The Salt Way, from the Soar to the Fens

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright May 2022, Tim Heaton; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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The route in this article corresponds to a line of Roman roads described by Ivan Margary, with Margary numbers 58a and 58b (Roman roads in Britain, volume 1, 1955, by Ivan D. Margary; LinkExternal link ). They run north-east from Barrow upon Soar, near Leicester, to Donington, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens, a distance of about 43 miles. Margary regarded them as being:

"a part of one of the ancient Salt Ways",

and the term the 'Salt Way' is commonly used for this route.

 Salt Way - whole

Fig. 1 THE SALT WAY (Base map from

The line on the map represents Margary's Roman road 58 (58a = Barrow to Saltersford, 58b = Saltersford to Donington), and follows that shown by Allen et al. (2018) LinkExternal link . The position is of course approximate, as clear evidence for the exact location of the road is absent in many places.

This makes it one of several ancient routes in Britain to be called a 'Salt Way', many of which may have had primary functions other than the trade in salt. However, salt has always been a vital commodity, and its transport was necessary as it could only be produced as sea salt from coastal areas, or as salt from brine wells at a very few sites inland (e.g. the highly saline groundwater brines at Droitwich).

Prior to its drainage in the 17th century, the Fen area around Donington would have had easy access to seawater (see map of coastline in late Roman times LinkExternal link ), and there is abundant archaeological evidence for salt making in this area dating back to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age (search 'salt making' on Lincolnshire Heritage Explorer, [LinkExternal link]. For the Donington area itself, we have the archaeological sites identified in Figure 10, below, and the Doomsday Book record that in 1086 "Duninctune" had "xvi faline" (i.e. 16 saltpans) LinkExternal link A route for the transport of sea salt inland from the Lincolnshire coast (and trade of other goods), established in pre-Roman times, therefore seems likely.

For convenience, this description of the route follows the direction used by Margary, from west (Barrow upon Soar) to east (Donnington).

From Barrow upon Soar to Saltersford - Roman Road 58a

 Map Soar to Saltersford


The location of Beacon Hill, a Bronze Age hillfort in the Charnwood district, is also shown. It has been suggested that the pre-Roman Salt Way crossed the River Soar to at least this point (Charnwood Council, 2008 LinkExternal link )

 Topo map


As was common for ancient track ways, the direction of the route was chosen so as to keep to higher ground.

Barrow to Six Hills


The prehistory of Barrow upon Soar is summarised in LinkExternal link , and there is ample archaeological evidence (villa, cemetery, etc.) to suggest that it had become a significant settlement in Roman times.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright

A straight line extrapolation of the Roman road from Six Hills (see Paudy Lane map, below) would join the River Soar's flood plain close to the present location of Mill Lane Bridge - image below.

SK5716 : Mill Lane Bridge in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire by Roger  Kidd
MILL LANE BRIDGE Note that this is a canal, separate from the main channel of the river, which may have moved since Roman times

SK5617 : River Soar, near Barrow upon Soar by Stephen McKay
THE CANALISED RIVER SOAR DOWNSTREAM FROM BARROW. An earlier name for the River Soar was the River Legro (the river's name is derived from the same root as that of its main city, Leicester LinkExternal link ), and if it was navigable in Roman times, goods from the Salt Way at Barrow could have been carried up to the Trent. Evidence for transport on the Soar, however, is limited (Edwards, 1987) LinkExternal link )


 Map of Paudy Lane


The most south-westerly section of modern road presumed to reflect the line of the Salt Way is Paudy Lane. It starts at Paudy Farm, about 1.5 miles from the Soar, and then runs as a straight road (except for one slight curve) for 3.5 miles to Six Hills, where it crosses the Roman Fosse Way, and then continues to the north-east as the equally straight Six Hills Lane. The Survey of English Place Names gives an interesting (but, it admits, speculative) suggestion that the name 'paudy' might derive from 'paued' or 'paude' which were used in the past (e.g. by Shakespeare) to mean 'paved' LinkExternal link . Roman roads would be distinguished from other tracks by having a paved surface.


This location should not to be confused with the Six Hills near Stevenage, which is also on an important Roman road (Ermine Street), and derives its name from six Roman burial mounds (barrows). Our Six Hills, at the crossing of the Salt Way and the important Fosse Way, lacks any such hills, and derives its name from the earlier 'Segs Hill' and before that (c. 1200) 'Seggeswold' = 'the wold belonging to a man named Secgge' LinkExternal link .
The significance of this crossing point of two important routes, which had probably existed from pre-Roman times, is reflected by its influence on an unusual arrangement of administrative boundaries: prior to changes in the late 19th century Six Hills sat in a small area of 'extra-parochial' land, possibly an Anglo-Saxon moot site, with no fewer than eight parishes radiating out from this central point (Trubshaw LinkExternal link ).

Although the former simple cross roads at Six Hills has now become a more complex flyover interchange, the original line of Paudy Lane entering and Six Hills Lane leaving the site is still evident.
SK6420 : Paudy Lane approaching the Six Hills road junction by Tim Heaton
PAUDY LANE APPROACHING SIX HILLS. The original line of Paudy Lane ran straight ahead along the track to the right of the road sign.

SK6420 : Six Hills Lane leaving the Six Hills road junction by Tim Heaton
SIX HILLS LANE LEAVING SIX HILLS. This is the original line of the lane prior to junction improvements (the current line is to the right)

But most of this historic site is not very attractive
SK6420 : Six Hills (Seggs Hill) by Tim Heaton
SIX HILLS. The original road crossing was just behind the trees on the left.

Six Hills to Goadby Marwood

 Map topo Six Hills to Goadby Marwood


From Six Hills the route of the Salt Way is marked by an 8 mile succession of more or less continuously straight tarred roads running north-east along a ridge of high ground towards Goadby Marwood. This ridge of high ground is formed by harder rocks of the Jurassic Dyrham Formation, including iron-rich sandstones and limestones. The north-west edge of the ridge is defined by a marked escarpment - the Belvoir escarpment - which drops down to the Vale of Belvoir.

 Map Topo Goadby Marwood

Fig. 6 THE SALT WAY NEAR GOADBY MARWOOD (Base map from * = site of Roman iron smelting

This 8 mile straight line of modern roads from Six Hills ends at a bend where Langdyke Lane joins Scalford Road (Figure 6). From this point Margary (1955) notes that there is then " .. a gap of 1˝ miles .. where the road has gone right out of use .. ". Some re-drawings of Margary's map suggest a straight line continuation of the Salt Way from the bend at the end of Langdyke Lane to the beginning of Green Lane (broken line in Figure 6), a route which would have involved steep gradients dropping down into a valley with spring-fed streams near Goadby Marwood. Other sources suggest that the Salt Way deviated from the straight line by bending northwards along Scalford Road, and then eastwards along an untarred byway (Abbott, 1956; Allen et al., 2018; current OS map marking Scalford Road as Roman road). This deviation would bring the Salt Way around the head of the valley, avoiding gradients (solid line in Figure 6), and is the route assumed here.

SK7525 : Cranyke Farm along Landyke Lane by Mat Fascione
THE BEND TO THE NORTH: Landyke Lane leading to Scalford Road

SK7627 : Entrance to public byway by Tim Heaton
THE BEND BACK TO THE EAST: the public byway turning off from Scalford Road

Archaeological finds at Goadby Marwood suggest that it was a locally important Romano-British settlement (LinkExternal link )
The village lies in an area containing Jurassic ironstone, which was quarried up until the 1960s, and the archaeology indicates that a site (star on Figure 6) just north of the present village was a significant area for iron smelting in the Roman period. The scale of production was probably sufficient for export to other areas, and as the smelting area was located less than half a mile from the Salt Way (Figure 6), this would have been the obvious trade route. ( Abbott, 1956; Condron, 1997).

SK7827 : Byway connecting Waltham Road with Scalford Road by Tim Heaton
THE BYWAY NORTH OF GOADBY MARWOOD. The area in which archaeological evidence for Roman period ironstone smelting was found is towards the line of trees on the horizon. The bedrock geology is the Jurassic Marlstone Rock Formation, containing ironstone; reflected here in the russet colour of the soil.

Goadby Marwood to Saltersford

 Topo map Goadby Marwood to Saltersford


The untarred byway north of Goadby Marwood joins Waltham Road at White Lodge, from where the line of the Salt Way is followed by Green Lane, a straight, single track road leading up to a high point at Lings Hill, and from here by a short section of the A607. The Salt Way must then cross a headwater valley of the River Devon, and it may be that the road passed south of Croxton Kerrial (Allen et al., 2018 LinkExternal link ), which does not appear to have been a settlement in Roman times, before taking the line of Gorse Lane to the east of the village. Gorse Lane runs as a straight, narrow road along the top of a ridge of Lincolnshire Limestone, allowing the Salt Way to maintain the high ground. About 2˝ miles beyond Three Queens Gorse Lane bends north-east towards Grantham, and Margary (1955) states that the Salt Way " ... alignment is plainly marked straight onward by a line of hedges with a distinct low agger along it ... The existence of this continuation of the road line is most distinctive evidence for a Roman origin, and a parish boundary follows the road all the way from Three Queens and then along this hedgerow. The line continues ... to the Great North Road, ... and thence by a lane to Saltersford on the river Witham."


About one and a half miles east of Croxton Kerrial, at a site called 'Three Queens', Gorse Lane is crossed by an ancient track, Sewstern Lane (also known as 'The Drift', and identified on OS maps as the 'Viking Way' long distance path). Sewstern Lane can be identified as running from the A1 (Great North Road) at Long Bennington for 20 miles south to the A1 (Roman Ermine Street) near Greetham, north of Stamford. Features of the southern part of the lane, south of Three Queens, led Margary to suggest it had been adopted as a Roman road (Margary number 580). But for Sewstern Lane north of Three Queens Margary (1955) stated "Though it is undoubtedly an old trackway there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to warrant its inclusion as a Roman road ...".

SK8440 : Sewstern Lane by Richard Croft
SEWSTERN LANE. A northern section crossing the Vale of Belvoir

SK8726 : The drift approaching Hangar Plantation by Jonathan Thacker
SEWSTERN LANE. A section south of Three Queens; the Roman road Margary number 580 crossing Saltby Heath


The crossing of two ancient routes, the Salt Way and Sewstern Lane, now marked by a small wood, is likely to be a significant site. Its name, 'Three Queens', was that of a former 19th century farm LinkExternal link , and is also linked to a former 18th century drover's inn at the site; a hostelry "of ill repute" LinkExternal link. Much earlier, it was a site of Bronze Age importance, and it has been suggested that this may be the source of the name: "Several mounds, thought to represent the remains of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery, have been identified in the area around Three Queens farm. The farm bearing the name 'Three Queens' has now gone, but the name may be a reference to the mounds. One of the mounds was excavated ... during the Second World War, and was found to contain the skeleton of a woman ..." LinkExternal link . But other, quite different origins for the 'Three Queens' name have also been proposed LinkExternal link LinkExternal link

SK8629 : Sewstern Lane crossing the Salt Way at Three Queens by Tim Heaton
ANCIENT CROSSROADS AT THREE QUEENS. The tarred road is Gorse Lane, following the line of the Salt Way. Sewstern Lane, ahead, has crossed from behind the camera, and the stretch ahead, continuing south towards
the A1 (Roman Ermine Street) near Stamford, is also thought to have been used as a Roman road.


A Roman age site at Saltersford has been known about since at least the 18th century, and might have had the Roman name 'Causennae' (formerly applied to Ancaster) LinkExternal link . The site is currently occupied by a water treatment works, and several periods of its construction have unearthed large quantities of Romano-British artifacts, a cemetery, stone buildings, and possible bridge and road remains. LinkExternal link . Grantham's new Southern Relief Road, now being built through the area, is revealing more material. This included:
"Two areas of metalled surface were observed in Trench 8. One of these ... may be a yard or possibly the northern edge of the Salter’s Way Roman road." (Peachey et al., 2013).
Trench 8 was dug next to the lane running down to Saltersford (see Figure 8 below) - i.e. on the line of the Salt Way discussed here.

SK9233 : Entrance lane to Grantham Water Works at Salter's Ford by Tim Heaton
ENTRANCE LANE TO SALTERSFORD WATER TREATMENT WORKS. Operated by Anglian Water, with restricted public access. The Salt Way probably ran along, or close to the line of this lane on its way to crossing the River Witham.


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