As humans began to have a less nomadic way of life people and goods started
to move over great distances. Lowland Shropshire
was densely forested and so tracks took the easier and safer course over
photograph shows the Portway on the Long Mynd which was used by Neolithic
axe traders (4000-2300 BC) and recognised as the Kings Highway until the Middle
Ages. Today it is still visible and used as a designated bridleway.
With the coming of the Romans a comprehensive network of roads
came into existence.
First of all the land had to be cleared. Roman roads have
a uniform construction, consisting of two side ditches, approximately 80 feet
apart, with a raised area between. This was covered by a metalled surface of
gravel stone and iron slag approximately 20 feet wide (see illustration).
Simple surveying methods ensured that the roads were straight. Essentially
three men stood with poles at intervals, if all were in line the road was straight.
Where the landscape was uneven beacons were lit so that the most direct line
could be maintained.
The impact of Roman road building can still be seen on the landscape,
not only through the comprehensive network of roads, but also through a number
One such quarry is Grinshill which supplied building stone from
the Roman times onward. Many of the quarries have been abandoned and are now
overgrown with trees and dense undergrowth covering them. Corbett's Wood is
at the top of the hill, and there is still a working quarry near to the car
This photograph shows the once busy Roman thoroughfare of Watling Street which
is now a quiet country lane. The ditches are visible in the spacing of the hedges.
Watling Street was a major road from which Wroxeter was linked to London and
Dover. In some places Watling Street is still used today, like the A49 around
In Medieval times drovers collected animals from the farms and “drove”
them to market, sometimes hundreds of miles away. They used routes often picked
out only by a simple landmark. This distinctive clump of pine trees is on a
hill called Bromlow Callow near Pontesbury. They are thought to have been planted
as a drover's landmark.
Old roads can be seen everywhere in the landscape. Holloways,
like this deep track going through the woods at Wenlock Edge, have been formed
by centuries of traffic going up and down the route. Here they would have been
made by people working in the lime industry and those engaged in charcoal production.
Logs would be dragged along the track, each one further grooving the surface
of the Holloway.
the 17th century traffic along the medieval routes had increased to such an
extent that the roads, often unsurfaced, were in a state of collapse. In 1663
the first of the Turnpike acts was passed with powers to collect tolls and buy
lands for road improvements. These trusts transformed the transport system in
Toll houses were located nearby roads. They were often hexagonal so that they
could see the traffic coming from a distance. As the railways developed the
turnpikes became redundant. Today most of our roads are covered by tarmac, but
hundreds of miles of ancient routes can still be traced as rights of way, holloways,
bridlepaths and green lanes.