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Great Barford in the Romano-British Period

Recent excavations in Great Barford have uncovered a considerable Roman presence. Previous finds and identification of cropmarks from aerial photographs had already shown that there was Roman settlement in the parish. It appears to have been based on pre-existing Iron Age settlement. The Bedfordshire Historical Environment Record [HER], now available on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website, records the following.

  • Cropmarks between Roxton Road and the later A421 Great Barford Bypass showed a group of sub-rectangular enclosures set within a large sub-rectangular/curvilinear outer boundary [HER 482]. A small outlying sub rectangular enclosure was also identified to the west. On road widening in 1969 excavations produced pottery dating from the 1st century AD, including possible kiln wasters and part of an articulated human skeleton was also found. Further work in advance of the Great Barford bypass [A421] in 2005 uncovered evidence for settlement from the middle Iron Age and the only indication of Roman activity consisted of a scatter of Roman pottery and other finds in the upper fills of enclosure ditches.
  • An area of cropmarks, comprising ditches and rectangular enclosures likely to be Roman, with two Bronze Age ring ditches to the north of the enclosures, has been identified south-west of Bridge Farm [HER 596].
  • The Viatores, a group dedicated to discovering evidence for Roman roads in the modern landscape, have suggested the line of a Roman road from Sandy to Sharnbrook, and possibly on to Irchester [Northamptonshire] passing through Great Barford [HER 728].
  • A complex block of irregular and sub rectangular enclosures, with some outlying enclosures to the north-west have been identified from cropmarks at Northfield Farm west of Barford Road [HER 1630]. A few sherds of Roman pottery were found on a field visit in 2002 including both local and imported wares.
  • A fairly large sub-rectangular enclosure defined by double ditches can be seen as a cropmark north-west of Greenend Farm [HER 9833]. Features with Roman pottery were found during the construction of the Southern Feeder Gas Pipeline in 1976. A second area of Romano-British activity was revealed at the western edge of the field, close to Barford Road.
  • Six sherds of Romano-British ware were found at Creakers in 1951 [HER 11292].
  • A cremation on an otherwise Iron Age site near the village was thought to probably be of a Roman date on the basis of iron found on the bone [HER 13410].
  • On the A421 Barford Bypass, just south-west of the junction with Barford Road, on a north-east facing slope, a trial trench found two ditches, two pits and a grave. The grave is believed to be the earliest feature and contained an adult crouched burial, facing south. It is thought that the grave is of the late Iron Age or early Roman period, but this is not certain [HER 13411].
  • A site at Birchfield Farm [HER 13497] has extensive evidence for Iron Age and Roman activity. Roman period occupation lay to the east of the Iron Age settlement and a palisaded enclosure system and trackway had been constructed. Adjacent to the trackway was a small cremation cemetery. It contained seven burials in urns, six were positioned in a row on a north-south alignment and the seventh was placed directly to the east. The pottery was dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The occupation seems to have ceased by the late 2nd century AD, although in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD a corner of the enclosure was used as a small inhumation cemetery. This contained eleven graves. Ten were orientated west - east, as is traditional in Roman Christian burials. The other was aligned south-west - north-east. Two of the bodies were within plain wood coffins. One of the bodies was identified as an older male, and had bee interred in a prone position. Two centrally placed adult skeletons had been decapitated with the cranium placed between the feet. The west - east orientation and decapitated burials suggest a late Roman date.
  • Numerous fragments of pottery found during dredging at Barford Bridge, mainly Roman [HER 14656]
  • Excavations occurred to the north of Brewers Hall Farm in 2005 [HER 15340], on a gentle south-west facing slope. The earliest activity on the site dated to the Iron Age and related to a single isolated pit. The site was then occupied by an early Roman enclosure within which were a number of internal features. This was replaced by a sequence of field boundaries across the site. The features were mainly of the early Roman period, and included field boundary ditches and pits, as well as the enclosure which had an entrance located to the north and had a short ditch, which is thought to have acted as an internal division. An internal L-shaped feature was also excavated but its use remains unknown.
  • Cropmarks were identified south of Brewer's Hall Farm and excavations on the site, 1200 metres to the south-east of Workhouse End on undulating lands rising to the north and dipping to the south towards the River Great Ouse, found occupation from the early Iron Age to the Medieval period [HER 15492]. The peak of activity was from the late Iron Age to the Roman period. A square enclosure, a metalled surface, linear features, pits and post holes were all ascribed a late Iron Age or Roman date. Later Roman features included a ditch, gully and a spread layer, which would suggest that the site did not expand much between the 1st and 2nd centuries. There was only one gully which was datable to the late Roman period.
  • Roman pottery and Roman features indicative of occupation, including pits, ditches, an enclosure and a possible well or quarry, were discovered as part of archaeological works for the Great Barford Flood Attenuation Scheme east of Mill House [HER 18258]. Features included a boundary ditch, enclosure, pit, quarry and well