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.