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Ruxox Farm Roman Site Flitwick

Bedfordshire Archive and Record Service has notes by Director of Excavations T H Gardner of excavations at Ruxox Farm between 1957 and 1959. In 1957 field-walking was undertaken on smallholdings and two concentrations of pottery discovered on the surface. One was between the brook and New Road and the other in a field adjoining the farm buildings. It was decided that the latter site would repay further investigation.

A grid of thirteen sections was uncovered and excavated to a depth of two feet eight inches. About a foot below the modern surface sherds of coarse were found with some yellow-coated pottery of the 3rd century AD. A sterile layer of two to four inches lay beneath this, then an eighteen inch deep layer with a high concentration of pottery, particularly in a pit of dull red, fire-stained, soil. Evidently this was a refuse pit, about fifteen feet long by seven feet wide and roughly oval in shape.

The pit produced fragments of Samian ware from at least five different pieces of pottery, as well as coarse ware. Samian, despite its name, was made in Gaul (roughly modern France) and exported between the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD. The type is very distinctive, bright orange and highly decorated with moulded designs. Samian ware was of high status so the clear implication was that the rubbish pit belonged to a villa.

As well as pottery four Roman coins were found as follows:

  • a sestertius (large brass coin worth a quarter of a silver denarius) of Trajan (97-117);
  • a sestertius of Bruttia Crispina, wife of Commodus (180-192) from 178 to 188 when she was banished and later murdered;
  • a denarius of Severus Alexander (222-235);
  • a small bronze coin of Gallic usurper Tetricus II (273-274)

In addition several iron nails, charcoal fragments, burned sandstone and flint, small lumps of mortar, fragments of roofing tiles, a considerable quantity of animal bone and patches of ash and cinders were found.

In 1959 a trench was made in water-logged waste land adjacent to a brook and went down to the ancient river bed, five feet below the modern ground level. There were four bands of soil as follows:

  • A: top soil of light brown loam with a few stones and sterile;
  • B: a narrow band of black, sandy soil  with some water-worn pottery;
  • C: very heavy clay with debris-sherds of pottery, charcoal and bone fragments;
  • D: fine silver sand, stained with peat and with a lot of ancient drift wood, mostly from birch trees.

A large timber object was found, thoroughly water-logged, about three feet wide and one foot thick and resting on the old river bed. Adjacent to the wood were remains of a structure composed of sandstone blocks, large boulders and flint pebbles. It was about one foot high and two feet thick and was thought to be the remains of a possible Roman bridge.

The bridge, if that is what it was, had acted as a trap for debris being carried by the river such as pot sherds, animal bones, charcoal, mortar and wood fragments. Fragments of cinerary urns, used for burying cremations, were found as well as some traces of bone. It was hypothesised that these had been washed out from a nearby Romano-British burial ground on the banks of the river. A piece of Samian found is known from finds elsewhere to have been made by a potter named Matinus or Martinus [Martin].

Later in the year a further excavation uncovered an unusual Roman wall. Fifty feet were uncovered or probed. T H Gardner mused about the type of occupation at Ruxox and tended, at that time, towards it being a posting station as it was similar to evidence of such a station he had seen at Fenny Stratford [Buckinghamshire]. These were local bases for government couriers at which they could change horses, refresh themselves and rest.

Later work took place in 1961 and led to a clearer picture, suggesting an Iron Age settlement by a lake on Flitwick Moors and a Romano-British settlement of some kind extending from 1st to late 4th centuries AD. In July undisturbed Roman foundations were discovered in a field. They were of dry sandstone blocks with slabs of sandstone as flooring. Some slight traces of plaster floors were also found. Another rubbish pit nearby yielded a bronze brooch, a denarius of Hadrian, lots of pottery sherds, three well-made bone needles and large quantities of animal bones from oxen, pigs, sheep, dogs, cats and horses. A double cremation burial was found near the structure dating from 100-125 AD, one of the cremations appeared to be a young adult male.

A number of coins were recovered including types of Vespasian (69-79), Domitian (81-96), Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), Antoninus Pius (138-161), Commodus (180-192) and his wife Crispina, Claudius II Gothicus (268-270), Gallic usurper  Tetricus I (270-274), Tetricus II (273-274), British usurper Allectus (293-296) and Constantine I (306-337) and his sons. All the various pieces of Samian ware included a number of pieces by known potters - Paterculus, Martinus, Severus, Avitus, Albinus, Primulus, Frontinus, Mommo and Divicatus.