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General History - Romans
The Roman Road
Double Dykes

The Roman Road
In 80AD Governor Cnaeus Julius Agricola led a Roman army of 20,000 men into Scotland establishing forts between the Clyde and the Forth. To control this new frontier the Romans set about building a network of roads. In Scotland the route of the roads were determined by the contours of the land along valleys still used today by modern rail and road networks. Roman roads are evidenced today by their raised surfaces in the countryside, by observation on maps, farm-tracks, field boundaries, place-names indicating roads, from the air and quarry pits used in their building. When an excavation of a Roman road takes place, a lower stratum of large cobbles are found, some six metres across topped with small stones and gravel and flanked often by drainage gullies. Roman roads are well known for their straightness, but due to the complexity of Scotland’s geographical contours these roads were often not straight, especially when following a river. Distances along the roads were marked by milestones, of which only one survives in Scotland, from Ingliston. Many more may lie undiscovered.

Stonehouse can lay claim to having part of the Roman road system running through the parish. It is said that of all the Roman roads in Scotland only 50 miles are proven routes. The stretch through the parish of Stonehouse is among those in evidence. This road can be seen at Dykehead by taking the road up Sidehead Road to Avondyke Training Centre. Two field boundaries South of Dykehead farm lie just beyond the training centre. Go left through a metal field gate and follow the fence downhill to another gate. From there onwards the raised mound is viewed from the left edge of the field. The embankment stands half a metre high, and can be followed on foot for two kilometres to Gill farmhouse. A slight ridge is all that remains of this causeway near the farm of Tanhill. The Roman road can also be evidenced on the opposite side of the road leading past the Chapel Farm to Sandford Road and thence to Loudonhill.

The Roman road is situated on the highest point of the parish, peaking at 735 feet in the area of Dykehead. Unfortunately, the road has suffered through drainage, ploughing and fencing, and by 1836 evidence of existence had become confined to the Greenburn area. In 1938 paving in the form of large stones was still to be seen, South of Chapel Farm.

In 1836 came the opening of the Edinburgh to Ayr turnpike road with access to Canderside toll. The Roman road, like the turnpike road appeared to have been built from Ayr to Edinburgh as a supply route passing through the forts at Castledykes and Allanton near Loudon Hill. The Roman road through Stonehouse was formerly known as the ‘Deil’s causey’, as those of superstitious belief
believed the Devil had a hand in its making.
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Double Dykes
At the Eastern side of the parish, South of Ringsdale castle the river Avon and the Cander water converge on the steep banks of the Avon gorge. The tapering piece of land between these streams is known as Double Dykes.

This site is adjacent to an old stone quarry in the Avon gorge, hence the name of the right of way leading to this site known as ‘Quarry road end’. About a quarter of a mile from the apex, two to three ramparts and walls are seen from North to South in a semi- circular fashion, forming defences for the base of the triangle. In some areas the walls can still be seen and in others broken down due to much of the stone being taken away for building purposes nearby (according to Robert Naismith).

The origins of these defences are uncertain, Naismith suggests it may have been a Roman fort. It may well have been a fortlet, a smaller version of a fort designed to house no more than 50-80 men in one or two barrack blocks. Fortlets usually had a single gate through the rampart, with a timber tower above, with one or two ditches beyond. Fortlets are found in Scotland at intermediate points along major roads, or at river crossings. The fort may even be older dating to the Iron Age. Whatever its origins, its defences must have been nigh impregnable. In 1972 the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland surveyed the site, but found no internal structures behind the dykes. However, lines can be seen at certain times of the year and suggest that a more detailed survey may be required to ascertain the origins of this historical site. In the early 1990’s Channel 4’s Time Time showed an interest in the site but due to other projects did not pursue investigations further.

A fortalice is ‘a small outwork of fortification or fortress’. Naismith states “The old fortalice of Cander commanded an excellent position of the banks of Cander Water, and it seems to have been in decay in 1700”. He further points out that this fortalice at Cander stood near to the town and belonged to a branch of the Hamilton Family. I can find no recordings of any castle or fort on the Cander. I am uncertain if Naismith is referring to Double Dykes, or possibly the site of the present Candermains farm, which is close to the village and has an excellent view of the Cander.

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