Record Details

NHER Number:2796
Type of record:Monument
Name:Fen Causeway Roman road


The Fen Causeway is the name given to the Roman road which runs from a junction with Ermine Street and King Street near Peterborough across the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk fens. It was first recorded by Dugdale in 1772. In places the road is known to run along the crest of a roddon of a natural watercourse and is therefore quite sinuous, while straighter alignments may follow an artificial canal.
In Norfolk, the Fen Causeway runs between Upwell and Denver, but in places there is more than one possible route. East of Denver, the road then probably divides into two, with one route heading due east to the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund (NHER 9786) and the other heading northeast towards the Roman town at Brampton (NHER 1006 and 1124). The upland continuation of the Fen Causeway between Denver and Brampton is included under NHER 2796.
In a number of places the road is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, whilst in several places it survives as a landscape feature. Sections of the road have been excavated on a number of occasions, revealing a cambered metalled surface and side ditches. At Denver, it is dated to the 1st century AD, and there is evidence of extensive settlement and salt production beside it (NHER 4240). Excavations at Downham West in 1993 examined a complex sequence of deposits, including the roddon of a natural watercourse into which a canal had been dug, probably in the early 2nd century AD. The first road surface was found to pre-date the canal, while a second road surface probably ran beside the canal.


  • The Roman road known as the Fen Causeway  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • The Fen Causeway Roman road runs through Longham  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 92398 11250
Map Sheet:TF91SW

Full description

Fen Causeway/east to west Roman road.

See detailed description in file of course, excavations, etc.
Roman bridge on line in Downham Market.
Roman pottery from ditch.
Medieval pottery and ironwork from section at Marsham.
Possibly pre Roman track in part.
See overlays: 6 inch - TF 50 SE, TF 70 NW; 1:2500 for section 5410 9965 to 5380 9963, and 5501 0014 to 5767 0033.
List of aerial photographs in file.
Roman road with contemporary deep, wide ditches. Roman briquetage.
J. Allen (NLA).

It was reported that a cut had been made through the Roman Road near Salter's Lode. It was described as very hard set gravel, three feet thick by 60 feet wide, and much barrelled. However, this has since been interpreted by R. R. Clarke as a roddon.
Norfolk Archaeology v. 3, 425; CASC I Report of 6 III 1854 and IV, 205; Babington, Ancient Cambridgeshire, 1883, 70-71.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 December 2007.

1931. Excavation?
The line of the road in Denver parish was revealed at 5804 0034, where it was cut in field 436 on Lake Farm. The surface of the road was seen in section at 2.79 feet above OD.
CASC XXXII 1932, 52-3.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 December 2007.

1933. Excavation.
A Roman pile bridge constructed across a roddon was excavated by E. J. A. Kenny. The bridge was located 400 yards south of Middle Yard Cottages (5734 0038) in Downham West parish. Postholes were recorded and a Castor ware beaker was found in the silt bed of the roddon.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 December 2007.

1950. Observation?
A section of the Road was observed at TL 534 995, Neatmoor Farm, field no 1260. The section was flooded and re-metalled (two layers of gravel were seen). The route of the road diverges from that depicted on the Ordnance Survey map (1958 6 inch?) at this point.
R. R. Clarke, PSAS XLIII 1950, 10.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 December 2007.

1951. Excavation.
1954. Excavation.

1989-1992. Fenland Evaluation Project Investigations.
Cleaning of dyke-side at London Lode Farm (TL 5238 9912), Nordelph. The later of the two Roman roads was clearly visible, its deposits sealed beneath post-Roman silts and constructed on a (?In situ) briquetage-rich organic deposit.
The results of this work are summarised in (S29).

1992. Fenland Management Project Excavation.
Further investigation of the Roman road at London Lode Farm, Nordelph. Excavation of trench in paddock immediately adjacent to the previously cleaned dyke-side.
See summary report (S26) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S27).
P. Watkins (HES), 10 February 2014.

1992. Excavation. Contexts 11-36.
An excavation was conducted on the line of the road, imediately west of the Launditch (NHER 7235). Ditches of the road were recorded as well as a pit containing Iron Age or Romano-British pottery sherds and stakeholes. Slag was also recoverd. A third trench was placed at the location where the road is presumed to curve southwards, but no traces of the road were found.
See report (S5) and published article (S18) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S27). Additional details in secondary file for NHER 7235.
The associated microfiche archive is now held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2008.54).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 11 February 2008.

1993. Excavation.
Trenches excavated at Straw Hall Farm, Downham Market as part of the Fenland Management Project.
This work investigated probable Roman field boundaries and cut a section across the Fen Causeway and the associated canal.
See NHERs 4233 for further details. The results of this work are summarised in (S30).
P. Watkins (HES), 13 March 2017.

13 July 1993. NLA air photography.
A short stretch of the Fen Causeway can faintly be seen in photographs of the enclosure (NHER 7481) south of Martinole Farm (TG 149 229). The enclosure abuts against the road.
S. Massey (NLA), 8 February 2001.

26 June 1996. NLA air photography.
A section of the road is visible as multiple parallel ditched linear cropmarks, running from TG 22752450 to TG 23132450.
S. Massey (NLA), 24 September 2001.

28 June 1996. NLA air photography.
Cropmarks of fen causeway are visible to the west of the railway line (NHER 13587).
Visible as linear cropmarks to either side of a field boundary, from TG 2505 2366 to TG 2470 2359.
S. Massey (NLA), 28 September 2001.

19 July 1996. NLA air photography.
The line of Fen Causeway is represented by the edge of Litcham Common.
At TF888170 there is a stretch of double linear cropmarks which may indicate its course, and a cropmark of a double linear feature along the course of the Fen Causeway is located at TF879167. The course of Fen Causeway is also visible on aerial photographs at the point of cutting across Launditch (NHER7235).
S. Massey (NLA), 26 May 2001.

25 July 1996. NLA air photography.
Sections of Fen Causeway and bank are visible as cropmarks in the Downham West area (c3) (c4).
S. Massey (NLA), 22 November 2001.

1999. Field Observation.

September 2003. Air photography.
Linear cropmarks are visible at TF 8716.
D. Gurney (NLA), 16 September 2003.

(S1) on CD on digital storage shelf and R:Associated Files.

2003. Excavations by NAHRG northeast of Coltishall Airfield.
Three trenches were excavated in order to locate cropmarks of the Roman road and a series of linear ditches. Sections of the Roman road were excavated in Trenches 1 and 3. The only archaeological feature encountered in Trench 2, intended to locate one of the linear features, was the edge of the northern ditch of the Roman road.
See NHER 62129 for details [1].
Information from (S21) and (S22) in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 March 2008. Amended by A. Beckham (HES), 12 May 2017.

2003-2005 (at some time). Geophysical Survey northeast of Coltishall Airfield.
A resistivity survey was carried out in Area A (see S22) in order to locate the set of five linear ditches and the Roman road previously identified as cropmarks in aerial photos.
See NHER 62129 for details [1].
Information from (S21) and (S22).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 March 2008. Amended by A. Beckham (HES), 12 May 2017.

2005. Excavations by NAHRG northeast of Coltishall Airfield.
Further work was undertaken in Area A. Trench 4 located one of the linear features. Three sections of the features were excavated, and the intersection of the Roman road was located in the south of the trench. This work confirmed that the linear feature pre-dates the road, although no dating evidence was collected from any of the sections excavated along the ditch.
See NHER 62129 for details [1].
Information from (S21) and (S22) in file.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 13 March 2008. Amended by A. Beckham (HES), 12 May 2017.

November 2007. Site visit.
A substantial bank aligned approximately east–west and measuring about 15m wide and up to 1.2m tall was identified at Burnt Plantation, Marsham (formerly Marsham Heath). The orientation of the bank suggested that it should continue into arable land to the east, but it ended abruptly on the edge of Burnt Plantation. This sudden end and the fact it had an almost vertical face suggested the bank had been levelled in the arable land. Using a hand-held GPS unit it was possible to accurately record the location of the bank, to determine that it lay on the line of the Roman road and to establish it is was probably the agger mentioned in (S23).
See (S24) for more information.
D. Robertson (HES), 15 August 2011.

January 2009. Walkover Survey.
Archaeological Earthwork Rapid Identification Survey, Marsham Heath.
Site 25:
Irregular, c. 10m wide flat-topped ridge may represent a very poorly preserved section of the Roman road.
See report (S28) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 25 August 2015.

January 2011.
The earthwork noted at TG 0070 2005 (see file), adjacent to and immediately west of the Billingford Roman site (NHER 7206), has been destroyed by the levelling and construction of a track.
D. Gurney (HES), 26 January 2011.

August 2012.
A section of this Roman road visible on aerial photographs (S25) from TG 2804 2383 to TG 2744 2381 at Scottow was mapped in advance of archaeological fieldwork at the site in 2005 (see NHER 36729 for details) and was included within an area of mapping undertaken in advance of Norfolk County Council acquiring the RAF Coltishall site in 2010.
S. Horlock (HES), 30 August 2012.

Monument Types

  • TRACKWAY (Prehistoric - 1000000 BC to 42 AD)
  • PIT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • BRIDGE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • CANAL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DITCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PIT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • ROAD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SALT WORKS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Finds

  • INSECT REMAINS (Undated)
  • SAMPLE (Undated)
  • POT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BRIQUETAGE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • KNIFE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • NAIL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POLLEN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Higher Level Stewardship
  • Higher Level Stewardship
  • Higher Level Stewardship

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: JQ 32, 26.
---Serial: 1954. Council for British Archaeology Group VII Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries. No 1. p 2.
---Serial: 1958. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries. Vol 5. p 4.
---Article in Serial: Beloe, E. M. 1891. The Great Fen Road. Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiqarian Society. Vol VII No 4 (New Series Vol I) pp 112-130.
---Photograph: FSA, FSB.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 50 SE 1 [2]; TF 50 SE 2 [2]; TF 50 SE 5; TG 02 SW 6a [2]; TL 59 NW 1 [8].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Roman. Hoe.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Marsham.
---Article in Serial: Clarke, R. R. 1955. Norfolk Research Committee Excavations, 1954. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 1 No 7 (for 1954) p 1.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Miscellaneous. Swaffham.
<S1>Article in Serial: Kenny. 1933. A Roman Bridge in The Fens.. Geological Magazine. Vol 82, pp 434-441. pp 434-441.
<S4>Monograph: Silvester, R.. 1991. The Fen Causeway and Wissey Embayment.. East Anglian Archaeology. Vol 52. pp 95-140.
<S5>Unpublished Contractor Report: Penn, K. 1992. Excavations on the Launditch (Site 7235) and Roman Road (Site 2796), 1992. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 1.
<S6>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1993. TG 1422E - H.
<S7>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG 2423AC - AD.
<S8>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A.. 1996. TF8117/S - T.
<S9>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF8716/AP - AS; TF8816/AB, AC.
<S10>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF9216/H - J.
<S11>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG 2223AGY - AGZ.
<S12>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG 2223AHA - AHD; TG 2323E.
<S13>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TG 2423AM - AP.
<S14>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TL 5299AP - AV, AX - AY; TL 5298G; TL 5198G - K.
<S15>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF 5700ACM - ACN, ACS - ADB, ADE - ADF; TF 5800W - Y; TF 5600M - Q.
<S16>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF 5600S - U; TF 5700ADG - ADH; TF 5800Z.
<S17>Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. TF8716/AH - AJ; TF8816/Z - AA.
<S18>Article in Serial: Ashwin, T. 1999. The Launditch and its Setting: Excavations at the Launditch, Beeston with Bittering, and Iron Age features and finds from it vicinity. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 217-256.
<S19>Monograph: Crowson, A., Lane, T. and Reeve, J. (eds). 2000. Fenland Management Project Excavations 1991-1995. Lincolnshire Archaeology and Heritage Reports Series. No 3. pp 167, 192-197.
<S20>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Page, M.. 2003. NHER TF8716 AW-AX.
<S21>Unpublished Report: Sims, J. 2005. Excavations at Scottow 2003 and 2005. Interim Report.
<S22>Unpublished Report: Sims, J. 2006. Excavation at Scottow 2003 & 2005.
<S23>Monograph: Margary, I.. 1973. Roman Roads in Britain.. Vol I, p 239.
<S24>Article in Serial: Robertson, D. & Paterson, H.. 2010. The Norfolk Monuments Management Project 1990-2010. Twenty Years Conserving the County's Rural Historic Environment.. Norfolk Archaeology. XLVI, pp 15-28.
<S25>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1996. NHER TG 2723A-R (NLA 371/HSH9-15, HSJ1-3) 18-JUL-1996.
<S26>Unpublished Contractor Report: [Unknown]. Fenland Management Project, Norfolk. A Section Across the Fen Causeway at London Lode Farm, Nordelph. Archive Summary Report. Norfolk Archaeological Unit.
<S27>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1993. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1992. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt IV pp 522-532. pp 523-524, 527-528.
<S28>Unpublished Contractor Report: Cushion, B. 2009. Marsham Heath (Part). Archaeological Earthwork Rapid Identification Survey. Brian Cushion Archaeological & Cartographical Surveyor.
<S29>Article in Serial: Gurney, D (ed.). 1990. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1989. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt I pp 107-112. p 109.
<S30>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1994. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1993. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt I pp 115-123. p 117.

Related records

50601Parent of: Cropmarks of Fen Causeway Roman road (Monument)
36465Parent of: Undated cropmarks and a possible Roman road (Monument)
11869Related to: Cropmarks of possible Roman road (Monument)
36729Related to: Enclosures and fields of probable pre-Roman date (Monument)

Find out more...

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2024 Norfolk Historic Environment Service