Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Beginner’s Guide to the Danes’ Pad (Part One)

Somebody (I forget who for the moment) once said that to copy text from a single book is plagiarism, whereas to copy it from two is research. With that in mind, we’ve gone out of our way to track down original transactions for the following article, talk to various individuals and even dig holes in fields, just to prove that we haven’t lifted everything from Ted Lightbown’s ‘The Danes’ Pad: A Roman Road to Nowhere.’
We did, I must admit, use Mr Lightbown’s excellent (and I’d go so far as to say ‘definitive’) work on this subject for the basis of what’s about to follow, and we can only apologise to him for the rather third rate version we’re presenting here. If you want to study this subject further then we heartily recommend that you track down the aforementioned book (if you haven’t got a copy already, and I’d be surprised if you haven’t because just about everyone I know seems to have one somewhere) and give it a read. Like we say, it is the definitive work on this subject, and, it goes without saying, considerably better than our rubbish.
In the meantime, if you’re content for now with a hastily scribbled, less-scholarly attempt to summarise what is, to put it simply, a complicated subject, then stick with us and we’ll try our best.
Right, where to begin?
The Danes’ Pad is beyond doubt the most disputed of the Fylde and Wyre’s Roman roads…or non-Roman roads as the case might be. Even the placement of its possessive apostrophe is in question. Should it be Danes’ Pad (plural), Dane’s Pad (singular) or just Danes Pad (impersonal, non-possessive and slightly confusing)? Richard Watson, whose opinion we sought out personally a couple of years ago, believed that the whole road was nothing more than a long forgotten storm beach. Others claim it was robbed-out by Victorian road builders for its gravel (although there doesn’t appear to be any documented evidence for this).
Whatever the case, the Danes’ Pad allegedly ran, according to the Victorian antiquarians William Thornber and John Just (not to mention the cartographer’s at the Ordnance Survey, who they somehow managed to convince), from Dowbridge Fort just outside Kirkham, in a northwest arc to Puddle House Farm just south of Poulton.
The following aerial photograph (borrowed from Google Maps…we’re not sure if we’re infringing copyright here, but when Google stops infringing the copyright on our books, we might review the matter) shows the route according to the Ordnance Survey maps in yellow, and our ‘possible route’ beyond Poulton and Dowbridge in red dots. (The yellow bit at Stalmine requires some further explanation, but you’ll have to wait until we get there.)

Where the Danes’ Pad heads beyond Poulton has been the cause of even more heated debate, some optimistic historians claiming that it headed to the mythical Portus Setantiorum at Fleetwood (this was Thornber’s original contention, although he later seemed to change his mind), others insisting that it crossed the Wyre and continued to a Roman fort on Preesall Hill. Others still don’t think it ever existed, but was just the romantic imaginings of a drunken fantasist (possibly several).
Whatever the case, it’s always good to throw the topic into a room of antiquarians who haven’t been supplied with enough beer, and see how long it takes before fists start to fly.
Time for a map (the first of several, no doubt), this one showing the entire route as recorded by the OS.

It might be worth opening this up in a separate window and keeping it open, because we’re going to be using it quite a lot.
Let’s start at the southern end of the road, at Dowbridge, the known, excavated Roman fort. Leaving the west gate of Dowbridge Fort, the Danes’ Pad (allegedly) runs towards…well, here’s what a transaction from the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire written by William Thornber has to say: “In excavating for the new workhouse at Kirkham, traces were found indicative of a road which were noticed by Mr Thompson, clerk to the board of guardians.”
Cunliffe Shaw (author of the fascinating ‘Men of the North’, but that’s a different matter) adds to this when he mentions in ‘Kirkham in Amounderness’ that his father had told him he’d seen the roman road: ‘…exposed during the trenching at the old workhouse grounds. It had a hard gravel surface, was about 25 feet wide, and was curved with cobblestones. A horseshoe, similar to Roman horseshoes, was found in the gravel.’
Ted Lightbown (buy his book -- it’s got a lot more stuff in it than this article, believe me, and it’s better written) mentions that the second workhouse in Kirkham was on the site of the present day health centre at Moore Street.
Our next port of call along the route (heading west at this point) is Ribby Brow, nowadays covered by the circular reservoir that resembles the Teletubbies’ house in the photograph below. (Cheers to Frank Smith, Wyre Archaeology Pilot, incidentally, for supplying said photograph.)

You might be wondering what those lines are that I’ve drawn all over it. Well, the yellow one, or the first half of it at any rate, running from the bottom right hand corner to about the centre of the reservoir, is the route as described by the Ordnance Survey. It changes direction beneath the reservoir itself, apparently, and follows the blue line to the centre top of the photograph.
Hold on, here’s another map (I said there’d be a few of them) just to illustrate what we’re talking about:

Yes, I know that looks a bit manic, but it’s the Victorian Ordnance Survey map overlaid on the Modern Ordnance Survey map (because various bits and pieces of the landscape have changed in the interim) courtesy of Mario Maps run by Lancashire County Council. Hopefully you can see the route of the Roman Road changing direction in the aforementioned location.
Now, I need to explain the continuation of the yellow line on our photograph, don’t I? Well, that’s another conjectured route.
Several years ago, the now sadly late Neil Thompson pointed out to us what appeared to be an agger running northwest from the corner of the field highlighted on Frank’s photograph with a big red arrow. Unfortunately, although true to form, we didn’t have our camera on us at the time. This ‘agger’ followed the alignment of the Danes Pad if said conjectured Roman road continued in a straight line beneath the reservoir from Kirkham…as in our yellow scribble. However, it did not follow the route that William Thornber and John Just claimed. (Did that make sense? I hope it did, because I’m not going to repeat it.)
If anyone happens to be passing that particular corner in the near future, could you possibly take a photograph of the suspected ‘agger’ for us? It’s clearly visible, or at least it was a couple of years ago. Whether or not it’s the Danes’ Pad, of course, remains a matter for conjecture.
That’s enough for one week. Part two to follow in seven days’ time.


Ro said...

Does look like it's followed the beach, is it possible ships were anchored along this stretch for trading?
Or not?
Or the long-lost Singleton Thorpe sung to them, siren-like, with corned beef hash before the sea consumed both the food and the village?

BwcaBrownie said...

That was lovely work Bri, and I hope you are ash-free. It can't be good for laundry, duco, or cats. cheers

Brian Hughes said...

Sorry chaps...been offline for a few days. I'm going to be off for another week as well yet. (Damned recession.) I'm sat in the library at the moment, but the shopping needs to be done (fish for the cats to buy etc) the words of Arnie, I will be back.

John said...

Long time, no hear, Brian. Hope all is well with you and yours. :0)

I remain a faithful reader, whether or not you care to correspond, and as such, must point out to you that none of the images in this post are opening in other windows! I click, but naught happens.

Second, I think I am confused. Didn't you write once about a Dane's pad that was some sort of road of wooden planks placed to traverse a swampy land without getting the shoes wet? I believe you mentioned theories as to it being built by little girls, but you saying that said theory was rubbish because of the length of it.

Also, perhaps you cover this in part two, but how does what has been excavated compare to other Roman roads? I believe your area has Celtic, Saxon, and other roads, and perhaps you can give us a chart as to how to tell such roads apart without carbon dating.

As per the horseshoe, that is promising, but you'd need to see the exact placement in the excavation, correct, to truly judge if the Roman-like horseshoe had anything to do with the road?

As for the above mentioned divergence, would it not have been possible for a road to split and go both ways? More likely, was it not possible that the earlier road was used as part of a later road? I mean, if I were building a road and there was already a road in the way, flat and straight, I would certainly borrow portions of it that were in the way.

And as far as Victorian Gravel Grubbers... well, surely they couldn't have grabbed all the gravel?

It seems like a heck of a lot of investigation is in order to set this matter to rest! I look forward to part II with gusto!

Your old pal JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Sorry...been off-line for a bit and I'm trying to catch up as quickly as possible, so you're only allowed one question for now I'm afraid. The Danes' Pad was (allegedly) a Roman military Road. The wooden track you're thinking of was the Kate's Pad...a prehistoric track way.

Enough...must be off again.