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The Roman Road from Ixworth to Long Melford

Margary Number: 33a

Distance: 15.75 miles

Margary regarded this road as part of Peddars Way which is probably not the case. However, it was an important trunk road connecting Ixworth, Sitomagus, to London with a very direct route almost certainly via Braintree in Essex.

 

 

Historic Counties: Suffolk

Current Counties: Suffolk

HER: Suffolk

 

location

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Lidar Image - Full Route

A very direct route making the best of the terrain.

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full route

Site Plan - Lidar and Aerial Image

The overlaid aerial is believed to have been taken shortly after WW2 and the fort and road system shows up very clearly. Obviously long before the bypass destroyed a large part of it.

The only puzzle is the connection to the road to Icklingham. Where I have shown then there is some evidence but not totally certain. The main road alignment appears to have been set out on the fort's north west gate but no trace on that course is evident so what I have shown is my best guess. The rest of the roads are more definite although across Ixworth it is a projected line.

Image: The aerial photograph overlaid on the background Lidar imagery is by the Air Photography Unit, University of Cambridge (assumed out of copyright - apologies if not).

 

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road-plan

Ixworth Looking South - Google Earth

In this oblique Google Earth image we are looking south from over the fort site. The fort ditches and exit to Long Melford are clear. The fort didn't last long and would have been totally dismantled leaving just the outline of the ditches visible today.

Our road initially swaps sides of the modern road to Pakenham before old and modern eventually merge together.

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Lidar Image & Route Map 1

The Ixworth site is also referred to as Pakenham but the village is actually a mile away so I have used Ixworth - apologies to residents of Pakenham parish.

Across Thurston then modern developments mask the route but there is no reason to doubt the Roman alignment carried straight on.

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Lidar Image & Route Map 2

There was a subtle change of direction at the Lake House and another just beyond Rushbrooke Woods.

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Lidar Image & Route Map 3

Notice how our road "captures" the A124 coming in from Bury St Edmunds. The modern road from Bury obviously linked to an existing Roman road to get to Long Melford - no point building a new road all the way. Make use of what was still there.

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Lidar Image & Route Map 4

This is where tracing the route gets tricky. The modern road has several wanders off the Roman line. However, there is enough lidar evidence to pin down the Roman route.

Beyond Alpheton and through Bridge Street (next image) then traces are even fainter but the route shown I would consider as reasonably high confidence.

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Oblique Lidar Image - Bridge Street

We are looking north from Bridge Street towards Alpheton. The actual Roman bridge in Bridge Street would appear to have been upstream of the modern bridge and the Roman road to it is much more direct than that of the A124.

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3D lidar

Lidar Image & Route Map 5

The main road through Long Melford is clearly derived from the Roman alignment, perhaps a slight wobble off line in a few places.

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Long Melford Hall

Our road passes the entrance to Long Melford Hall (National Trust).

The Roman road almost certainly continued on south. Its alignment would suggest perhaps a crossing the River Stour at Rob Bridge. Its route beyond there is lost but it appears to be aiming for the straight Roman road through Braintree.

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long melford

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Last update: June 2020

© David Ratledge