Icknield Street

Roman Road

Icknield Street or Ryknild Street is a Roman road in England, with a route roughly south-west to north-east. It runs from the Fosse Way at Bourton on the Water  in Gloucestershire to Templeborough in South Yorkshire. It passes through Alcester, Studley, Redditch, Metchley Fort, Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield, Burton upon Trent and Derby.

Name of Icknield Street

Four Roman, roads having the King’s protection are named in the Laws of Edward the Confessor: Watling Street, Ermine Street, the Fosse Way and Hikenild or Icknield Street. Hikenild Strete is generally supposed to be connected with the country of the Iceni. Various forms of the name (the earliest in Anglo-Saxon charters are Icenhilde Weg or Icenilde Weg) designate other roads from the borders of Norfolk through Cambridgeshire, Bucks, Berks, Hants and Wilts into Dorset. These locations, however, would identify the route as Icknield Way an Iron Age trackway running from Norfolk to Dorset.

What is today referred to as the Icknield Street road acquired the name Ryknild Street during the 12th century, when it was named by Ranulf Higdon, a monk of Chester writing in 1344 in his Polychronicon. Higdon gives the name as Rikenild Strete, which, he says, tends from the south-west to the north, and begins at St. David’s in Wales and continues across England to the mouth of the Tyne, passing Worcester, Droitwich, Birmingham, Lichfield, Derby, and Chesterfield. It has borne that name, or Rigning, Reenald or Rignall, from early times. In three of the four MSS of Higdon the name is given as Rikenilde or Rikenyldes, and in the fourth (which is said to be one of the earliest), Hikenil Street. Trevisa’s English translation (1387) calls it Rykeneldes Strete. Harverfield, writing in the Victoria County History of Warwickshire doubted whether the road had any real and original right to either name, preferring Ryknild as no less correct (or no more incorrect), and being able to distinguish it from Icknield Street in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.[4] It is now called Icknield or Ryknild Street to distinguish it from the older Icknield Way. In the 19th century it is also referred to in antiquarian literature with the spelling of Rykneld Street.

A preserved section of the Roman road can be seen at Sutton Park, now in the City of Birmingham.

Route of Icknield Street

George William Collen’s book Britannia Saxonica (1833) concisely outlines the route, drawing on Leland’s Itinerary:

“… stated to have led from St. David’s to Tynemouth. Its exact course [through Wales] is little known: it may, however, be traced from Gloucester to Norton; thence to a little east of Tewkesbury; thence to Ashchurch, Bekford, Aston-under-hill, to the west of Sedgebarrow in Worcestershire; thence to Hinton, a little east of Evesham, South Littleton, to Bitford in Warwickshire, through Wicksford to Alcester; thence near Coughton, Studley, and Ipsley; enters Worcestershire again near Beoley, passes near Egbaston in that county, and a little west of Birmingham crosses the [River] Tame at Woodford Bridge into Staffordshire; runs through Sutton Park and by Shenston, cuts the WAETLINGA-STRAETE (Watling Street) about a mile from Wall and Lichfield; thence to Streetley, crosses the [River] Trent at Whichnor; then taking Branston in its way, leaving Burton-upon Trent half-a-mile to the east, passes through Stretton, enters Derbyshire over Monk’s Bridge near Egginton. The direction of this road cannot be traced further, although its course is said to have been through Derby, Chesterfield, York, and so to Tynemouth.”

Bourton on the Water

The starting point for Icknield Street is the Roman settlement of Bourton on the Water. The settlement is thought to have grown up between the crossing point of the Foss Way over the River Windrush, and the junction of the Foss with Buckle Street 150m to the north of the ford. Material recovered from the area of the settlement indicates that the site was founded during the late first to early second century AD and continued to be occupied into the early fifth century.


The first fort at Alcesterbeing established around AD 47 on Primrose Hill. This was replaced by a later fort built on lower land near Bleachfield Street and a busy civilian settlement soon grew up around it. Two Roman roads, Icknield (Ryknild Street) and the Saltway cross at Alcester. These were major routes for both the army and later for trade. They linked Alcester with other important Roman centres in Britain. In about AD 200, a rampart was built around the north-east part of the town. This was replaced by a stone wall in the later 4th century. The part of the town which lay outside the rampart (‘extra mural’ area) continued to thrive. Excavations around Birch Abbey revealed a long, open gravelled area with ‘booth’ type structures around the edge. This is thought to be the site of a market place. Many Roman coins have been found both from excavations and from chance finds. These show that from the 4th century Alcester probably had a market economy. The town grew and became wealthy as people from the Arrow Valley area moved into Alcester. Life in Alcester had many attractions including opportunities for trade, new service industries and all the trappings of a romanised lifestyle. Goods like Samian ware pottery and amphorae containing wine and olive oil were imported from other parts of the Empire. Industries such as leather and metalworking would have produced items for sale both in Alcester and beyond.

Metchley Fort

Metchley Fort was constructed soon after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. The fort was around 200 square metres (2,153 sq ft) in area and was defended by a turf and earth bank with a timber wall, towers and double ditches. Within the fort were timber buildings including barrack blocks, a granary, a workshop and a store. In AD 70, the fort was abandoned, only to be reoccupied a few years later before being abandoned again in AD 120. Remains have also been found of a civilian settlement, or vicus alongside the fort. It consisted of timber buildings and yards alongside a road leading from the fort’s west gate, and was occupied for just a few years, when the fort was at its largest.


The Romans came to Letocetum (Wall) in 50 CE to establish a fortress during the early years of the invasion of Britain. The land could not support large numbers of soldiers and Letocetum, at an important cross-roads, became a large scale posting station. The settlement developed with successive bath houses and mansiones built to serve the official travellers as well as the growing civilian population. It is known mainly from detailed excavations in 1912–13, which concentrated on the sites of the mansio and bath-house, but there is evidence of a substantial settlement with possible basilica, temples, and amphitheatre.

The remains visible today are those of the stone bath house and mansio, built in approximately 130 CE after Letocetum ceased to have a military function and became a civilian settlement. The settlement reached its peak during the 2nd and 3rd centuries and at this time occupied 8.1–12 hectares (20–30 acres). At the end of the 3rd century, the town relocated within high defensive walls astride Watling Street. After the Romans left early in the 5th century the settlement went into decline. The modern village of Wall emerged in the land once occupied by Letocetum.

Derby (Derventio) Roman Fort

Derby (Derventio) was a small town in the Roman province of Britannia. Today the area is known as Little Chester, on the outskirts of Derby, located in the English county of Derbyshire. The first Roman fort in the area was built on the opposite bank of the River Derwent at Strutts Park. It was replaced about AD 80 by a fort on the present site, but this only lasted about forty years, then was decommissioned. There was extensive Roman activity prompted by the fort, which was connected westward by a road to the Icknield Street, and to the east by a road to Sawley on the River Trent. A fort-vicus which manufactured pottery and worked iron was founded 600m to the east on the Sawley Road. The fort was later re-occupied and re-used for a further twenty five years. The defensive bank and timber palisade were now remodelled and stone gates built. Then it lay unoccupied until the late 3rd century when a stone wall was built around the town.[2] It did not outlive the end of the 4th century.

Chesterfield (Castrafeld)

The Roman Fort of Chesterfield Castrafeld was built and occupied by a Cohort of 480 Roman soldiers between 69 AD and 117 AD. Only commanding officers were allowed to marry and have their wives and families with them on such a campaign, although the legionnaires – all over the minimum height of 5′-8”?, aged between 20 and 25 and of “˜honourable family status’ – were allowed to have their girlfriends along, so the fort at Chesterfield would have contained possibly 1000 people. It also had two Vicus (civilian settlements) outside the confines of the fort to the south and east. No civilians were allowed inside the fort.

There was a less intensive occupation as the Roman army moved north and Castrafeld became more or less a supply depot, a staging post for food and supplies being transported north to feed the troops from the fertile Trent Valley. After the completion of Hadrian’s Wall and the later Antonine Wall, the Roman province of Britain was finally settled and after about 175 AD the fort at Castra-feld saw only sporadic civil activity and was eventually abandoned.


A Roman fort at Templeborough was first built on the site in earth and wood in the first century AD (most likely between the years 43 to 68), and was later rebuilt in stone. It is thought to have been occupied until the Roman withdrawal from Britain c. 410, but its original name has never been ascertained. The Roman road called Icknield Street (sometimes Ryknild or Riknild Street) crossed the River Don at a ford close to the fort. There was also a road named Batham Gate that ran southwest from the fort to a signal station at Brough-on-Noe (Navio) in Derbyshire. The double bank that surrounded the fort was still visible in 1831 although it is believed that stone blocks from the site were regularly carried off and re-used in nearby buildings.
Sites near Icknield Street