Brancaster East-West Coastal Roman Road

Margary Number: none

Distance: 10.5 miles

A somewhat speculative Roman road - the Lidar evidence is not overwhelming but the need for just such a road cannot really be denied. Unfortunately there are several what appear to be sea bank defences along this stretch of coast and deciding what is a bank and what is a potential road is fraught with difficulty.

Brancaster (Branodunum) dates from around 230AD so would have been constructed after the the initial Roman road system was established but perhaps a bit earlier than most of the Saxon Shore forts. At first its location looks a puzzle but its position exactly half way between the Roman road to Holme and that to Burnham Overy Marshes cannot be a coincidence. It was surely centrally located to provide equal protection for these two Roman ports. They must not have warranted a fort each so they got one midway between the two. An east-west road would therefore have been essential.

Time Team carried out a dig at Brancaster in 2012 - see link. Their plan of the fort and vicus is right at the end.




Historic Counties: Norfolk

Current Counties: Norfolk

HER: Norfolk


mini map

Lidar Image: Holme-Brancaster-Burnham Overy

The location of the fort with respect to the two Roman roads and presumed Roman harbours is clear from this Lidar plot.

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full length

Oblique 3D Lidar Image - Brancaster Fort Site

On the east of the fort (left in image) was a vicus along side the road. Protecting the vicus on the seaward side appears to be a bank. This aligns with the north side of the fort so was probably Roman.

Inland of the fort running east-west is another bank or it could be a road?

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3D lidar

Oblique 3D Lidar Image - Possible East-West Road

This to me is the best clue that there was indeed an east-west road running inland of the fort. We are looking east in this view.

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3D lidar

Lidar Image & Route West Map 1

A little subjective is the route depicted - I would regard it of low to medium confidence.

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west map 1

Lidar Image & Route West Map 2

There is certainly a feature here that could be our road but it could also be a sea bank.

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west map2

Branodunum Site

The fort site is protected and under the stewardship of the National Trust.

The fort was garrisoned by the Equites Dalmatae Brandodunenses ("Dalmatian cavalry of Bran[d]odunum"). Perhaps strange it was a cavalry unit but as it was midway between the existing Roman roads and harbours perhaps this was what was required.

Image: National Trust

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Lidar Image & Route East Map 1

The road through the vicus is known and the continuation onwards looks logical.

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east map1

Lidar Image & Route East Map 2

This is a puzzle - how did they cross what appears to be an inlet at the Burnhams? There is evidencve visible of a causeway across but does this date to the Roman period? If it did then a bank/agger continues the general alignment on and could be the road.

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east map2

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Last update: January 2020

© David Ratledge