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Harrold in the Dark Ages

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] details all Dark Age finds and sites known in the county. It is now available on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The term Dark Ages for the period between the Romans leaving Britain and the Norman Conquest (410-1066) has now fallen out of favour with historians and archaeologists who refer to it as the Early Medieval Period. However, the phrase Dark Ages still means more to those outside this range of experts.

Gravel extraction north of Peach's Close revealed archaeological evidence which was excavated between 1951 and 1953 [HER 64]. The site produced Bronze Age barrows and an Iron Age settlement. The Dark Age element of the site was represented by two pits, perhaps sunken buildings, and thirteen burials with grave goods including glass beads, bronze and silver rings and iron knife blades. One burial was interpreted as a Viking buried amongst Anglo-Saxons. This was based on the fact that he had a sword which may have been of Viking type, iron bucket fragments and heckle spikes which were used for wool or flax working and are more common in Viking burials. THis latter burial may be 9th century in dates whereas the rest of the burials seem to date from the 7th or 8th centuries. It should be noted that Bedfordshire fell on the boundary of Anglo-Saxon England and the Danelaw.

All the other Dark Age sites in Harrold are associated with metal working and are identified from slag, produced as part of the process, or charcoal. The sites are as follows:

  • a charcoal burning site north of Nun Wood [HER 831] had two patches of charcoal, one of which was mixed with burned pebbles;
  • two slag patches west of Park Wood [HER 833];
  • five charcoal patches and a slag patch as well as a sherd of Iron Age pottery, probably residual, south of Park Barn [HER 834];
  • a slag scatter west of Dungee Farm [HER 835];
  • a charcoal burning area north of Park Wood [HER 836], with seven charcoal concentrations each over ten metres across;
  • a slag patch and two charcoal patches north of Park Wood [HER 837];
  • a patch pf slag with a Roman coin found nearby [HER 838];
  • two slag heaps in Park Wood [HER 839];
  • a slag patch east of Park Barn [HER 841];
  • a slight scatter of slag north of New Buildings [HER 5193].