Now that we’re beyond Poulton (to the north) it’s time to write about the speculated routes heading towards Fleetwood and/or Preesall.
William Thornber, whose transaction we’ve relied on quite heavily through the previous three sections, reckoned this: “I rather fancy that the agger ran past Poulton on to the Town-fields near Little Poulton Hall, having only a branch to Poulton Hill. On the high ground of the Town-fields there is a track of an ancient road, which evidently was gravelled over the low lands, and this road leads by a curious cut through the banks of the Wyre to the Shard, or as anciently written, Aldwath, or the old Ford, so denominated before 1300.”
Aldwath (it’s Norse, and it mean, as Thornber correctly states, the Old Ford, which suggests that it was old when the Vikings turned up) is interesting. The cuttings are clearly Roman (or at least Romanesque) and appear to be linked to the Celtic settlement at the nearby Gymkhana field at Skippool by a road (probably the Danes’ Pad, but that’s not for me to say).
An aerial photograph (which we’ve misplaced and can’t unfortunately find again) clearly showed said buried road running from said gymkhana field (where Bronze Age, Iron Age and – albeit alleged – Roman finds have all turned up in the past) to said cuttings.
Regardless of Thornber’s assertion, however, he then continues to claim that the Danes’ Pad actually ran along the west bank of the Wyre to the Bergerode, marked on old maps, between Bourne Hall and Stanah.
(It might be an idea if you’re trying to follow this to check the map we posted at the end of last week…unless we’ve been told by the authorities to take it down again, of course, in which case you’ll just have to make do.)
Let’s take a step backwards.
In ‘The History of St Chad’s Church’ J. Scott Ashton mentions that: “At one time the (Poulton) churchyard was partly surrounded by a ditch.” This ditch might (and it’s a BIG might, but let’s continue) have surrounded a Roman camp/fortlet. Two copper coins of Hadrian and a large medal of Germanicus were discovered nearby at the back of Poulton market place and, according to Ted Lightbown’s ‘The Danes’ Pad: Roman Road to Nowhere’, in the 1970s, Alan McLerie traced the course of a cobbled track running across Poulton golf links. At the Civic Centre it continued across the Breck, passing through the ground once occupied by the railway station.
In September 1852 at the railway station on the Breck a Domitian coin was unearthed.
If you did what I suggested a few moments ago and double-checked the map supplied at the end of last week, you’ll probably have realised by now that none of this has any connection with Thornber’s suggested route via Stanah to the Bergerode.
However, after disappearing under the golf course, this particular road reappears at Tarn Gate Farm in Thornton, where an agger (and it is there because I’ve seen it) can be seen running towards Amounderness Way.
Jim Plummer also claimed to have found the road beneath the golf course using a probe. What neither historian seemed to realise, however, was that this track was originally known as Ardelles.
Let’s have a quote from the ‘Gazette & Herald’ of 1950: “In Tarn-road, Thornton a signpost says ‘Links Gate – footpath to Poulton’ thus giving a modern title to a path old folk call ‘Ardelles’. Our ‘Town Clerk’ for 26 years, Mr. Bowman called his home ‘Ardelles’ and, before it was built, an application was made to Quarter Sessions to get the footpath diverted so that the present approach could be made. Previously the path reached Tarn-road through Tarn Gate Farm, a couple of hundred yards nearer the railway.”
In fact, Ardelles’ name, despite sounding French, is more likely to have originated from a couple of fields marked on the tithe maps as lying beneath the southern end of the golf course through which the road ran. These fields were named respectively ‘Little Hard Hill’ and ‘Rough Hard Hill’. See, Ard’ill…Ardelle? Obvious when you know, isn’t it?
All matters considered, as old and buried as this particular road might have been when it was investigated, it’s unlikely to have been the Danes Pad…although that’s just a personal opin ion, I should add, and I could be completely wrong.
Let’s go back to Thornber’s preferred route, of Stanah to Bourne. And because I’ve gone for way to long without a break, let’s have a picture:
That’s Town End Farm, that is…or rather was, because it’s gone…and it’s actually a drawing, of course. Ken Emery gave me a photograph of the place a few years ago, from which the drawing was copied, but then I lost said photograph so, for the time being, this’ll have to do. Whatever the case, in 1935 at Town End Farm (er…see above) a cobbled track measuring roughly ten feet in width was unearthed.
A number of people have taken this to be part of the Danes’ Pad. (I can’t help thinking it must have shrunk a bit from when Thornber measured the Mythop end of the road at twenty yards across.)
Anyhow, Town End Farm originally stood just south of West Drive. Back in the 1990s Ken Emery interviewed Mrs Marjorie Lang: "…a charming nonagenarian whose family used to live at Town End 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.”
In 2005 at Bourne Hill itself, Wyre Archaeology unearthed an Iron Age track constructed from split, water-washed pebbles, measuring roughly eight feet in width and banked on either side by bright orange clay.
Ted Lightbown’s book also informs us that: “In the orchard at Bourne Hall…Walsh claimed to have uncovered what was taken to be a Roman road. It comprised large cobbles or setts “such as were usually used in the construction of roads at the time.””
It doesn’t take a massive leap of the imagination to suggest that all three of these roads are actually different sections of the same one. None of them, therefore, would be, strictly speaking, Roman. At best they’re Romano/British, part of the Celtic route running from Bourne to Nateby. Once again, the Danes’ Pad appears to have reached a dead end.
Let’s take a step backwards again.
Working on the assumption that the Danes’ Pad, instead of heading north along the Fleetwood peninsula, crossed the Wyre at either Aldwath or Bulker (possibly both if Gary Thornton’s discovery of a Roman coin behind Skippool Yacht Club indicates that there was a road to the cuttings on either side of the creek) it would then have continued along the east bank, following High Gate Lane to Preesall. Thornber believed there to be traces of a Roman fort on the top of Preesall Hill.
Hold on a minute…let’s have a photograph of Gary’s coin just for the record shall we? (It also helps to break up this increasingly long-winded monologue.)
In 2005 the now late Brian Pinney showed us a fragment of soft chalky pottery discovered in his garden at the base of Preesall Hill. Naturally we had it independently identified just to confirm ourselves, which, of course, it did. It was part of a Roman military mortarium. Whether there was a Roman fort or not on the top of the hill, the Roman army had certainly been active in the area.
All of which brings us to the summer of 2008, when Wyre Archaeology excavated a suspected agger running alongside (although not quite parallel to) High Gate Lane at the rear of Stalmine.
There’s the agger below, look. Admittedly on the photograph it looks more sunken than raised, but that’s an optical illusion cause by the shadows. (The photograph incidentally was taken by Ivan Carey from Frank Smith’s plane.)
The agger itself (once opened) was found to be covered with a smattering of stones. The original surface, presumably, had been recycled in the nearby (relatively) modern road. The discovery of the ‘V’ shaped ditch running alongside the agger confirmed it as being Roman.
Again, just for the record, here’s our cross section of said agger and ditch:
Admittedly we only had time to cut across part of the road and one of the ditches, but there was clearly another ditch on the opposite side of the agger as evidenced by a darker line of grass running parallel to the first.
David Ratledge of the Historic Highways Department was with us for the excavation, and he seemed convinced by what we’d unearthed. In fact, he went so far as to say that this was probably the only genuine Roman military road, as far as he was concerned, that had been found in the Fylde and Wyre beyond the Dowbridge to Preston route.
The question is, was it the north end of the Danes’ Pad?
And the answer? I couldn’t honestly say…although roads always have a tendency to lead somewhere, and you can’t help wondering where this particular highway was heading to the south.
But enough! We’re all exhausted now. One last photograph of the male contingent of the Wyre Archaeology excavation quad for your own quiet perusal. I’m off for a brew.
From right to left: Ed Shone, Dave Hammond, Gary Thornton, David Ratledge, Dave Hampson, Ken Emery, Chris Clayton (in the hole), Colin Bliss and, not forgetting yours truly, of course…