The Roman Road from Kirkby Thore to Old Penrith, Margary 82aa

The suggestion of a direct route to Old Penrith is not new. The Antonine Itinerary II omits the fort at Brougham and the distance it quotes matches a direct road. In addition, the discovery of a milestone at Langwathby added to the likelihood of its existence. But where exactly was it?

Because this is a "new" road and not shown on any map or in any book (yet), full route maps have been included at the bottom.


The Margary 82aa number has been used for this the road to Old Penrith - this just an unofficial convenience. The road to Brougham now has the appearance of a branch road off the direct road and perhaps this road to Old Penrith should be regarded as the true Stainmore Road Margary 82. But it is too late now to change Margary numbers - it would only cause confusion..



3D Lidar Image looking towards Temple Sowerby.

Passing Kirkby Thore and all straight forward so far.

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3D fort

3D Lidar Image - River Eden

This was the Lidar image that revealed the complexity of what was supposed to be a single road. I was also looking for a possible branch to Old Penrith but how could a branch road end up as a crossroad junction?

Not only was there a crossroads but further examination and site visits confirmed there was a triangular (hypotenuse) road bypassing the crossroads. The latter was clearly aligned on Old Penrith.

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Route Map

This road and the Road to Brougham are inexorably linked and the various routes cannot be un-picked without considering the chronology both roads - see below.

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Lidar Image - Eden Crossings

The various clues and Lidar evidence is marked up with captions. Unfortunately reproduction here is somewhat below optimum but hopefully gives and indication of what is visible.

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Eden Crossings: Maps showing chronology of the site.

• There were obviously two Roman crossings of the River Eden.

• The northern crossing: this is located in an open stretch of the river valley providing a natural fording point. This openness is no doubt why the river has changed course here and no longer flows past the Roman crossing point.

• Both the road to Brougham and the (new) road to Old Penrith are clearly set-out and aligned with the northern crossing showing it must have been the original.

• The southern crossing: the river is very constrained here between banks and there is a substantial sandstone outcrop. Putting my bridge engineer hat on, then this is a perfect bridge site with a rock solid foundation. Undoubtedly the best spot in the vicinity for a bridge.

• I also spotted that there are two routes through Temple Sowerby - the alignment of the houses made me suspicious and lidar confirms it. There is the existing modern road plus another slightly more to the north-east. This is a more logical and direct route to the northern crossing.

• The route of the Old Penrith road from the northern crossing using the triangular bypass road now links up in a direct line with 2 pieces of lidar evidence and heads undoubtedly to the Udford on the River Eamont.

• Beyond the River Eamont this alignment continues up Udford road - this has all the hallmarks of a Roman road. I cannot understand why this has not been considered as Roman before - it is a dead ringer (see picture later).

• Beyond the top of the Udford road there is no lidar data but the Antonine Itinerary II distance of 13 (Roman) miles for Kirkby Thore to Old Penrith fits perfectly assuming this alignment continues on as would be expected. This route is supported following the discovery of the Langwathby milestone - ref. Edwards and Shotter who postulated to the likely existence of this road.

• As referred to above the southern crossing in best understood as the later bridging point.

• The route and direction from the southern crossing up to the Brougham road and onto the Old Penrith road now makes perfect sense. It is the shortest route to join up with the already constructed roads from the earlier northern crossing (ford?). It is exactly where you would build a linking road.

• When the southern crossing comes into use then the roads east of the crossroads and the triangular bypass road become redundant. So the crossroads was never actually a crossroads!

• What cannot be determined is which destination was first - Brougham or Old Penrith. However the general direction of the Stainmore road passing Kirkby Thore is certainly more aligned with Old Penrith than Brougham..

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eden stages

The Kirkby Thore/Temple Sowerby Milestone - it is actually half way between the two.

Thanks to the new bypass, the milestone is now safe and easy to visit.

Image: Mike Garratt

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Temple Sowerby - line of original Roman road

This is the Roman line to the northern crossing of the River Eden through Temple Sowerby village. It was superceded when the southern crossing came into use. The tractor is on the old A66 road.

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The Crossroads - ground level view.

Virtually nothing is visible so I have marked up the roads. Winter might be a better time to see what remains.

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site of crossroads

3D Lidar Image - Udford, River Eamont

This is looking west with Temple Sowerby to the left and Old Penrith off to the right.

The approach to the ford is shown in the next image.

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Approach to Udford

The Roman line is almost certainly alongside the wall on the right rather than the modern track. The lidar data and common sense suggests the road is over there as it straight-lines a bend in the modern track.

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North of Udford - Udford Road (?)

Is this the best Roman agger in Cumbria? It could well be the prettiest!

It is amazing no one has suggested this lane was the line of the Roman road. It has all the characteristics - straight, prominent agger, ditches and much wider than the modern tarmac road. I suspect because it is a dead end and in the middle of nowhere then no one knew about it.

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udsford north

Google Earth Aerial View - Cups Plantation

The lidar data currently (2018) runs out at the top of Udford Road so I had to scour the aerials for clues as to the precise route of the road. Fortunately I was able to spot two excellent candidates - at Cups Plantation and Bowscar Wood.

At both of these locations it would appear there has been no ploughing hence the road's survival.

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cups plantation

Google Earth Aerial View - Bowscar Wood

Looks like the ditches of our road have survived well and are heading towards Plumpton for Old Penrith.

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bowscar wood

Lidar Image & Route Map - Plumpton

Using the line from the aerial photographs then there was just enough Lidar coverage to spot exactly where the road from Kirkby Thore joined that from Brougham.

The course of the roaf from Brougham is slighly wrong in the OS maps. The road from Brougham does a little kink to the west to avoid a stream and our road joins up with it.

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3D Lidar Lidar Image - Old Penrith Fort looking north

There is a direct road north bypassing the fort plus a link road which joins up with the road from Troutbeck and heads into the fort.

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Old Penrith

Route Map 1

Kirkby Thore to the "Spaghatti Junction" at the Eden crossings.

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Route Map 2

Eden Crossings to Edenhall

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Route Map 3

Edenhall to Bowscar

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Route Map 4

Bowscar to Plumpton

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Last update: December 2018

© David Ratledge