Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Ancient Road over Stanah Hill

We often receive emails here at the Fylde and Wyre Antiquarian. Believe it or not, they’re not all abusive and/or trying to sell us something. Herbal Viagra’s a popular bit of spam. Septic tanks, for some reason, is another. Exactly what this says about how the advertisers view us, I wouldn’t like to speculate. Occasionally, however, we receive an email from a decent, intelligent person, making enquiries and/or observations on earthworks and other stuff that they might have noticed around the district.
The most frequently asked about of these is the road over Stanah Hill. (I don’t know why this is the case. But it is.)
Now, with other enquiries such as those concerning Singleton Thorpe or Kilgrimol or what have you, I usually just point the said inquirer in the direction of some previous article we’ve written. It saves a lot of wear and tear on the wrists because I don’t have to respond with a lengthy email. When it comes to Stanah Hill, however, try as I might, I can’t find a previous article about the subject anywhere on this board. There probably is one, stuck away amongst the mulch of by-gone postings, mouldering quietly in the electronic bowels of the Internet, but if there is, I’ve lost track of it.
So, with that in mind, here are a few facts and stuff about the road crossing Stanah Hill…mainly for the benefit of future inquirers.
This is the top of Stanah Hill, looking east towards the River Wyre:

If you look closely you should be able to make out the aforementioned grass-covered road running parallel to the fence and disappearing into the mediaeval hedge.
Back in Victorian Times this road (now a public footpath) led from Underbank Road, over the hilltop and down to Cockle Hall ferry, which, if you were that way inclined, would then transport you across the river to Wardleys.
But the road itself is, as you’ve probably gathered, considerably more ancient than that.

Here’s the other end of it at Nateby, being dug by the Pilling Historic Society back in 1995.

Study the photograph carefully and you’ll see that it’s the same size, same agger and ditch system, same everything really.
Our old (now sadly departed) friend Neil Thompson traced the road, way back when, using a probe, following it all the way from behind the school in Nateby, via Hambleton, down to the pub at Wardleys, where originally it crossed the river to Stanah by a ford (long before the ferry set up its little trade) and continued over the top of Stanah Hill.
At the Nateby end, in 2003, two denarii, a silver ‘Tiberius’ and a bronze ‘Claudius’, were discovered lying on the split-pebbled surface, confirming that the track was around during the Roman occupation.

Heading northwest from Stanah Hill we can follow our ancient road in the direction of Bourne Hill (and our equally ancient Iron Age Romano/British settlement there).

Before we do that, however, let’s have a map.

Yes, I know that we’ve missed out the bit where the road meets the riverbank. That’s because we’ve borrowed the map from our ‘History of the Wyre (from Harold the Elk to Cardinal Allen)’ and adapted it slightly for use in this article. In fact, if you’d bought a copy of the aforementioned book already, you’d have read about this road before and wouldn’t be enquiring about it now…so there you go.
Anyhow, the agger is clearly visible curving northwest alongside what was the old Saxon village green at Stanah, before it disappears under Stanah Road and the modern housing estate on the other side, where this rather suspicious looking old gatepost marks its route.

We’re not actually saying that this stone is ancient. It might well be. It might well not be. It’s just a bit odd, that’s all.
From this point onwards our ancient road becomes a bit trickier to follow, disappearing as it does beneath the sprawl of modern day Thornton. However, we’re not ones to give up easily, and using an eclectic blend of supposition, old boundary/road markers, decrepit maps and a great deal of guesswork, we’ve managed to produce the following map:

There goes our ancient highway, look, possibly detouring towards Castle Hill at some point, veering sharply between Trunnah and Holmes through Townend Farm, and up past…what? Townend Farm -- on West Drive! What do you mean, why do we reckon it ran that way? Here’s what Ken Emery, Wyre Archaeology secretary and historian extraordinaire, told us. Back in the 1990s Ken interviewed Mrs Marjorie Lang: ‘…a charming nonagenarian whose family used to live at Townend Farm. She recalled, as a young woman, a slight depression roughly ten feet wide running northwards in a straight line from the farm towards the western flank of Bourne Hall hill.”
And back in 1935 (sticking with Townend Farm for the moment, of course) a cobbled track was actually unearthed by the farmer, presumably in the same place as the depression.
Right…can we continue?

Next up then we have the Stanifurlong fields (at least, that’s what they’re called on the old tithe maps), Stanifurlong being in the ancient tongue a furlong full of stones (stanis…see?), which, all matters considered, suggests that our cobbled track continued along this route.

Finally, we reach Bourne Hill, where in 2005 we found this:

All right, it might not look like much, but that’s a fire-split cobbled track, that is, looping around (and presumably into at some point) our Romano/British Iron Age settlement.
Returning to Stanah Hill, taking into consideration the exceptional view from the summit and the fact that the road runs right across it, you’d expect to find an Iron Age settlement, Romano custom’s house or, at the very least, some sort of ancient watchtower perched on it somewhere.
To date, however, nobody’s found anything.

Then again, nobody’s ever dug it.

Who knows what might yet come to light? Not me, that’s for certain, and because this article’s gone for far too long, I’m going to bring it to an end.


Melanie said...

I've often wondered about Stanah Hill and might just have contacted you about it. Thanks for the info.

Brian Hughes said...


There you go...a serendipitous, pre-emptive posting. I'm getting good at this.

Andrew said...

I recall you writing about Stanah Hill. Buried in the muck I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...interesting. I like the hill - it lends that nice atmosphere I infrequently mention.

John said...

Get digging! How can you sit there, not knowing? Go, go, go... and report back to the flock!

Please? JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I strongly suspect this to be the case.


It's a good spot for magic mushrooms, I know that.


Not my land I'm afraid. But, if we ever get five minutes of spare time, I might contact the current owners and ask for permission.

Jayne said...

Stanah Hill rings a bell with me, too.
From what I've learned watching TT those high hills provided the best look outs to survey surrounding lands/tribes/invaders/etc.,with the Romans "acquiring" them for their own purposes so...get begging with the current owners and get digging!

OT -That monster church they unearthed on TT a few years back, Syon Abbey, was a whopper at 400ft long!
Has much else been done on the site since TT dug around in 2003?

Anonymous said...

First hand experience then eh Brian?

Ozfemme said...

"Before we do that, however, let’s have a map."

Oh, I thought you said "nap".

So I did.

Un petite sleep was had by moi.

I'll be back when I've ingested the rest.

Brian Hughes said...


"Has much else been done on the site since TT dug around in 2003?"

I haven't got a clue. TT haven't been in touch to tell me. I reckon Mick Aston's fallen out with me ever since I criticised his taste in sweaters.


Me? Never! I just remember an old hippy up there a few years ago pushing a battered old pram filled to bursting point with the chemical-infused fungi.


I did originally write nap. Most of the article was written in a semi-comotosed state.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like modern-day Collingwood, Brian.

Brian Hughes said...

Sounds excellent, Reuben. To those into their mushroom omelettes, it'd be a bit like Toontown off Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I suspect.

Jayne said...

Ooo er bar goom, ar'm rather impressed wi' t' tide mill they dug oop at Greenwich, ar am!

WV = wolly
It is indeed!

Brian Hughes said...

Greenwich...never heard of the place.

Jayne said...

As the previous link failed here's another
and another

Brian Hughes said...

I wondered where our waterwheel at Grange Farm had got to. Those theivin' cockneys have obviously had away with it.

Jayne said...

I did wonder about them shifting all that muck about in the night but they had permits and flashy lights....

Brian Hughes said...

Or so they reckoned...