Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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

Heading northwest from Ribby Brow we reach Great Plumpton, or thereabouts, where (according to William Thornber’s ‘Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society’ transaction dated to 1851 again), on July 20th 1820, a cooper coin of Vespasian was dug up…or at least, one was dug up nearby…which proves nothing really, but it was probably worth a mention.
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.


Andrew said...

'Roman roads always have ‘V’ shaped ditches'. Drainage ditches either side of the road? Sharp V?

Ro said...

I thought they were more of a U shape, W when they were being doubly sure and an upturned C design when they wanted to lead future archaeologists astray :P

John said...

I think we're still missing a bit at this point, so I will avoid conjecture. An interesting story, though... at least to Historians and others interested in such things, of course.

In part one you say that some deny the existence of the road. Are you saying that some believe that no road at all exists, contrary to a lot of evidence that one did, or are they denying that it is Roman in origin?

It looks to me that the issue could be settled quickly by finding a virgin patch of road and having some proper archeology done, looking for V shapes and anything else.

A road was there, certainly, possibly more than one. Someone needs to now determine how long ago, and why. From what you've told us about the Romans and the Wyre in general, roads were important. Thinking about how long it takes to get around the UK today, I can imagine how important roads were in a time when horses where all the rage, or when marching was in vogue.

Honestly, I feel like you're leaving us hanging! Next post, please!

You old buddy JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


They were for defensive purposes rather than drainage. For some reason they also used to buried people in 'em.


You're thinking of toilet pipes.


Yes...there are some people who don't believe it ever existed, despite the evidence. And yes, a proper archaeological dig could settle the matter. The problem is, farmers don't like people digging up their crops and negotiations are difficult to say the least.

Jayne said...

Yes, the thing about burying people in them intrigues me. Goodness knows they won't let me revive the practice in these parts despite the fact some neighbours are determined to throw themselves into the gutter regardless that they're still breathing...

John said...

I visited the museum in St. Albans once, and it seems like every time they go to do roadwork there, they find a mess of lead coffins from Roman days.

Any idea why they used lead? Afraid Superman was peeping on Olde Aunty's remains or something?

Lead coffins dug up now always resemble a bit of rumpled tin foil because they just don't keep their shape. Odd....

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne and John,

I suspect they slung 'em into ditches rather than have to put up with the witty banter of grave diggers. (I've read Hamlet and that grave digger's about as funny as Giles Brandreth guest appearing on Play School.)

As for the lead coffins, there were probably a lot of churches with leaky roofs about in those days.

michael stack said...

Back in 92, 93,I Was doing some plastering in the church at one of the Plumptons(great i think),and noticed the font was a converted roman alter,I pionted this out to the vicer and he said it had come from a nearby in victorian times.In about 2003 I saw a photo in some local historical book,hope this helps,and check it out!!. Mick.

Anonymous said...

I wish Michael Stack gave the name of the church he saw this converted Roman Altar in. I don't think there is a church at Little or Great Plumpton so am i correct in thinking it must be either in St. Michaels church at Weeton or St.Annes RC Church at nearby Westby Mills?

Brian Hughes said...

I suspect the church is Lund church, near Warton.