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Ancient Trackways

Section 3:

The Roads

Introduction

The world of long-distance coach travel

Ancient Trackways

The first roads

Celtic Trading Routes

The Celts were trading across Europe and although nothing remains of their roads, they must have followed fixed routes

Roman Roads

The Romans built roads, famously straight. These are the first roads that we in England are familiar with

The Middle Ages

After the Romans left, our roads fell into disrepair. Find out what happened

The Tudors

After the dissolution of the monasteries, even the church’s work ended

The Stuarts

During the Stuart period the first beginnings of improvement appeared

Thomas Mace

The first proposal to improve Britain’s roads

The Blind Roadmaker

The first person to take active steps to improve the roads

Thomas Telford

As pressure for improved transport links grew, this engineer made a real difference

John McAdam

Perhaps the most famous roadmaker, His method is still essentially in use today

Turnpikes

Britain’s roads at last allow fast long-distance travel 

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‍ Part 1: Living Memories

Anecdotes written by people who actually travelled on the coaches

Part 2: The Age of Coaching

The coachmen, the inns, the coach proprietors - they’re all here. Come in and meet them

Part 3: The Roads

Britain’s roads were pretty impassable for most of our history.  Coach travel was very difficult until they improved

Part 4: The Coaches

Wheeled transport evolved over many years. Find out how coaches developed

Background

Sources and information about how I came to create this website

Home Page

Home Page of the Coaching Website

5000 to 1000BC: The earliest humans travelled only for survival. They migrated out of Africa and later they moved to follow their food. These were hunter-gatherers. They undoubtedly didn’t make anything that could be called a road because they simply followed the animals they hunted.

The First Agricultural Revolution was when humans began farming. Without doubt, they will have created tracks joining separate communities to each other and to meeting places, long barrows and later, stone circles. 

As time passed, people began to trade with each other and this led to the creation of long distance trackways. It’s difficult to say when the people first traded but it certainly goes back as far as the Stone Age.

Ancient trackways include the Harrow Way and the Pilgrims’ Way in southern England, and the Ridgeway which runs all the way from the Dorset coast to the Wash in Norfolk. This has been used for at least 5,000 years. 

Wooden causeways have been found in the Somerset levels near Glastonbury and are believed to be the oldest known purpose built roads in the world. They consist mainly of oak planks laid on pegs driven into the underlying peat and date back to 3800BC.

The Lindholme Trackway is later, dating to around 2500 BC. It fits within a trend of narrowing width and increased sophistication during the third millennium BC, which some suggest could represent a shift towards wheeled transport at that time.

Next: Celtic Trading Routes


Further reading about ancient trackways on Wikipedia:
Ancient trackways across the world (including Britain)

Ancient Trackways in England  


Next: Celtic Trading Routes







The Pilgrims Way” near Guildford, England.  Named after Mediaeval travellers, it probably dates back to the Stone Age.