Akeman Street Roman Road from Cambridge to Ely (and Littleport?)

Margary Number: 23b

Distance: 20 miles (to Littleport)

Confusingly there are two Akeman Street Roman roads - this one is in Cambridgeshire.

Cambridgeshire Akeman Street runs from Arrington Bridge, Wimpole on Ermine Street heading northeast to Cambridge and on via Ely to the Fens. This web page covers the section from Cambridge to Ely and probably onwards to Littleport.

Its connection further on to Denver is long suggested but there is no surviving visible evidence supporting this. It would have needed a built-up causeway as beyond Littleport there is no connecting high ground to follow.




Historic Counties: Cambridgeshire

Current Counties:Cambridgeshire

HER: Cambridgeshire


RR map

mini map

Lidar Image - Full Route

The route as far as Ely is fairly certain but the course on to Littleport a little speculative. The latter seems logical as that could, as its name suggests, have been a port (in Roman times) out to sea.

A road connection on to Denver appears unlikely as from Littleport north there is no high ground or a suitable rodden to keep a dry line.

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full route

Oblique 3D Lidar Image - looking north

Very much island hopping and sticking to high ground wherever possible. Ely of course was known as Isle of Ely and you can see why.

The Roman Lark Canal heads to a very nearby location (Prickwillow) so perhaps there was a Roman port at Littleport.


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3D lidar

Lidar Image and Route Map 1

Probably left the north-east gate of Cambridge Roman town although the first section is not recorded.

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Akeman Street passing Punch Farm, Landbeach

Unmistakebly Roman! Wide and straight passing Punch Farm and the name plate with Akeman Street on it confirms it.

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Oblique 3D Lidar Image - Passing Waterbeach

Very obvious and very direct once the road has left Cambridge. Passing Waterbeach the road would have crossed the Car Dyke.


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3D lidar

Lidar Image and Route Map 2

The old River Great Ouse was the primary obstacle on this stretch and the Roman line was probably more direct than the modern A10.

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Approach to Stretham- Lidar and historic aerial photographs

The Roman line is in the fields east of the A10 approaching Stretham The old road to Sretham Bridge Ferry on the River Great Ouse marks the line and aerial photos and lidar show the line to Stretham village.

Aerial photo - montage of GoogleEarth historicc aerials.

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Oblique Lidar Image & OS First Edition Map - Grunty Fen

Both the OS route and Margary's route cross Grundy Fen whereas the modern road follows higher ground. Grundy Fen has clearly been drained in more modern times with catchwater cutoff drains north and south. Before these drains then the Fen would surely have been too wet for the Romans. The catchwater drains wouldn't have been cut unless they were needed.

In addition the OS and Margary routes don't align further casting doubt on any route taking that course. The route followed by the modern A10 is surely more likely to be the Roman line. Longer yes but certainly drier..

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3D lidar

Lidar Image and Route Map 3

This is the plan view of the above. The A10 must be favourite..

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Lidar Image and Route Map 4 - Ely

Two options across Ely. The one followed by the modern road is on higher ground so is perhaps the more likely.

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Lidar Image and Route Map 5 - Littleport

The suggested route shown to Littleport is just that - suggested. Littleport was the last dry ground heading north - well at least until the Fends were drained - so could well have been a Roman port too.

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Oblique 3D Lidar Image - Littleport to Denver

Denver looks tantalisingly close but probably well out of reach. Unlike the Fen Causeway there is no old river roddon on which to build a road. Equally Hockwold also doesn't look within reach.

Surely from Littleport onwards it would have been boat traffic only.

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3D lidar

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Last update: January 2024

© David Ratledge