Wade's Causeway

Roman Road

Wade’s Causeway is a sinuous, linear monument up to 6,000 years old in the North York Moors national park in North Yorkshire, England. The name may refer to either scheduled ancient monument number 1004876—a length of stone course just over 1 mile (1.6 km) long on Wheeldale Moor, or to a postulated extension of this structure, incorporating ancient monuments numbers 1004108 and 1004104 extending to the north and south for up to 25 miles (40 km). The visible course on Wheeldale Moor consists of an embankment of soil, peat, gravel and loose pebbles 0.7 metres (2.3 ft) in height and 4 to 7 metres (13 to 23 ft) in width. The gently cambered embankment is capped with unmortared and loosely abutted flagstones. Its original form is uncertain since it has been subjected to weathering and human damage.

The structure has been the subject of folklore in the surrounding area for several hundred years and possibly more than a millennium. Its construction was commonly attributed to a giant known as Wade, a figure from Germanic mythology. In the 1720s, the causeway was mentioned in a published text and became known outside the local area. Within a few years, it became of interest to antiquarians who visited the site and exchanged commentary on its probable historicity. They interpreted the structure as a causeway across the marshy ground, attributing its construction to the Roman military, an explanation largely unchallenged throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The stretch of the causeway on Wheeldale Moor was cleared of vegetation and excavated in the early twentieth century by a local gamekeeper interested in archaeology. The historian Ivan Margary agreed with its identification as a Roman road and assigned it the catalogue number 81b in the first edition of his Roman Roads In Britain (1957). The causeway was further excavated and studied by the archaeologist Raymond Hayes in the 1950s and 1960s, partly funded by the Council for British Archaeology. The results of his investigation concluded that the structure was a Roman road and were published in 1964 by the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society.

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, its identification as a Roman road has been questioned by academics, and alternative interpretations suggested for its purpose and date of construction. The monument’s co-manager, English Heritage, in 2012, proposed several avenues of research that might be used to settle some of the questions that have arisen regarding its origins and usage.

Sites near Wade's Causeway