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Clifton Before 1086

The Historic Environment for Bedfordshire [HER] contains all known references to find spots and sites connected with prehistoric, Romano-British and Dark Age activity in the county. Surprisingly no material from the Old Stone Age, Middle Stone Age or New Stone Age has been found in the parish. It would seem reasonable to guess that, given the River Ivel borders the parish to the north, people frequented what is now the parish in those distant times but no definitive evidence has survived.

The Bronze Age

The first remains found in Clifton date to the Bronze Age. A cremation was found in a small pottery vessel known as a beaker, dating to the early Bronze Age, in 1929 just east of Brickle Place [HER 394]. Three other adult cremations and one of an infant were also found at the same site. An extensive area of cropmarks has been identified in the north-east of the parish, west of the sewage works and near the River Ivel, one of which appears to be a ring ditch [HER 1785]. As the name suggests, these are roughly circular enclosures inside a ditch which, from excavations elsewhere, are identified with the Bronze Age.

Two barrows near the boundary with Shefford were destroyed in 1959 [HER 14771]. One of these contained a skull and a small animal whilst a small pottery vessel with cremated bone was found nearby in a beaker - identifying the site as early Bronze Age. Nothing from the Iron Age has yet been found in Clifton.

Prehistoric Sites

Earthworks and cropmarks have been identified in a number of areas in the parish. They are probably prehistoric but cannot be more precisely dated. They are as follows:

  • Earthworks marked on an Ordnance Survey 25 inches to the mile 1st edition map of 1881 just south of the spot Stanford Lane crossed the River Ivel, since ploughed out [HER 2523];
  • Cropmarks north of the sewage works seeming to show an enclosure and linear features, perhaps including a trackway [HER 3868];
  • Cropmarks in the south-east angle of Brickle Place and Stockbridge Road form an irregular inclosure [HER 15095];
  • A possible oval enclosure in the south-east of the parish in the angle between Broad Street and Brickle Place [HER 15096]. The shape hints that there is a slim possibility that this may have been a long barrow, which was a Neolithic feature, but it is far too uncertain to categorise it;
  • Two irregularly parallel ditches have been discerned south-west of the sewage works. They run north-east, south-west, following the line of the River Ivel, for about 500 metres [HER 15097]

Romano-British Clifton

The Viatores, a group dedicated to finding Roman roads in Britain, have identified two possible roads crossing Clifton. One of these [HER 5342] potentially ran east-west through Dunton, Edworth, Astwick, Biggleswade, Langford, Henlow, Clifton, Shefford, Campton, Clophill, Maulden, Flitwick, Steppingley, Eversholt, Ridgmont and Husborne Crawley. The other [HER 10480] was identified as running north-west to south-east through Harrold, Odell, Felmersham, Pavenham, Oakley, Clapham, Bedford, Eastcotts, Haynes, Old Warden, Southill, Campton, Shefford, Clifton, Meppershall, Henlow and Shillington. This is, perhaps, somewhat less speculative.

In 1848 it was recorded that a Roman burial had been found somewhere in the parish, in an eminence suggesting a barrow [HER 396]. The burial was associated with a knife, a spur, a pot and marine mollusc shells. A vessel identified as Samian ware was discovered by workmen in the area in 1847 or 1848. No other Roman or Romano-British finds have been recorded from Clifton and only one find of anything between the end of Roman Britain in 410 Ad and the Norman Conquest of 1066 - an Anglo-Saxon pot discovered in 1930 [HER 393] near the five Bronze Age cremation burials and a beaker just east of Brickle Place [see HER 394 above].

Anglo-Saxon Clifton

Clearly there was a settlement in Clifton in the period between the Romans leaving and the Norman Conquest, the settlement recorded in Domesday Book having been there in 1066. The presence of fresh water and a thoroughfare in the shape of the River Ivel might suggest this had been a settlement site for much longer, but the evidence above makes it impossible to be categorical on this subject.