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There are several Roman Stane Streets - see also Stane Street

Stane Street, sometimes called Stone Street (Stane is simply an old spelling of "stone" (norse: steinn) which was commonly used to differentiate paved Roman roads from muddy native trackways), is the modern name given to an important Roman road in Englandmarker that linked Londonmarker to the Roman town of Noviomagus Reginorummarker or Regnentium renamed Chichestermarker by the conquering Saxons. Stane Street probably continued beyond Chichester to the Roman Palace on the coast at Fishbourne.

Stane Street is especially interesting as it shows clearly the principles of planning that the Romans used. The overall alignment is based on an accurate line "sighted" from London Bridgemarker to Chichester, with subtle local variations to allow for not only the nature of the intervening terrain (gentle slopes are used to climb the line of the South Downsmarker) but also the underlying geology (the preferred line stays on chalk ground and avoids London clay as far as possible).

Posting stations

Stane Street under pasture on the South Downs.
There are two known posting stations or mansiones along Stane Street, where official messengers could change horses and travellers could rest. These are at Alfoldean and Hardhammarker. These stations were normally rectangular fortified sites of about 1 hectare (2.5 acres). The station at Alfoldean has been excavated. Two more stations at Merton Priorymarker and Dorkingmarker have been postulated as being at suitable intervals, though they are now hidden under modern development. No stations have been detected on other undeveloped parts of the road. The Alfoldean site is just south of the River Arunmarker and partly covered by the A29 road. It was excavated by the Channel 4 Time Team, revealing the remains of a two storey mansio built around a courtyard and also many other buildings. The site was enclosed by massive ramparts and ditches four metres wide and as deep which were dated by pottery finds to 70 AD. The ditches were filled in by the mid-third century. The team's view was that the site had been an administrative and taxation centre for the Wealden iron industry. The western side of the Hardham station was destroyed by construction of the Pulborough to Midhurst railway, but most of it including north and south gateways remains.

London Bridge to Ewell

The line of the road runs south west from London Bridgemarker, closely followed by the Northern Line through Claphammarker and Tootingmarker up to Colliers Woodmarker and Merton. Clapham Road and Kennington Park Road lie on top of Stane Street. It then crosses the River Wandlemarker at the site of what later became Merton Priorymarker, and is then closely followed by the A24 from Mordenmarker to Ewellmarker. This is the only section of the road that is on the true line from London Bridge to the east gate of Chichester.

Ewell to South Holmwood

At Ewellmarker it bears to the left slightly, avoiding wet difficult alluvial soils by moving onto the chalk, to cross the North Downsmarker near Langley Valemarker, then crosses the River Mole and passes through Dorkingmarker which was almost certainly a Roman station. This route takes the road east of Leith Hillmarker, one of the highest hills in southern England at 294 metres (965 feet).

South Holmwood to Pulborough

South of Dorking, near South Holmwoodmarker, Stane Street takes a line sighted from London Bridge to Pulborough with most of this section still in use as the modern A29 which follows the line very closely through Billingshurstmarker as far as Pulboroughmarker. This line to the east of the middle reaches of the River Arunmarker is mostly free of steep gradients, although the modern road does avoid the hill at Rowhookmarker. Just to the south of the steep descent from Rowhook through Roman Woods, where the road bridged the River Arun, some of the timber piles on which the bridge was built are still present in the river bed. Scattered Roman tiles and squared stone in the river bed show that stone bridge piers were built above the piling. The Alfoldean station is some south of the bridge site.

Pulborough to Chichester

The alignment turns west at this point to make a beeline for Chichester, and passes the notable Roman villa at Bignormarker, before making a slight detour from the line where it climbs the escarpment of the South Downsmarker. At Hardham south west of Pulborough there was a junction with the Greensand Way Roman road to Lewesmarker and a posting station near the junction. Up on the open heath of the downs the line of the road can be followed very well on foot and is free of modern roads and paths. Walking south from Bignormarker Hill one soon comes to open sheep-grazed pasture at Gumber farm where the scale of the agger of the road can be clearly seen. The spire of Chichester cathedralmarker can be seen above the distant trees, slightly to the right of the road line as the road heads for Chichester's east gate. Further on at Eartham Woods where the Monarch's Way long-distance path follows the route, the flint surface of the well-preserved road is exposed, the trees are mostly cut back to the boundary ditches, and the road seems little different from the time when the Legions left Britain. Although the invading Saxons made Chichestermarker the capital of the South Saxon kingdom only the southern 7 kilometres of this superbly engineered road into the western Weald have remained in use, as the A285.


The average width of the paved road is ,or 25 Roman pedes. This is wider than the average or 22 pedes for Roman roads in Britain. The overall width between the outer ditches, which can still be seen on aerial photographs taken over the South Downs, is or 86 pedes. The actual width of metalling varies from place to place, and the outer ditches were found to be apart at Westhampnet. Sections of intact road that have been excavated in several places show a variety of local materials, with the agger often being constructed of alternating layers of sand and gravel paved with large flint nodules, or sandstone, surfaced with smaller flint or sand and gravel. The metalling was generally about thick at the centre with a pronounced camber. Near to the Alfoldean station the metalling was constructed from iron slag in a solid 0.3 metre thick mass.

Dating evidence

A number of first-century pottery fragments and coins have been found along the road, including Samian ware of Claudian date at Pulborough. The earliest coins found are of Claudius (41-54 AD), with others of Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian and Nerva (96-98 AD). This is consistent with the road being in use by 60 to 70 AD, possibly earlier.

Branch roads

The London to Brighton Way road diverged from Stane Street at Kennington Parkmarker, passing through Croydonmarker, Godstonemarker, Haywards Heathmarker and Burgess Hillmarker to cross the South Downs at Claytonmarker.

From Rowhookmarker a road went northwest to Farley Heathmarker at the foot of the North Downsmarker where it passes through a Roman temple site.

The Sussex Greensand Way branches from Stane Street at Hardham waystation, following a well drained sandstone ridge east to Lewesmarker.

To the north of Pulborough another road branched off in a southeasterly direction, crossing the Greensand Way at Wiggonholtmarker. It is unclear whether it continued beyond this towards Storringtonmarker.

At Westhampnettmarker, near the Rolls-Royce works, the Roman coastal road which became the A27 road, branches from Stane Street at the mini roundabout. The Roman road continues via Broadwatermarker, Somptingmarker, Lancing (along a road still named The Street) and part of the Old Shoreham Road (the A270) through to Novus Portus (around modern Portslade).

See also


  2. David E Johnson, An Illustrated History of Roman Roads in Britain. Spurbooks Ltd. 1979 p 74 ISBN 0 906978 34 6
  3. Unofficial Time Team website
  4. Image of piles at Horsham museum
  5. I. D. Margary, Roman Ways in the Weald 1965 Phoenix House
  6. Hugh Davies Roads in Roman Britain 2002 ISBN 9780 7524 2503 0
  7. I. D. Margary, Roman Ways in the Weald 1965 Phoenix House
  8. I D Margary, Roman Ways in the Weald 1965 Phoenix House

Further reading

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