This map shows how Roman Britain kept the show on the road... by imagining it as a tube network

Roman roads fanning out from London across the south of the Roman province of Britain. Image: Sasha Trubetskoy

What’s the best way to get from Londinium to Isca Dumnoniorum, via a refreshing and restorative pit stop in Aquae Sulis? If such questions have never occurred to you, perhaps your previous incarnation was not as a wellness-aware man-about-town in Roman Britain.

But if, like me, this question is one of many of its kind that keep you up at night, there is finally a map to cater to all your needs.

Sasha Trubetskoy is perhaps the internet’s most surprising viral map guru. At just 20 years old, the student at the University of Chicago defies preconceptions of historical cartographers as reclusive, older men.

And this, his latest project, is truly a joy.

Click to expand. Image: Sasha Trubetskoy.

Trubetskoy painstakingly researched all the Roman roads of Britain to produce this map, showing connectivity across Roman Britain, with major Roman settlements from Londinium (London) to Dubris (Dover), Isca Dumononiorum (Exeter) to Verulamium (St Albans), and Eboracum (York) to Lindum (Lincoln).

And then he turned them into a geographically laid out tube map, with lines and interchange stations. Glorious.

Much of his data came from the Pleagios digital map, but a lot of the historical research came from Roman-Britain.co.uk, a resource that is simultaneously fascinating and revealing about how little we know about Roman Britain, relatively speaking. We don’t actually know the Latin names of many of the Roman roads, for example: that's why “Watling Street”, perhaps the most famous of the Roman roads, running from Dubris to Viroconium (now just a village in Shropshire) doesn’t exactly sound that Latinate.

More observant map readers may notice that some Roman cities have modern English names, too:

A zoom view of the North. Image: Sasha Trubetskoy

This too is a sign of how little we know: Roman remains have been found during archaeological explorations of those places, but we don’t have records or evidence as to the Latin names of those settlements.

Very noticeable, also, is the fact that Londonium is still at the heart of the network. Even at the time of the Romans’ occupation of Britain, it was the national hub. It became Britain’s largest city in roughly 75AD, and was made the capital of the imperial province not long afterwards. Hence, just as many of today’s motorways mostly snake out from London, so many of the key arterial Roman roads come out of Londinium.


Watling Street ran through it, and forms today’s A5, that runs in an almost-perfect straight line from Marble Arch to Stanmore before it navigates a kink and continues up towards St Albans; Gread Road runs out towards Camulodunum (Colchester); Devil’s Highway runs to Calleva (Silchester); and Ermine Street ploughs up towards Eboracum (York).

The map is of course most enjoyable when pored over in a private, feverish, personal way, so I’ll just add one thing. I’d never heard of Watling Street II (Watling Street the Second? The Lesser Spotted Watling Street?) which runs a very long course from Venta Silurum (Caerwent), near Caldicot at the Welsh end of both Severn bridges, up to Veluniate (Borrowstounness) via Deva (Chester), Mamucium (Manchester) and Luguvalium (Carlisle).

Someone tell George Osborne: maybe we can get a quirky alternative to HS3 to produce some kind of double-Celtic link for the Northern Powerhouse.

You can see the full map here, and a version with town names in English here.

Happy map reading. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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A growing number of voters will never own their own home. Why is the government ignoring them?

A lettings agent window. Image: Getty.

The dream of a property-owning democracy continues to define British housing policy. From Right-to-Buy to Help-to-Buy, policies are framed around the model of the ‘first-time buyer’ and her quest for property acquisition. The goal of Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget – hailed as a major “intervention” in the “broken” housing market – is to ensure that “the next generation will have the same opportunities as their parents to own a home.”

These policies are designed for an alternative reality. Over the last two decades, the dream of the property-owning democracy has come completely undone. While government schemes used to churn out more home owners, today it moves in reverse.

Generation Rent’s new report, “Life in the Rental Sector”, suggests that more Britons are living longer in the private rental sector. We predict the number of ‘silver renters’ – pensioners in the private rental sector – will rise to one million by 2035, a three-fold increase from today.

These renters have drifted way beyond the dream of home ownership: only 11 per cent of renters over 65 expect to own a home. Our survey results show that these renters are twice as likely than renters in their 20s to prefer affordable rental tenure over homeownership.

Lowering stamp duty or providing mortgage relief completely miss the point. These are renters – life-long renters – and they want rental relief: guaranteed tenancies, protection from eviction, rent inflation regulation.

The assumption of a British ‘obsession’ with homeownership – which has informed so much housing policy over the years – stands on flimsy ground. Most of the time, it is based on a single survey question: Would you like to rent a home or own a home? It’s a preposterous question, of course, because, well, who wouldn’t like to own a home at a time when the chief economist of the Bank of England has made the case for homes as a ‘better bet’ for retirement than pensions?


Here we arrive at the real toxicity of the property-owning dream. It promotes a vicious cycle: support for first-time buyers increases demand for home ownership, fresh demand raises house prices, house price inflation turns housing into a profitable investment, and investment incentives stoke preferences for home ownership all over again.

The cycle is now, finally, breaking. Not without pain, Britons are waking up to the madness of a housing policy organised around home ownership. And they are demanding reforms that respect renting as a life-time tenure.

At the 1946 Conservative Party conference, Anthony Eden extolled the virtues of a property-owning democracy as a defence against socialist appeal. “The ownership of property is not a crime or a sin,” he said, “but a reward, a right and responsibility that must be shared as equitable as possible among all our citizens.”

The Tories are now sleeping in the bed they have made. Left out to dry, renters are beginning to turn against the Conservative vision. The election numbers tell the story of this left-ward drift of the rental sector: 29 per cent of private renters voted Labour in 2010, 39 in 2015, and 54 in June.

Philip Hammond’s budget – which, despite its radicalism, continues to ignore the welfare of this rental population – is unlikely to reverse this trend. Generation Rent is no longer simply a class in itself — it is becoming a class for itself, as well.

We appear, then, on the verge of a paradigm shift in housing policy. As the demographics of the housing market change, so must its politics. Wednesday’s budget signals that even the Conservatives – the “party of homeownership” – recognise the need for change. But it only goes halfway.

The gains for any political party willing to truly seize the day – to ditch the property-owning dream once and for all, to champion a property-renting one instead – are there for the taking. 

David Adler is a research association at the campaign group Generation Rent.

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