Skip to main content
Read page text

Page Text

Bedford Castle: lime kiln, half excavated.

Photo: Beds. C.C.

carrying out a watching brief and salvage excavation for the Higham Ferrers Hundred Archaeological Society. Results so far include a Bronze Age ring ditch and four late Belgic burials, a network of late Romano-British farmstead ditches, and two Romano-British cremations.

At Newnham, down stream from Bedford, Angela Simco has been investigating another crop mark site. The second phase of gravel extraction will provide a municipal Marina; the first, in the 1950's was watched by David Johnston who located a probable villa. The finds from three years work have shown the associated farmyard and domestic evidence including the robber trenches for an extensive Roman building of up to seven rooms, with a hypocaust. Underneath the Roman layers were Iron Age and earlier features.


Perhaps the largest excavation was carried out by Alison Taylor and Peter Woodward at Roxton during 1972-1974. (See cover photo). Aerial photographs had shown five ring ditches and other features within a permitted gravel extraction area. All five were mostly or totally excavated, one by Granville Rudd of St Neots.

The mounds associated with the ring ditches had been largely ploughed flat in the Iron Age and Roman period, but their positions could be detected through the formation of a hard manganese pan. Perhaps three of the five ring ditches failed to produce burials, because, if they had been laid on the old ground surface, they would have been destroyed with the mounds. One ring ditch had a small central pit with flat bottom and vertical sides. The larger of two urns contained the cremated remains of a woman, a bone bead, a bronze awl and several flakes freshly napped from a single flint core. The other ring ditch had a complex central burial pit containing the robbed remains of the first primary burial, cremated bone, pottery sherds, and an associated blue glass bead. What is thought to be the secondary burial was indicated by a concentration of cremated bone with two perforated bone pins, about half-way down the pit, at the same level as the remains of an intense fire.

Earlier occupation at Roxton was represented by innumerable post-holes sealed beneath the mound areas of the ring ditches, large quantities of flint flakes and tools of Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age date. A flexed Beaker burial of an adult male was found in a shallow egg-shaped pit, a few metres outside one of the ring ditches. A large ditch ran across the field in the late Iron Age period and in it were found a number of cow bones, some painted with red ochre. Roman building materials were found as well as occupation scatters and traces of a structure that might have been a field granary. There were Roman burials, of two elderly females, one cremated and the other an inhumation extended in a shallow grave. A young man was also found with an iron knife at his waist.


Urban archaeology has mostly been concentrated on Dunstable (Durocobrivae) and Bedford. In Dunstable the Manshead Archaeological Society under the direction of Les Matthews have been examining the development area of the south-west quadrant. Dunstable lies on chalk with only a thin soil cover, so stratification is limited, and features are mostly confined to pits cut into the chalk. Structural evidence is minimal. Whilst little has been found of the town plan in previous centuries, much occupation material has been recovered, including ovens and kilns, and the Manshead Society specialises in spectacular well excavations.

Both the Manshead and the Department of the Environment have worked on the Dominican friary site. Adrian Havercroft has excavated parts of the friary church, including a Galilee porch at the west end. This follows work by the Manshead Society on the kitchen area of the friary in the 1960's. More controversial has been their work on a regular grid


Skip to main content