HISTORIANS are appealing for volunteers to help unearth evidence of a long-lost Roman road which it is thought was used to supply troops at Hadrian's Wall.

The road shown on a map drawn in 1722 by Bedale exciseman and renowned map-maker John Warburton, runs from south of Thirsk, through Thornton-le-Street and past Northallerton, Romanby, Langton and Kiplin before linking with the Roman road Dere Street, at Brompton on Swale.

Historian John Sheehan said while bodies of knowledge exist about other Roman roads in the area, including Cades Road, which is believed to have run from Thornton-le-Street to Sockburn, near Darlington, and on to Sadberge, no section of the road on Warburton's map has been identified.

Mr Sheehan, who is focusing on the Thornton-le-Street area in his drive to find out if the road existed, said the suffix le Street was first mentioned in 13th Century documents to differentiate the village from other Thorntons’ in the vicinity.

He said: "This is commonly supposed to indicate the presence of a Roman road, but the evidence for this is, however, inconclusive.

"The site is of particular interest in that it encapsulates all the features one would expect in the evolution of a rural settlement, including a water mill on the adjacent Cod Beck, the remains of peasant dwellings and field systems, a church and a manor house complex from medieval times, and a country house from the more modern era.

"Much of the history is however enigmatic and by stimulating interest it is hoped that more exhaustive research will be undertaken."

Permissions will be applied for from English Heritage, and the landowner, to study the land at Thornton-le-Street, and a Heritage Lottery Fund application is planned to ensure that the work is supervised by professional archaeologists and properly recorded for posterity.

A series of talks has been commissioned initially concentrating on questions surrounding the routes of Roman roads across North Yorkshire and a series of workshops on archaeological techniques is due to be held to widen the potential for looking at other periods.

Mike Haken, of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, will give the first talk on The Roman Roads of North Yorkshire at Thornton le Street Village Hall on Saturday, September 13, at 2pm.

Entry will be £2 at the door.

Futher talks will be presented by Dr David Mason, principal archaeologist of Durham County Council and Roman roads specialists Hugh Toller and John Brown.

For details about the project, call 01609-771878 or email jgsheehan@btinternet.com