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Foss Way


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The Foss Way or Via Fossata, so called in after times, was a Roman road which ran from Grimsby in Lincolnshire straight across the Midlands, and thence in a south westerly direction past Cirencester and Bath, both important Roman Stations to the Devonshire coast at Seaton, near Exmouth. This road derived its name from the fosses or ditches on either side of it, and entered Leicester from the direction of Thurmaston proceeding part of the way up Belgrave Gate, but probably turning off to the right near Abbey Street, and passing into the town by the Roman gate in the eastern wall at its supposed point nearly opposite the end of Mansfield Street.

It then took a straight course through the town, forming one of its principal streets; and having passed through the West Gate, it crossed the river at or near the present Bow Bridge, continuing in the line of King Richard's Road until it joined what is still called the "Foss Road" in front of Wigston 's hospital. It proceeded in a south-westerly direction by Narborough and net far from Sapcote, to the Roman Station of Venones, near Claybrook, where it crossed the Watling Street at or near the spot still called High Cross, and left the county.

Whether or not the Roman Foss Road actually passed through the town is, however, a matter of dispute among antiquarians, some affirming that, it turned off near Thurmaston and proceeded by Birstall and Belgrave towards the Abbey, crossing the Ashby Road and skirting Leicester by the present New Found Pool until it reached the undisputed Roman Foss Way already mentioned.

In this view of the case the road leading from the town across the river was only a "via vicinalis," as the tributary roads were called. But those who are of opinion that the line of the Foss Way ran through Leicester, deny that the road by New Found Pool had any existence whatever in Roman times, and attribute its construction to a much later date, probably for the purpose of avoiding the tolls at the town gates from travellers or merchandise passing by Leicester to the Abbey or to other places in the Middle Ages.

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