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.Wansdyke Project 21
is part of
Vortigern Studies

VORTIGERN STUDIES

 
 

Wansdyke from West to East
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'Mid' Wansdyke 6
Robert Vermaat

old maps
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maps of
Section 6


Section 6:
From the river Avon to Morgan's Hill
Wiltshire
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  click here for directions to Section 6

If East and West Wansdyke, whch I believe, formed one part, there should be traces of it reaching the east back of the river Avon south of Lacock. However, no immediate traces can be found. Dominating this stretch of the Avon south of Chippenham is the western edge of the Marlborough Downs, especially Bowden Hill, which can be seen from as far away as the Cotswolds. It seems inexplicable that the builders of Wansdyke, even though they may have been building only East Wansdyke, did not make use of this point. The problem is, we do not know if they did or not. Even the Roman Road, which rises from the floodplain and climbs the flank of Bowden Hill, disappears completely when it reaches Spye Park.

Only in the middle of the Park, traces of the agger of the road are found and were excavated by Anthony Clark over the course of 4 years before 1958, but revealed no trace of a revealing defensive ditch. This points to a conclusion that either Wansdyke did not exist here, or that it used the agger of the Roman Road as it may have done from Bath to here. Another speculative solution would be that it should be looked for between the hillfort at Naish Hill Farm and Verlucio/Sandy Lane, which was a not unimportant station on the London-Bath road during Roman times. A minor road still runs between the hillfort and the village, though no-one has yet come up with any report of a bank or ditch, only with failures to find any trace. I fear therefore that we should rule out the option of the existance of Wansdyke here, and accept either the use of the Roman Road as a demarcation line, or the complete discontinuation of Wansdyke on the stretch between the Avon and Morgan's Hill. May the reader choose wisely.

From the Avon through Spye Park.

Line of Roman Road (and Wansdyke?) across Spye Park, 1926.On, then, with the description of the Roman Road through Spye Park. The Roman Road, when crossing the river Avon, first comes across an earthwork, which may have been a Roman toll or a ferry-station. The agger can be seen here for a short distance as well, before vanishing again as it climbs the flank of Bowden Hill. Here, even the track of the Roman Road has been lost, and the steep flank and deep valleys must have presented the Roman engineers with no few problems. East of Spye Park House, we can see the agger again, where the road makes a sharp turn through one of those valleys. West of Wans House, the straight track of the Roman Road is formed by a large bank, as can be seen from the 1926 drawing (click here to enlarge). The Roman Road suddenly turns southeast after crossing the A 342 at Wans House, and back east at Bell Farm, but has again been lost from sight from that point on.

Roman Road looking towards Morgan's Hill north of Heddington Wick, 1926.The Roman Road, visible in 1926 as a low bank but now marked by a fence, runs dead east, while slowly climbing the Downs. South of the village of Stockley, the road is seen again as it emerges from Harley Farm. The drawing shows the Roman Road looking towards Morgan's Hill north of Heddington Wick, as drawn in 1926 (click here to enlarge). Even more is visible directly east of the Quemerford – Bishops Cannings road at Smallgrain Plantation, where the Roman Road climbs the flank of Morgan’s Hill. This part is one of the best sections of the Roman road, and the only which can be walked. Here the bank and ditch assume very imposing proportions, until after 1.5 miles, Wansdyke and the Roman Roman finally part ways. The Roman road will keep to the Kennet valley, while Wansdyke keeps to the hills. From that point, Wansdyke reaches its most impressive heights, while finding its own winding way again across the great open Marlborough Downs.

Directions to Section 6 can be found here.

Follow Wansdyke further through Section 7.

Bibliography

  • Burrow, Edward J. (1926): Wansdyke and the Roman Road, in: Major and Burrow: The Mystery of Wansdyke, pp. 79-91.*
  • Clark, Anthony (1958): The Nature of Wansdyke, in: Antiquity 32, pp. 89-97.*
  • Crawford, O.G.S. (1960): Archaeology in the Field, (London).*
  • Fox, Cyril and A. Fox (1958): Wansdyke reconsidered, in: Archaeological Journal 115, pp. 1-48.*

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