Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community archives > Colmworth > Prehistoric Colmworth

Prehistoric Colmworth


Colmworth was clearly populated in the prehistoric period as the large number of cropmarks testifies. Unfortunately these cannot be dated as there are no finds connected with them. In fact there are no finds at all from the Palaeolithic or Mesolithic periods. At this remote time humans were not settled, they moved from place to place and seem to have only inhabited temporary camps. It seems likely that rivers were used as highways and Colmworth is not very near any easily navigable watercourse.

The New Stone Age

The first definite find from prehistory in Colmworth is from the Neolithic period. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER 14788] records a polished Neolithic greenstone axe, approximately 117mm long and 53mm wide and a maximum of 27mm thick which was found at Three Horseshoes Farm.

The Iron Age

No Bronze Age material or landscape features have been found in Colmworth but a number of Iron Age features have been identified. Cropmarks west of Tythe Farm [HER15018] show two separate groups of small sub-rectangular enclosures. The evidence for these being of Iron Age date was uncovered in pipeline construction when a circular feature best interpreted as an Iron Age round house was unearthed. Finds included animal remains, a loom weight for use in weaving and an Iron Age pot.

More Iron Age cropmarks occur east of The City [HER 9832]. One linear feature was located 50 metres to the north of the field boundary and measured 1.4 metres in width and 1.2 metres in depth. A further 30 metres north lay another ditch, which measured 2 metres in width and 1 metre in depth. A third ditch measuring 1 metre in width and nearly a metre in depth and lay 10 metres to the north of the second ditch. A fourth ditch lay a further 9 metres to the north and measured 1.4 metres in width and 1 metre in depth. The fill of all four features consisted of dark brown clay, chalk and gravel and charcoal fragments. Two sherds of Iron Age pottery were recovered.

Two Iron Age brooches have been found at Chapel Farm. One [HER 16225] was a disc brooch that can be dated to the 2nd century B. C. It is decorated with an enamelled sunburst pattern, nearly all the enamel is missing, although a small amount of red enamel is present. The other [HER15937] was of a type known as an umbonate brooch. It dates, again, to the 2nd century B. C. and is common in South-East England.

Two parallel rectilinear enclosures are visible as cropmarks to the north-east of Westwood [HER 15019]. Nearby excavations produced evidence of a pit and a gully which were dated to the Iron Age

Prehistoric Cropmarks

The Heritage Environment Record identifies fifteen groups of cropmarks as being from some time in prehistory, but without excavation, or finds from field-walking no definite dates can be given. The sites are as follows:

  • Cropmarks west of Church End located to the west of Church End [HER 14020]; they show an isolated enclosure, the north and west sides of which are sub-rectangular, while the south and east sides are curvilinear. An entrance lies to the east.
  • Cropmarks west of The City [HER 14021]; a conjoined group of enclosures of which two are rectilinear [i. e. has straight lines], and one is curvilinear [i.e. has curving lines].
  • Cropmarks north and south of New Road [HER 14059]: they show three sides of small sub-rectangular enclosure on the edge of a field north of the road. Two further enclosures are on the south side of road.
  • Cropmarks south-west of Chapel End [HER 15073]: two separate enclosures, one rectilinear, the other an irregular curvilinear  structure in the angle between New Road and Church Road.
  • Cropmarks east of Cornfields Hotel [HER 15074]: an isolated sub-rectangular enclosure;
  • Cropmarks north-west of the village [HER 15075]: a conjoined group of curvilinear enclosures.
  • Cropmarks north-west of Tythe Farm [HER 16691]: a small sub-rectangular enclosure with an entrance to the south. Part of another enclosure is located to the south and has been cut by a pipe line.
  • Cropmarks south of Tythe Farm [HER 16693]. another group of conjoined sub-rectangular enclosures. The area was known as Black Ley on the 1838 pre-enclosure map.
  • Cropmarks north-west of Roothams Green [HER 16694]: a group of three separate enclosures: one is rectilinear; another is an irregular polygonal enclosure; the third is sub-rectangular. They lie north of the central section of New Road.
  • Cropmarks north of Top Farm [HER 16726]: a small square enclosure with a curvilinear annexe.
  • Cropmarks north of Channels End [HER 16727]: indistinct cropmarks which possibly represent a group of curvilinear enclosures.
  • A cropmark south of Mill End [HER 16728]: a small, isolated, polygonal enclosure.
  • Cropmarks south-east of Chapel End [HER16729]: a block of rectilinear enclosures.
  • Cropmarks east of Mill End [HER 16748]: a compact block of rectilinear enclosure cropmarks.
  • Cropmarks north-west of Church End [HER 16773]: a group of small irregular enclosure cropmarks.