1st April 1937. How far to Londinium?
Welcome to the MONTH OF APRIL.
…from the Etruscan god and Latin Aprilis. Anglo-Saxon, eostremonath (month of Easter). Under the Roman Republic it had 29 days and 30 days in Julian calendar.
Geoffrey Chaucer in his General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales: ‘Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote/ The droghte of March hath perced to the roote.’ suggesting a dry March, but April despite its showers can be one of the drier months in nearly all parts of Britain.
In 2013 temperatures in the first week were some of the coldest for the month for 96 years. Normally Britain enjoys an average temperature of 53f (12c) by the start of April, but even maximum temperatures struggled to rise above 33.8f (1c) in parts of the south-east of the country.
1st April: April Fools’ Day in Britain, looking at how our roads developed.
By the 1936 Trunk Road Act, 30 routes in Britain, were now officially converted from ‘A Roads’ to ‘Trunk Roads’. It was Today in 1937 that the newly designated Trunk Routes (TR) came officially into existence.(1)
4,500miles or 17% of the Class I roads, now became the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, under Minister Leslie Hoare-Belisha, as opposed to local control.(2)
Initially it was decided to give the roads the prefix TR, but in the end the ‘A’ designation was retained for these roads.(3)
Roads were grouped into 3: Class 1; Class 2 and others. For England and Scotland there were nine sectors : six radiated London in clockwise direction, whilst three radiated Edinburgh.
Se we had the A1 north to Edinburgh; A2 to Dover; A3 to Portsmouth; A4 to Bath; A5 to Holyhead and the A6 to Carlisle. Scotland was served by the A7 to Carlisle; A8 to Glasgow and Gourock and A9 north to Perth and Inverness.
Roman roads were built for transporting soldiers across the country: the insular Saxons, with their winding roads, being more trade orientated. The names of the original Roman roads are unknown, the names we use today being derived from Saxon times.
The Romans had marked out many of these routes in conquest. So in similar radial clockwise order we have: Ermine Street to York (Eboracum) via Lincoln (Lindum) with Dere Street continuing up to Corbridge and Hadrian‘s Wall, the present A1.
Another route took them to Caistor St. Edmund (Venta Icenorum) near present day Norwich, via Colchester (Camulodunum), once the capital.
Going south of Thames we have the early Watling Street which ran to Dover (Dubris).(4)
This current A2 was originally a Celtic track which became important for the Romans in their link from the three routes from the Channel Ports in their invasion: Rutupiae (Richborough); Dubris (Dover) and Portus Lamanis (Lympne and Reculver (Regulbuim.
Dartford was a key point on this route from the three main ports, via Canterbury (Durovernum), the original tribal capital of Kent), to London.
Rochester a walled town would have been the most suitable site to cross the River Medway, clear of the flood-plain and a Mansio for the town was sited to the north of Watling Street at Sittingbourne (5)
This would eventually become the A5 striding across England via Chester (Deva) to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey (Mona).
Stane Street ran to Chichester (Noviomagus), the current A3); Portway ran to Dorchester (Durnovana), current (A4)
Akeman Street ran to Gloucester (Glevum), whilst another vital link as today was the Fosse Way from Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in the west, north east to Lincoln (Lindum).
Once the road network was established Roman towns, (named in brackets) would gradually become established such as Gloucester and Chester at the road intersections.
Next time you travel think of all those Roman marching feet.
(1) Act dated: 18th December 1936.
(2) Scotland changed on 16th May 1937.
(3) The ‘A and B’ Road-Naming came in 1922.
(4) The road was known as ‘Iter III ‘Item a Londinio ad Portum Dubris’, As reported in the Antonine Itinerary, a contemporary map of Roman roads.
(5) A mansio was the Travel Lodge of the day.
Ref: Wikipedia.org/ Roman_ Roads_ in_ Britain.
Ref: roadsuk.com/network/trunk roads
Ref: 1922 Road Lists-Readers’ Digest sabre-roads.org.uk
Ref: rbt.org.uk/bridge. Rochester Bridge Trust.
Ref: Dartford archive.org.uk
Ref; lacuscurtnis/codrington Roman roads in Britain Ch 2.
Ref: h2g2 Watling St/ Journey through Roman Britain.