved beneath Old Kent Road.[8] The 2nd-century Antonine Itinerary
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
Hadrian's Wall
to Richborough:[9][10]

Route II of the Antonine Itinerary

...from the Wall to the port of Ritupis, 481 Roman miles, thus:

From Blatobulgium [Birrens] to the scout camp [Netherby], 12

To Luguvalium [Carlisle]

12

To Voreda [Old Penrith)

14

To Bravoniacum [Kirkby Thore]

13

To Verterae [Brough]

13

To Lavatrae [Bowes]

14

To Cataractonium [Catterick]

16

Isurium [Aldborough]

24

Eboracum [York], [6th Victorious Leg.], 17

To Calcaria [Tadcaster]

9

To Cambodunum [Slack]

20

To Mamucium [Manchester]

18

To Condate [Northwich]

18

To Deva [Chester], 20th Vict. Leg. 20

To Bovium [Tilston]

10

To Mediolanum [unknown]

20

To Rutunium [Harcourt Park]

12

To Viroconium [Wroxeter]

11

To Uxacona [Redhill]

11

To Pennocrucium [Penkridge]

12

To Letocetum [Wall]

12

To Manduessedum [Mancetter]

16

To Venonae [High Cross]

12

To Bannaventa [Norton]

17

To Lactodurum [Towcester]

12

To Magiovinium [Fenny Stratford]

17

To Durocobrivae [Dunstable]

12

To Verulamium [St Albans]

12

To Sulloniacae [unknown]

9

To Londinium [London]

12

To Noviomagus [unknown]

10

To Vagniacae [Springhead]

18

To Durobrivae [Rochester]

9

To Durolevum [unknown]

13

To Durovernum [Canterbury]

12

To the port of Ritupis [Richborough]

12

Battle[edit] Main article: Battle of Watling Street Some site in the middle section of this route is assumed by most historians to have been the location of G. Suetonius Paulinus's victory over Boudica's Iceni
Iceni
in AD 61. Subsidiary routes[edit] The two routes of the Antonine Itinerary
Antonine Itinerary
immediately following (Iter III & IV) list the stations from Londinium
Londinium
to "Portus Dubris" (Dover) and to "Portus Lemanis" (Lympne) at the western 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.[9][10] The route to Lemanis was sometimes distinguished by the name "Stone Street"; it now forms most of the B2068 road that runs from the M20 motorway
M20 motorway
to Canterbury. The route between Durovernum
Durovernum
and the fortress and port at Regulbium
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
Venonis
(High Cross) and Bannaventa
Bannaventa
(Norton); it is listed as taking 24  Roman miles
Roman miles
rather than 17.[9][10] The more direct route north from Londinium
Londinium
(London) to Eboracum
Eboracum
(York) was Ermine Street. The stations between Eboracum
Eboracum
and Cataractonium (Catterick) were shared with Dere Street, which then branched off to the northeast. Durocobrivis
Durocobrivis
(Dunstable) was the site of the path's intersection with the Icknield Way. The Maiden Way ran from Bravoniacum
Bravoniacum
(Kirkby Thore) to the lead and silver mines at Epiacum (Whitley Castle) and on to Hadrian's Wall.

Modern Watling Street
Watling Street
in Canterbury

Saxon[edit] 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
Lundenwic
to its west, presumably because of its more convenient access to the ford on the Thames. They did not return to Lundenburh
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.[11][12] A number of Old English
Old English
names testify to route of Watling Street
Watling Street
at this time: Boughton Street
Boughton Street
in Kent; Colney Street in Hertfordshire; Fenny Stratford
Fenny Stratford
and Stony Stratford
Stony Stratford
in Buckinghamshire; Old Stratford in Northamptonshire; Stretton under Fosse
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
Stretton Sugwas
in Herefordshire. Viking[edit] Main article: Danelaw Following the Viking invasions, the 9th-century Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum mentions Watling Street
Watling Street
as a boundary.

Map of London around 1300 AD, showing Watling Street
Watling Street
running north-west from London Bridge
London Bridge
past Newgate

Norman[edit] It is assumed that the pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury
Canterbury
Tales used the southeastern stretch of Watling Street
Watling Street
when journeying from Southwark to Canterbury.[citation needed]

A paving stone on Kilburn High Road in London commemorates the route of Watling Street

Modernity[edit] Main: Great Dover
Dover
Road, A2 Road, and A5 Road. 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.[13] The section from Fourne Hill north of Hockliffe
Hockliffe
to Stony Stratford was paved at a cost of £7000[a] 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
Buckinghamshire
described as being "ruined".[14] 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
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
Dover
and London runs over or parallel to the old path. A section of Watling Street
Watling Street
still exists in the City of London
City of London
close to Mansion House underground station on the route of the original Roman road
Roman road
which traversed the River Thames
River Thames
via the first London Bridge
London Bridge
and ran through the City in a straight line from London Bridge
London Bridge
to Newgate.[15] The sections of the road in Central London possess a variety of names, including Edgware Road and Maida Vale. At Blackheath, the Roman road
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
Shrewsbury
(continuing to Holyhead) is known as the A5. Through Milton Keynes, the A5 is diverted onto a new dual carriageway; Watling Street
Watling Street
proper remains and forms part of the Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes
grid road system. The name Watling Street
Watling Street
is still used along the ancient road in many places, for instance in Bexleyheath
Bexleyheath
in southeast London and in Canterbury, Gillingham, Strood, Gravesend, and Dartford
Dartford
in Kent. A major road joining the A5 in northwest London is called Watling Avenue. North of London, the name Watling Street
Watling Street
still occurs in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
(including St Albans), Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes), Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire
(including Towcester), Leicestershire
Leicestershire
(Hinckley), Warwickshire
Warwickshire
(including Nuneaton
Nuneaton
and Atherstone), Staffordshire
Staffordshire
(including Cannock, Wall, Tamworth and Lichfield), Shropshire
Shropshire
(including in Church Stretton
Church Stretton
along the A49),[16] and even Gwynedd
Gwynedd
in north Wales. Other Watling Streets[edit] Dere Street, the Roman road
Roman road
from Cataractonium
Cataractonium
(Catterick in Yorkshire) to Corstopitum
Corstopitum
(now Corbridge, Northumberland) to the Antonine Wall, was also sometimes known as Watling Street. A third Watling Street
Watling Street
was the Roman road
Roman road
from Mamucium
Mamucium
(Manchester) to Bremetennacum
Bremetennacum
(Ribchester) to Cumbria. Preston, Lancashire, preserved a Watling Street
Watling Street
Road between Ribbleton and Fulwood, passing the Sharoe Green Hospital.[17] Both of these may preserve a separate derivation from the Old English
Old English
wealhas ("foreigner") or may have preserved the memory of the long Roman road
Roman road
while misattributing its upper stages to better-preserved roads. Gallery[edit]

A detail from a 1910 map displaying the Welsh "Watling Street"

A detail from the same map displaying the Midlands "Watling Street"

A detail from the same map misattributing Dere Street
Dere Street
as "Watling Street"

See also[edit]

Roman Britain Roman roads in Britain The Widow of Watling Street, an apocryphal Shakespearean
Shakespearean
play

Notes[edit]

^ equivalent to £1,080,912 in 2016 money.

References[edit]

^ a b Williamson, Tom (2000). The Origins of Hertfordshire. Manchester University Press. p. 64. ISBN 071904491X. Retrieved 13 September 2014.  ^ John Cannon, A Dictionary of British History, 2009. ^ a b Margary 1973, p. 34. ^ "Loftie's Historic London (review)". The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. 63 (1,634): 271. 19 February 1887. Retrieved 21 October 2015.  ^ Ditchfield, Peter Hampson (1901). English Villages. London: Methuen. p. 33.  ^ a b Wallace, Lacey. The Origin of Roman London. p. 41.  ^ Although it is possible the Romans used a ferry prior to the expansion of Londinium
Londinium
in the rebuilding following Boudica's sack of the city in the year 60 or 61.[6] ^ Margary, Ivan D. (1948). Roman Ways in the Weald (third ed.). London: J. M. Dent. p. 126.  ^ a b c Itinerarium Antonini Augusti. Hosted at Latin
Latin
Wikisource. (in Latin) ^ a b c Togodumnus (2011). "The Antonine Itinerary". Roman Britain Online. Retrieved 20 February 2015.  (in Latin) & (in English) ^ a b "Leges Edwardi Confessoris (ECf1), §12", Early English Laws (in Latin), London: University of London, 2015, retrieved 20 February 2015  ^ The other three were "Fosse", "Hikenildestrate" (Icknield Street), and "Herningestrate" (Ermine Street).[11] ^ "House of Lords Journal". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 3 June 2008.  ^ Bogart, Dan (2007). "Evidence from Road and River Improvement Authorities, 1600–1750" (PDF). Political Institutions and the Emergence of Regulatory Commitment in England. University of California. Retrieved 3 June 2008.  ^ Britain's hidden history – London's missing Roman road. ^ Victoria County History - Shropshire
Shropshire
A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 10, Munslow Hundred (Part), the Liberty and Borough of Wenlock, Church Stretton ^ "Bury Metropolitan Council—History". Archived from the original on 2 July 2010. .

Bibliography[edit]

Margary, Ivan (1973), Roman Roads in Britain (3rd ed.), London: John Baker, ISBN 0212970011  Roucoux, O. (1984), The Roman Watling Street: from London to High Cross, Dunstable
Dunstable
Museum Trust, ISBN 0-9508406-2-9 . John Higgs, (2017). Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-4746-0347-8

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Watling Street.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Watling Street.

The Antonine Itinerary
Antonine Itinerary
at Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Online " Watling Street
Watling Street
– A Journey through Roman Britain" by the BBC "Stone Street, Suffolk", at the University of Chicago

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