Going back to Ted Lightbown’s ‘The Danes’ Pad: Roman Road to Nowhere’, in the early 1970s Manchester University’s Department of Archaeology were responsible for: “…two trenches…cut across the alignment at grid references SD 377 342. This showed that the line of the road lay some 30 metres to the west of that suggested on the Ordnance Survey maps. In both sections the actual road surface had been heavily damaged by modern ploughing, as the core of the road lay only 25 centimetres below the top soil. However, the existence of the road was shown by the presence of a clay platform some 5.2 metres wide by 25 to 30 cm thick, resting on the natural dark brown clay.”
The road terminated in a pair of one metre wide ditches.
Is everybody following this? Probably not, but let’s have another map half-inched from Lancashire County Council, showing the general area.
Right…anybody spot the real problem with the 1970s excavation site, yet? If you look closely you might be able to see that the dig was carried out worryingly close to (if not directly over) a now-missing farm track. A few hundred feet either way along our yellow line might have discovered something less contentious…or possibly not.
Whatever, let’s move on.
Next stop, Weeton, where William Thornber suggests (or rather ‘suggested’, because he’s been dead for absolutely ages now) that the Danes’ Pad is/was in a ‘cop’. We’re not sure what a cop is/was either. It was possibly an earthen bank, possibly a copse, possibly a policeman who was unaware that a Roman road was passing through him -- Thornber tends to be vague at the best of times. This ‘cop’ lay in a hollow before the rise of the hill to Thomas Jolly’s house, which would, no doubt, have been invaluable information if Thornber had actually bothered to tell us where Thomas Jolly’s house was located. Unfortunately, nowadays, nobody knows where it was, other than: “…we here, crossing the highway to Mythop and the valley, have a sight of the highest ridge on the whole line, indeed so large and bulky as well worthy of the skill of a railway contractor.”
Still not exactly enlightening, although Thornber adds: “I have before me an amulet which was dug out from the base of this agger so near that it might have been dropped into the water by some marching soldier.”
Other artefacts presumably found in this area also mentioned by our less-than-precise antiquarian are “…a heavy brass celt without a loop and two small thin iron shoes without a slut.”
Er…yes…we wondered about that as well. Presumably ‘a slut’ refers to the lip of upturned iron on the horseshoe’s edge that helps secure it to the hoof.
Thornber supplies us with a drawing of said artefacts. (Pity he couldn’t have supplied us with a map of Thomas Jolly’s house, really, but you can’t have everything.) This is his illustration:
Exactly what made him think these were Roman artefacts, rather than from any other period, I’m not quite sure, but let’s move on…we’ve got a long journey ahead of us yet.
Now then, Mythop where the following 1960s photograph clearly shows a dark line running across the fields, which many have taken to be the Danes’ Pad. It’s on the right alignment, but again…is it proof? (I’m not sure what I’m asking you lot for. I personally don’t have an opinion either way.)
In 1984 the Blackpool & Fylde Historical Society obtained permission from the farmer at Mythop Hall to examine his land. (Ted Lightbown furnishes us with the following grid reference: SD 372 349, on the off chance that you want to double check.) The society excavated a small ridge that followed the line of the Danes’ Pad on the map.
The diagrams don’t, to be honest, look much like a roman road to me. In fact, by this point the evidence ‘against’ the Danes’ Pad is seriously starting to stack up, I reckon. None-the-less, we’ve borrowed these from Ted Lightbown’s book to illustrate the point:
Exactly why the Blackpool and Fylde Historical Society didn’t place a trench across the edge of the feature to ascertain if a ditch surrounded it, I couldn’t say. Roman roads always have ‘V’ shaped ditches, and the discovery of one (preferably two) might have provided the excavators with the evidence they required. Even so, the cross sections illustrated above have about as much resemblance to a Roman agger as Pablo Picasso does to one of his self-portraits.
A lack of evidence, of course, can’t be taken as evidence in its own right, but the case in favour of the Danes’ Pad appears to be crumbling fast.
Which is where we’re going to leave matters for another seven days.