Roman Road: Brogden to Howgill Lane

One of my favourite walking routes to chapel is crossing the fields connecting Brogden and Howgill Lanes in the districts of Pendle and Ribble Valley respectively. Both lanes follow the route of an old Roman road by which our chapel stands. Between the two, one can quite clearly see the old path it took, though the cobbles and pebble bases are long gone.

It was probably built in the early 70s, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem and while some of the apostles were still living. As the Romans were attempting to Romanise and ‘pacify’ Brigantia (the territory of the warlike Bigantians), this road connected Bremetennacum Veteranorum (Ribchester) to Olenacum (Elslack) and Olicana (Ilkley). Any trouble from the locals would elicit support and reinforcements from neighbouring forts. These roads were the means by which troops and cavalry could rush out to quell uprisings and support other stations. Half a mile from the road at Barnoldswick is the site of a watchtower at Gilbeber Hill and close by this section at Primrose Hill. Roads were to be guarded and watched; they held the empire together and kept the restless tribes subdued. It would have once borne the weight of centurions, cavalrymen, merchants and imperial administrators.

Today, this valuable artery of Roman power and efficiency is just a track connecting two lanes. Thankfully, it is still a right of way, and pastors during lockdown continue to march up and down it, though without the heavy kit of those hobnailed legionaries. There’s something important about travelling old roads, and keeping the old rights of way tramped and visible. We might prefer our motorways and A roads, but the old routes are still there and open to travellers. Similarly, our land is forgetting its Christian heritage. As we establish and consolidate our brave new world of secularism and relativist morality, the good old paths still exist. They are barely discernible at times and only a few travel them:

“Ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls”. Jeremiah 6:16

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”. Matthew 7:14