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Harrold in Prehistory

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] records every prehistoric find and site known in the county. It may now be found on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway site.

The earliest known trace of human activity in what is now Harrold dates to the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age. At this remote epoch travel may have been largely by water and so Harrold's situation on the north bank of a major navigable river must have meant that it was more likely to be visited than some other places. a Palaeolithic flint flake [HER 618] was, reportedly, found in the parish at some unspecified date.

There is then a break in the prehistoric record until the Bronze Age. A number of cropmarks identified in the parish seem to include ring ditches. As the name suggests, these are broadly circular ditches and may represent hut circles or destroyed barrows. They are usually associated with the Bronze Age, unless excavation proves otherwise. The following crop marks may represent Bronze Age settlement:

  • a scatter of small, irregular cropmarks south-east of Harrold Lodge suggest ring ditches [HER 539]. No finds have been recorded to specifically date the marks;
  • a ring ditch has been identified from cropmarks west of Millholme Island and east of the road leading to Lavendon [HER 2419]. A small square enclosure and extensive linear features can also be seen in the river gravels;
  • two ring ditches were identified at Meadway and now lie under modern housing [HER 15307];
  • cropmarks east of Nun Wood [HER 16475] appear to show a ring ditch as well as linear ditches.

Just north of Peach's Close, during gravel extraction during the 1950s, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon graves were found [HER 64]. Eleven ring ditches were uncovered, all the remains of round barrows, some still had cremation and inhumation burials associated with them. Dating showed them to have been created around 1400 BC.

On 21st February 1999 buried remains of a banjo enclosure (so-called from its shape) on a broad spur of high ground south of Manor Farm were made a Scheduled Ancient Monument [HER 14008]. These banjo enclosures are Iron Age features. The enclosure is defined by a ditch two or three metres wide and is roughly circular, with a diameter of fitty five metres. The western part of the enclosure is broken by a twelve metre wide entrance and either side a ditch extends sixty metres on a west-south-west orientation to form an avenue. A number of associated cropmarks may be pits and, possibly, foundations of timber structures.

A number of other cropmarks have been identified in the parish and have been tentatively labelled as prehistoric though absence of clear dating evidence means that a more specific date cannot yet be determined. The marks are as follows:

  • cropmarks north-west of Manor Farm may show a group of enclosures [HER 14009];
  • north of Lavendon Wood [HER 16476] a a number of small, irregular enclosures with linear marks adjacent to them, perhaps tracks or field boundaries;
  • south of Middle Farm [HER 16481] is another group of irregular enclosures showing as cropmarks;
  • a cropmark north-west of Middle Farm shows three sides of a large rectilinear enclosure [HER 16486];
  • roughly rectangular cropmarks west of New Buildings [HER 16487] lie on the north-facing side of a stream valley and may be an enclosure.