Recent geophysics fieldwork carried out by BAS volunteers at the Wormstall Estate near Wickham in 2021 failed to find any evidence of the Roman Road to Bath (Margary 53) along the road’s projected route (Toller 2013) close to the supposed location of its intersection with Ermin Street. This result suggests that either the remains of the Roman road have been completely lost, or that the road to Bath followed a different route towards Ermin Street from its last known surviving remains on Radley Farm.
A second BAS fieldwork project at Radley Farm which revealed new evidence suggesting that the earthworks visible in Stibbs Wood and Three Gate Copse are indeed the remains of the Roman road to Bath, and to demonstrated that the remains of the road between these two points could be located using modern geophysics survey methods across the intervening agricultural landscape. The Geophysics on the Sutton Estate project aimed to undertake a further series of geophysics surveys following the alignment of the earthworks visible in Three Gate Copse heading towards Wickham and Ermin Street to determine if further remains of the Roman Road to Bath could be revealed.
Given the uncertainly of the route taken, even though only 2km from Ermin Steet, the arc of possible routes of the Roman Road to Bath amounted to an area of >100ha which was not feasible to survey in its entirety. Although feint linear anomalies could be observed in various orientations and locations in this search area using satellite, aerial and LiDAR images, none were definitive, so work started in early September in 2022 to undertake the first North-South traverses across the areas of interest with the gradiometer to see if evidence of the Roman Road could be observed. Unfortunately the area immediately to the east of Three Gate Copse where the road’s earthworks are still visible showed no anomalies associated with the road as shown in figure 2.
Surveys in the large field further to the east were more productive, where a 130m long linear anomaly was observed at the extreme east of the field leaving New Copse on Church Hill as can be seen in figure 3. This linear anomaly lies to the north of a longer highly magnetic linear anomaly, which was one of several observed across the survey area and were interpreted as possible utility modern day service lines. No other anomalies were observed that were suggestive of the remains of the Roman Road.
The enlarged view of the 130m linear anomaly as revealed by the gradiometer is shown in the top-right insert on figure 3. This anomaly is shown again in the bottom-right insert on figure 3 in yellow box highlighting the earth resistance image of this anomaly, which shows a wide high resistance linear anomaly slightly to the south of the gradiometer anomaly. The high resistance linear anomaly is estimated to be 10m-12m wide whereas the agger of the Roman Road in Three Gate Copse is 8m wide, however this is interpreted as possible being due to the modern service utility trench having been dug along the southern ditch of the Roman Road destroying the southerly remains of the Roman road and creating an extended area of high resistance with infill of the service utility trench.
Whilst this is not conclusive proof of the route of the Roman Road, it does suggest that it is likely that the Roman Road to Bath took a more northerly route from Three Gate Copse to Wickham than previously thought, and may have intersected Ermin Street close to the centre of modern day Wickham Village close to where the 10th century AD St Swithun’s Church is situated. Further work will be required to compare the cross section of the 130m linear anomaly with records of a section excavated through the Roman Road to Bath in 1968 in order to assess if this is indeed the surviving remains of this part of the Roman Road.
Given the wide area to be surveyed on this project in just over 3 weeks, the BAS project team demonstrated a high level of proficiency in geophysics surveying. Thanks go Martin Labram, Nigel Spencer, Tony Bakker, Philip Rawstron, Jean Curran, Tony Fenton, James Peddle, Jill Oseman, James Allen, Geoff Anderson, Tim Lloyd, Margaret Boltwood, Rod Sharp, Peter Clifford and Harry Johnson for their support in undertaking this project.
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