Yes, these Icknield Streets did start as a Roman road, although the
street in Hockley, Birmingham may not really be on the line of the
original road. (More on that later.) The road went from Alcester to
the Roman fort at Wall, near Lichfield. Some people also consider the
Roman road which went north from Wall/Lichfield to Derby and then
Rotherham as a continuation of Icknield Street.
The road formed a link between two earlier Roman roads: Watling Street
and Fosse Way. The Watling Street - Fosse Way - Icknield Street
triangle is shown on this map:
Alcester is not marked but is just off the map at the bottom.
You can see how this connects with other Roman roads here:
It is not known when or why the road got the name Icknield, also known
as Ryknild, Ricknield etc. (And, very confusingly, it's the same name
as the ancient Icknield Way across Southern England.)
The line of the road is unclear in the Birmingham area, but its course
is well-established near Redditch, where it passes through Ipsley. The
Birmingham section of the road is currently being investigated by
archaeologists who tend to disagree with earlier opinions about its
The solid red stretches of Icknield Street on this map show where the
route is definitely known:
Sutton Park at Sutton Coldfield is a great place to see a surviving
section of the Roman road. Use this map and click on the numbers to
There doesn't seem to be any precise information about which years saw
the construction of Icknield Street. It was after the Fosse Way and
Watling Street were made, both in the 1st century AD. There were forts
at Alcester and Metchley before the end of that century, but I found
no dates for Icknield Street itself.
So what happened to the road between the Romans' departure and the
18th and 19th centuries, when gentlemen who enjoyed archaeology
started exploring and recording local history? We know that some
stretches of Roman road were well-used in the intervening centuries.
Sometimes feet, hooves and weather wore them down so they became
holloways or "hollow ways": sunken lanes with high banks and hedges on
each side. There are places where this has happened to the original
Icknield Street, according to this cyclist:
"Then a ford over the river Arrow and on to Redditch... [...] out past
the Needle Mill museum to the Icknield Way...which runs like a
slightly wiggly arrow all the way to Birmingham down splendid
holloways . . ."
In Birmingham mediaeval roads replaced earlier routes, but it seems
that good stretches of Icknield Street continued as local roads in the
Redditch area, though there was probably no sense of the "highway" it
had been in Roman times.
When people started travelling by coach, they chose routes other than
Icknield Street, so it was not likely to be revived by the new demand
for better roads. It was not on a major route into Birmingham, and it
does not appear on the 17th and 18th century maps I have looked at.
A section of Icknield Street including Ipsley/Redditch is shown on this 1876 map:
Perhaps you already know that this bit of Icknield Street forms one of
the boundaries of the Old Rectory grounds (now a hotel):
"The Old Rectory
. . . the Domesday Book listed a building here and an original Roman
road, Icknield Street, runs along one boundary of the grounds."
The Ipsley part of the road is shown on a map from the Archaeology
Section of Hereford and Worcester County Council, in connection with
excavations around St. Peter's Church.
Here you can see that northward from the Rectory the Roman road is in
use, but to the south it goes across fields.
(Click to enlarge.)
It's also possible to see it leading north from the Rectory past
Batten's Farm up towards Beoley on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map. You
have to type Redditch in the search box and do a lot of navigating at:
In Birmingham the situation is far from clear, but it seems likely
that Icknield Street is wrongly named. This is the view from the
Birmingham Roman Roads Project:
"The problem is that the medieval core of Birmingham, represented by
the present-day city centre, has been the focus of local roads for at
least 800 years and possibly much longer. Consequently, the preceding
Roman roads, which had other destinations, have been out of use for a
very long time. This can of course be a good thing - witness the
surviving road in Sutton Park - but elsewhere in the city it has led
to the total obliteration of the old line. Roman roads approaching the
city from the north (Wall), south (Alcester) and south-west
(Droitwich) can be traced up to and, in some cases, across the city
limits, but are then superseded by medieval and post-medieval routes
into the city centre."
William Hutton is the historian who influenced the naming of the street in Hockley:
"Indeed, Hutton's shadow has loomed large over the subject with his
views accepted as gospel well into this century. It was on his
authority that Icknield Street in Hockley received its name in the
19th century, leading to many modern misconceptions that this must be
the ancient line."
Here are some further excerpts which should add a bit more to the
overall picture, although we must remember that there have been
different views on the precise course of Icknield Street.
First, a description published in 1903:
"North of Alcester the line of Riknild Street is followed by the
present Birmingham road, called Haydon Way, through Studley and to one
mile beyond, where the latter road turns off to the north-eastward and
there is no trace of the former for a mile and a half. At Ipsley a
lane called Icknield Street exactly in a line with Haydon Way is
reached. This line appears to point from Alcester to high ground
(about 480'), one mile east of Rowney Green, and a mile and a half
north of Beoley. There is here a slight turn, and lanes follow the
line of the old road by Forhill to near Headley Heath. Hutton gives
the course onwards by Stirchley Street, crossing the Bromsgrove road
at Selly Oak, leaving Harborne a mile to the west, by the observatory
in Lady Wood Lane, crossing the Dudley Road at Sandpits, and along
Worstone Lane, passing five furlons north of the Navigation Bridge in
Great Charles Street, Birmingham. He saw the section of the road where
the inhabitants attempted to pull it up for the sake of the materials,
20 yards wide, and one yard deep, filled up with stone cemented with
coarse mortar, and he says that the course was discoverable by its
barren track through uncultivated meadows. Birmingham and its suburbs
now cover the old road for about four miles.
On the north of Birmingham the line is resumed on the north of the
river Tame, near Perry Bridge, by a county boundary for about a
quarter of a mile to Gorsey Bank; and then a road continues it,
passing a quarter of a mile to the east of Oscott, and it can be
traced along a track shown on the old Ordnance map to near the Royal
Oak Inn on the west side of Sutton Coldfield Park. [...] To the north
of the park, about half-a-mile of the drive through Birmingham Wood to
Little Aston Hall, a short length of road north of Little Aston, and
another length to the west of Shenstone, mark the course of the road
in a straight line from Streetley Hill to high ground (450') on the
north-east of Wall. From near Birmingham to Wall (Etocetum) for nine
miles the road is not perceptibly out of a straight line, which may
very well have been set out from intermediate points at Streetley
Hill, and the high ground (500') south of the Royal Oak Inn."
From the BBC:
"One of the main arteries of Roman Britain was called the Fosse Way,
running right across the country from south-west to north-east. Later,
Roman engineers built a 112-mile (180km) link road that went north to
join up with another major route, Watling Street. That link road came
to be known as Icknield Street, and a stretch of it still exists north
of Birmingham, untouched by modern road builders."
From Professor Carl Chinn MBE:
" . . . Icknield Street, also known as Ryknield Street. This came from
Alcester, went through King's Norton and crossed the Rea at Lifford,
struck along the Pershore Road at Stirchley, headed across Edgbaston
and by the camp at Metchley, followed the line of Monument Road and
Icknield Street, hit Great Hampton Street, went on to Wellhead Lane
and then crossed the Tame at Holford, and eventually passed through
From a 1911 encyclopaedia:
"A Roman road which ran through Derby, Lichfield, Birmingham and
Alcester is sometimes called Icknield Street and sometimes Rycknield
Street. The origin of this nomenclature is very obscure (Vict. Hist.
of Warwick, i. 239)."
Archaeologist studying the area near St. Peter's Church, Ipsley:
"To the east a major Roman road, Riknield Street (HWCM 886; Fig 2)
runs in a north to south line past the area of the evaluation. A site
beside this (HWCM 47; Fig 2) has been excavated and produced evidence
of a post- built, sub-rectangular structure of uncertain date. Roman
finds are recorded to the south of this (HWCM 7081; Fig 2), and also
to the north and south of the evaluation area. To the north, in the
grounds of Ipsley Court, Roman pottery was recovered during building
work (HWCM 1096; Fig 2), and, to the south of the church, a coin of
Antonius Pius dating to the 2nd century AD was recovered through metal
detection (HWCM 9752; Fig 2). This scatter of artefacts to the west of
the Roman road has recently been assessed as part of the Monument
Protection Programme being undertaken by the Archaeology Section for
English Heritage. It is suggested that the artefacts may represent the
location of a Romano-British farmstead ."
Worcs 1627 map
Worcs 1742 map
Warks 1742 map
Worcs 1892 map
19th century book on the history of English roads,
especially Chaps 1,2, 3 and 5
Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names.
No comment on the Midlands Icknield, but says the origin of the
southern Icknield "has not been found".
Watch out for webpages with mistaken information about this Roman
road. The muddle with the other Icknield Street/Way is the worst
problem, but there are also confusing statements about the road
heading down to the south-west, and unreliable remarks about the name.
Thanks for a very interesting question. I hope you'll now be able to
spot more sections of Icknield Street if you are out and about in the
Please just ask if you'd like me to clarify something, or if you have
difficulty with maps or links, and I'll do my best to help.
Best wishes - Leli
Using old and new maps I already knew of.
Searching google with place & street names plus Roman, history, archaeology.