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CHER Number:07970
Type of record:Monument
Name:Worsted Street (Via Devana) Roman road

Summary - not yet available

Grid Reference:TL 549 512
Parish:Fulbourn, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Hildersham, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Linton, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Little Abington, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Babraham, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Balsham, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Stapleford, South Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

  • ROAD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Finds:

  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SHERD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Events:

  • Excavations at Worsted Street, Mount Farm, Fulbourn, 1991 (Ref: FUL MF 91)
  • Monitoring adjacent to the Roman Road, Babraham, 2004 (Ref: BAR ROR 04)
  • Evaluation of land adjacent to Homerton Street, Cambridge, 2001

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument () 1003263: Worstead Street (Via Devana) near Cambridge

Full description

1. The Via Devana (so called by Dr Mason, Woodwardian Professor, 1734 - 1764).

2. Via Devana (Roman Road) GS.

4. Roman Military Way (Camulodunum - Camboritum). It is a singular circumstance that the Roman Military Way passing through the villages of Ridgewell, Birdbrook and ... In the fields between these trees and Red Cross fragments of Roman pottery and bits of bronze have frequently been found along the line of the ridge. On the W side of Hills Road, the road divides into two ways, one going W to Grantchester and the other turning NW. Its ridge was well marked through the Perse School playing fields to the E of Trinity Farm (this has since been leveled in --/03/1910) - OS record unattributed. It crosses the Luard Road into the grounds of Homerton College and on to the railway. The construction of the railway has destroyed all further traces of it. A section of the road was seen at Perse School playing fields; what remains is as follows: 9in of chalk, 3in of gravelly earth and then chalk again all beaten hard; The upper surface of the road had been removed for other purposes. Pieces of Roman pottery, tiles, a silver coin of Severus, and a broken fibula were found here. These are in Perse School Museum. This road was close to the Roman earthwork at the back of the Cattle Market at the beginning of Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge.

6. Via Devana (Worstead Street). A trench was cut across the road on 18/02/1921 to determine whether the road is aligned on the partially leveled vellum of a pre - Roman dyke or not. The point selected for section was 5yds SE of BM 191,8 on OS 6in Sheet Cambs XLVIISE. The trench was cut from the S edge of the crest down to the undisturbed chalk, thence southward and outward for 36ft. There was no ditch on the S side. The chalk rock was reached at a depth of 1 - 1 1/2 ft. Trial holes at three points on the same alignment showed similar results. The ramp was mainly constructed of earth; had it been material from a fosse it must have been composed of chalk rubble. The evidence is therefore conclusive that at this point the road is not on the line of a pre-Ro dyke. Several interesting features illustrating Roman methods of road making were noted during the digging of the section. The vertical section on the S side of the crest is typical. It showed from top to bottom: (a) 1 ft 2in of solid gravel, unmixed with surface soil; (b) 6in of chalk rammed hard; (c) 1ft 4in of earth with an occasional chalk nodule; (d) 4in of chalk and earth intimately mixed and rammed, and (e) chalk rock: The road bearing surface was thus 3ft 4in above the undisturbed chalk. The definite limits of the floor layer (d) (was 3?) suggested we had data for determining the exact width of the Roman lay out. A second section was cut on 20 - 21/02/1921 at a point 130yds SE of BM 156 on OS 6in Sheet Cambs XLVIISE. The construction was identical with the former section; here the width of the floor layer was 36ft.

7. The course of this road from Haverhill to Godmanchester, where it joins Ermine Street, is well known. There is little doubt but that it originated in Colchester (Camulodunum) but the exact trace thence to within a few miles of the borders of Cambridgeshire is conjectural. Christy (1920 p 223) considers that its line can be fixed with fair certainty through the parishes of Birdbrook and Sturmer, and there seems no reason to doubt that Walford's account (1803b, p 68 and map) of its trace in Ridgewell parish in 1801 is correct. Its alignment for 7 miles from the neighbourhood of Chilford Hall to the Gog-Magog Hills (where it is known as Worstead Street) has been suggested that of a pre-Ro dyke, but recent excavation has shown the ramp to be entirely of Roman construction, and has failed to reveal any trace of a filled-in ditch. Further evidences of Roman origin are:(1) Sections made near Horseheath, in the Perse School grounds on Hills Road, Cambridge, and in Godmanchester disclosed typical Roman construction and Roman remains. See RN 07373, 04819, 05146. (2) Two Roman milestones apparently dating from 305 - 353 AD, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, were found by the road nearly 3 miles NW of Cambridge in 1812. See RN 05542 for both. (3) The road is a parish boundary for the greater part of its length, 19 out of 31 miles.(4) Roman cemeteries have been found adjacent to the road near Gravel Hill Farm and Girton, 1 and 2 miles respectively from Cambridge, and a Roman barrow, Emmanuel Knoll, Godmanchester, until recently stood beside it. See also RN 05186, 07902, 05274a, 02478. (5) Names indicative of Roman origin occur on its course: Streetly End and Silver Street near Horseheath, Fen Stanton near Godmanchester. (6) Stukeley (1740) records that here and there a piece of the raised part of the road was left (11) The failure to trace this road from Colchester to Ridgewell and the doubt as to its trace in the neighbourhood of Haverhill may be due to its never having been built in these sectors; the Roman engineers may have utilized a pre-Ro way up the valley of the Colne, reconstructing in places as the names Pool Street and Swan Street suggest. They then, let us suppose, built straight roads in the Roman manner past Ridgewell village across the narrow belt of forest which separates the head of the Colne valley down the basin of the Stour, and from the head of the Stour Valley near Haverhill to the Cam Valley, across the watershed; in these thinly populated areas the pre-Ro communications may have been inadequate or devious. The marked change of direction which this road manifests at spot level 222 on the Gog-Magog Hills has attracted much attention. This may, as Codrington (1918, p194) points out have had no other object than to keep the road on the higher ground between Cherry Hinton and Trumpington Fen, but it is suggestive of a road across the Cam to Grantchester in the first place, before the station on the north of Cambridge was established. This latter hypothesis is here based entirely on the Roman evidence; its probability is greatly increased by the evidence that in pre-Ro times the lowest crossing of the Cam was not at Cambridge, but between two Iron Age settlements at Grantchester and Trumpington. Let us examine the evidence for this supposedly earlier road, which has been traced from the junction at Red Cross to Toft and beyond. The sector at Red Cross - Grantchester is now almost entirely destroyed; evidence of its existence and Roman origin is to be found in Babington (9, pp 43 - 47) and Walker (1910, p 168). A Roman cinerary urn was found on the right bank of the river not far from the ford. (CAS report 39, 1879, p 17). From the earthwork at Grantchester, which is probably Ro, the alignment is preserved by a short sector of the mod road to Coton, then by an ancient track known as Deadman's Way; at the junction of Deadman's Way with Akeman Street was a tumulus almost certainly of Roman origin (p 196). Before enclosure the road existed from Barton through Comberton to Toft, immediately S of their respective churches; thus explaining the situation of these at an unusual distance from their villages. The trace is clearly shown on the 1836 OS map, and there is a tumulus (since destroyed) marked on its alignment near Comberton. The road possibly joined the Ermine Street near Caxton, passing through Bourn, but this is conjectural. Walker regards it as a pre-Ro way, remade in Roman times as far as Toft or Caldecote. I have not been able to trace it beyond Toft; but if the hypothesis which is presented above is correct, it formed, doubtless, a link in the chain of communications from Camulodunum to the Ermine Street, largely native in origin, used by the Romans in years immediately following the Claudian conquest. Pursuing the same line of argument, one may suppose that the development of the Castle Hill area as the chief Roman centre in the district, resulting in the construction of the Red Cross - Cambridge and the Cambridge - Godmanchester roads quickly reduced the more southerly route to the Ermine Street to insignificance.

03, During field investigation and recording no evidence for this Roman road was found (on sheets Suff 72 NW, NE) either in the shape of written authorities, excavation reports, notification of suggestive finds or indicative place names etc. Perambulation of the supposed alignment revealed a rather unlikely course i.e.. along a valley liable to inundation, whilst not half a mile to the N is a very suitable ridge running parallel to the road's supposed alignment. This road may, however, be of the type referred to by R7, i.e.. a Belgic trackway adapted and utilised by the Romans.

8. Also known as "Wool Street". Trenched in 1959 for a distance of 10 1/2 miles. Roman coal found 1/2 mile from Worsted Lodge, imprisoned between chalk below and gravel above. At the Horseheath settlement itself, partial excavation produced 29 Roman coins ranging from Hadrian to end of the Roman occupation. (250 years).

04, Still designated as a highway, this schedule of the Via Devana stretches from the Cambridge to the Fulbourn Road in the N to a point SW of Gunners Hall (?) with a short section of approx. 200m N of Balsham to Hildersham road. The total is some 6km, and it is bisected half way along its length by the A11 trunk road. N of A11 the road is approx. 10m wide with agger well marked. It is fringed by hawthorn for a greater part of its length, with here and there sections of mature trees, some coppiced beech. The surface is mostly gravel and packed clay. However, where the road dips into the valley S of Lodge Farm, the recent heavy rainfall combined with horse, foot and some wheeled traffic has churned the surface of the road into muddy ruts. At this point where the Hawthorne hedge is missing to the N about .. of the width has been reduced by ploughing. Some clearance of scrub and Hawthorne and felling of trees has taken place. To S of A11 the road presents a different aspect. The agger is not so marked and the surface is grassed for most of its length in this section being approx. 12m wide (max). Towards the S end the road is on two levels with a difference of 1 1/2 - 2m in height; here the agger is again visible. A band of scrub runs along between the different levels. There is some animal disturbance. The small section N of Balsham Road shows a steep agger to S being flatter to N. The width is approx. 8m fringed with thick hawthorn with 3m - 4m clear in centre. The surface is grass, muddy in places. The scheduling would seem to be slightly irrational, with some sections not scheduled, when there is no apparent difference in aspect.

10. TL/265-/701- Road metalling and foundations.

11. N of Godmanchester - road embankment. (R7).

12. TL/250-/705- Cambridge Road. Road metalling at 3ft.

13. TL/249-/705- road foundations and metalling.

14. Roman coin, said to be Sestertius of Hadrian (Seaby No 1015) found by metal detector 3 1/2in below surface in centre of road "about 5 miles from Cambridge". (Correspondence filed in Babraham parish file).

15. Gives account of Roman roads in southern East Anglia.

O6, Comments on early work by Professor T McK Hughes (1904) suggesting there was a link between Worts Causeway and War Ditches.

16. The desk based assessment suggests archaeology from the Roman period is most likely to be found on the site, and the original route of the Via Devana, the principal route into Roman Cambridge from the south, may run across the proposed redevelopment area.

17. Excavations were carried out in advance of dueling of the A11 by Worsted Lodge Farm. The Roman road and associated ditches were excavated and construction techniques recorded. Three sections were excavated, one to the east and two to the west of the road. The Roman road and flanking ditches were well-preserved west of the A11, showing the agger comprising pre-Roman soil horizons, a foundation of rammed chalk, and gravel metalling. SE of the A11 no evidence of a Romanised road was found, and no conclusive evidence of ditches. Although no dating evidence was recovered (except for the imprint of a C3rd coin outside the SW ditch) soil samples were collected for palynology, molluscan and micromorphological analysis were taken. Limited fieldwalking and an auger survey traced the course of the road to the SE. Preliminary conclusions suggest that a fully Romanised road existed from Cambridge to Worsted Lodge and that this survives in very good condition. To the SE of Worsted Lodge a trackway may have been partly Romanised, though this is unproven. It may be speculated that the Roman road was intended to link Cambridge to the Roman Road from Great Chesterford to Caistor-by-Norwich, now the A11 trunk road.

19. Worsted Street, known locally simply as the Roman Road, is a well-preserved feature now used as a green way where walkers can appreciate the character of a Roman highway running in a straight line on an agger or low bank flanked wit ditches.The road is part of the route which seems to run in various sections from Chester to Colchester.

<1> Walker, F.G., 1910, Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76, 161, 163 -164 (Article in serial). SCB10071.

<2> 1901-49, OS 6 inch map (Map). SCB8950.

<3> 1903, OS 6 inch map (Map). SCB8952.

<4> Walker, F.G., 1909, Greek coins and Syrian arrowhead dug up in a Roman Cemetery at Godmanchester. PCAS 13: 280-90, p. 280 (Article in serial). SCB15637.

<5> Walker, F.G., 1910, Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76, 163, 164 (Article in serial). SCB10071.

<6> Fox, C., 1923, Excavations in the Cambridgeshire Dykes. I Preliminary Investigation; Excavations at Worsted Street. PCAS 24:21-7 (Article in serial). SCB10466.

<7> Fox, C., 1923, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region, 168 - 170 (Bibliographic reference). SCB1232.

<8> Dewhurst, P.C., 1964, Wool Street, Cambridgeshire. PCAS 56 - 57: 42-60 (Article in serial). SCB10739.

<9> Babington, C.C., 1883, Ancient Cambridgeshire (Bibliographic reference). SCB1323.

<10> Walker, F.G., 1910, Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76, p. 163 (Article in serial). SCB10071.

<11> Untitled Source (Bibliographic reference). SCB14278.

<12> Council for British Archaeology, 1956, CBA Group 7 Bulletin 3 (Serial). SCB2066.

<13> RCHM, 1926, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire, 34 (Bibliographic reference). SCB12619.

<14> Bryan Perryman, 08/01/1978, Letter (Verbal communication). SCB2517.

<15> 1986, Haverhill and District Archaeology Group Journal 4, p. 2 (Article in serial). SCB6272.

<16> Dickens, A., 1999, Land around Homerton Street, Cambridge: an archaeological desktop assessment (TL 460 567) (Unpublished report). SCB17074.

<17> Wait, G.A., 1992, Worsted Street, Roman Road, Mount Farm, Fulbourn - An Interim Report (Unpublished report). SCB18346.

<18> Bailey, G.D., 2004, Archaeological monitoring adjacent to Roman Road, Babraham, Cambridgeshire (Unpublished report). SCB19439.

<19> Taylor, A., 1998, Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol.2: South East Cambridgeshire and the Fen Edge, p. 13 (Bibliographic reference). SCB21794.

Sources and further reading

<1>Article in serial: Walker, F.G.. 1910. Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76. 161, 163 -164.
<2>Map: 1901-49. OS 6 inch map.
<3>Map: 1903. OS 6 inch map.
<4>Article in serial: Walker, F.G.. 1909. Greek coins and Syrian arrowhead dug up in a Roman Cemetery at Godmanchester. PCAS 13: 280-90. p. 280.
<5>Article in serial: Walker, F.G.. 1910. Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76. 163, 164.
<6>Article in serial: Fox, C.. 1923. Excavations in the Cambridgeshire Dykes. I Preliminary Investigation; Excavations at Worsted Street. PCAS 24:21-7.
<7>Bibliographic reference: Fox, C.. 1923. The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region. 168 - 170.
<8>Article in serial: Dewhurst, P.C.. 1964. Wool Street, Cambridgeshire. PCAS 56 - 57: 42-60.
<9>Bibliographic reference: Babington, C.C.. 1883. Ancient Cambridgeshire.
<10>Article in serial: Walker, F.G.. 1910. Roman Roads into Cambridge. PCAS 14: 141-76. p. 163.
<11>Bibliographic reference:
<12>Serial: Council for British Archaeology. 1956. CBA Group 7 Bulletin 3.
<13>Bibliographic reference: RCHM. 1926. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. 34.
<14>Verbal communication: Bryan Perryman. 08/01/1978. Letter.
<15>Article in serial: 1986. Haverhill and District Archaeology Group Journal 4. p. 2.
<16>Unpublished report: Dickens, A.. 1999. Land around Homerton Street, Cambridge: an archaeological desktop assessment (TL 460 567).
<17>Unpublished report: Wait, G.A.. 1992. Worsted Street, Roman Road, Mount Farm, Fulbourn - An Interim Report.
<18>Unpublished report: Bailey, G.D.. 2004. Archaeological monitoring adjacent to Roman Road, Babraham, Cambridgeshire.
<19>Bibliographic reference: Taylor, A.. 1998. Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, Vol.2: South East Cambridgeshire and the Fen Edge. p. 13.