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Romano-British Chalgrave

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 and remained until 410.

Given that the A5 forms the south-west boundary of the parish of Chalgrave it is hardly surprising that a good deal of Romano-British settlement evidence has been found in the parish. The A5 was called Watling Street by the Anglo-Saxons but was one of the most important roads made by the Romans in Britain, running from London, north-west to Anglesey [HER 5508]. Even today stretches of the road are straight enough to betray its Roman origins. The road was intended to allow the Roman army quickly to march to any danger point and what is today North Wales was one such potential danger area. Interestingly, when Queen Boudica of the Iceni rose in revolt in AD 60 she was, after destroying Colchester, London and Saint Albans, eventually brought to battle somewhere along Watling Street (anywhere from Hertfordshire to Shropshire) and defeated by Suetonius Paulinus who had hastened back south-east along the road from a campaign against Anglesey.

The Viatores are a group dedicated to identifying Roman roads in the modern landscape. In 1964 they suggested that another Roman road might run through Chalgrave, going from Icknield Street in Dunstable (a Roman town called Durocobrivis) to Toddington and then on to Ampthill and Bedford [HER 11986]. Given that Roman roads seem to have been largely connected with large-scale troop movements such a road seems rather unlikely.

An area of medieval earthworks, now ploughed out, south of Wingfield has yielded scatters of Roman pottery and tile [HER 1874]. Field walking south of Chalgrave Manor Farm has identified prehistoric flint tools, a Bronze Age dagger and tile, animal bone, a lock, a quern for grinding corn and a mortarium (a coarse vessel for grinding, pounding or mixing food) from the Romano-British occupation [HER 15814].

Another area of occupation lies south-east of Wingfield on a south facing slope and has been identified by field walking [HER 15811]. This seems to have been an area occupied right through the Iron Age and right through the Romano-British period. The site is marked by a scatter of Roman tile, building stone and pottery.

About 1860 a Roman ring with a carved red stone was found in a ditch marking the boundary between Chalgrave and Toddington [HER 1419]. Sources differ in describing the nature of the carving of the stone though most identify it as Apollo with a lyre or Achilles with a spear! Nearby is the source of a spring so perhaps it was an offering to a local deity. Another ring [HER 19319], possibly Roman, was found in 2011 by a metal detectorist east of College Farm.

Pieces of Romano-British pottery have been found by field walking south of Tebworth [HER 16266]. A mortarium was a coarse Roman pottery vessel used for grinding and mixing and the rim of such a vessel, of a type known as White Ware, was found south-west of Rose Farm in 2004 [HER 18818]. An unidentified copper alloy object found in 2011 by a metal detectorist south of Hill Farm may be Roman in date [HER 19307]. A brass sestertius, the largest and highest value base metal coin, of the Emperor Antoninus Pius [138-161 AD] was found by a metal detectorist in 2011 near Hill Cottage.

A fragment of a 3rd century AD Roman pot, of a type known as Grey Ware, was found by field walking previous to the installation of a gas pipeline [HER 7725]. In 1904 a fragment of a millstone grit whetstone was found in Tebworth [HER 1436]. A small irregular cropmark in the south-east corner of the parish, close to the boundary with Houghton Regis may represent Romano-British settlement [HER 16592]. Finally, in 1918, the rim of a Roman jar was found in the roots of a fallen tree in the parish [HER 3293].