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Kempston Rural in the Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon Periods

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The Viatores are a group dedicated to finding the remains of Roman roads in the modern landscape. One such road has been identified as running from Dorchester-on-Thames [Oxfordshire] to Alconbury House [Huntingdonshire] passing through the Bedfordshire parishes of Aspley Heath, Woburn, Aspley Guise, Houghton Conquest, Brogborough, Marston Moretaine, Wootton, Kempston Rural, Great Denham, Kempston, Bedford, Ravensden, Wilden, Colmworth, Bolnhurst and Keysoe and Staploe [HER 485]. Its passing through Kempston Rural is disputed and there is no clear evidence for it. A paved ford has been suggested in the vicinity of the bridge carrying the Branston Way seemingly along the line of this Roman road [HER 814]. The ford appears to be paved with oolite slabs secured by peg-stones and wooden piles. However, it is now thought unlikely that a Roman ford could have survived flooding and scouring of the river over the last two millennia and that this ford is more likely to be 17th century or slightly earlier.

Roman finds at Church End have been recorded since the 19th century [HER 162] including coins and a small bronze figurine. More coins and pottery were uncovered through the 20th century inch thirteen silver coins found in 1978. Excavations in the early 1990s found burial sites from Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon periods. A substantial building was found and this villa had wells, hearths, ovens and cobbled roads. A nearby cemetery comprised eighty eight Romano-British burials as well as five cremations. In the debris caused by the villa’s collapse was a 5th century burial.

More archaeological investigations undertaken in 2000 showed a settlement extending north from this villa including graves. Late Iron Age and Romano-British pottery were found along with metalwork and animal bone. Work in 2006 showed continuing occupation to the south-east, beginning in the late Iron Age and ending in the Anglo-Saxon period. In 2009 eleven sherds of Romano-British pottery and one sherd of Iron Age pottery were found at Kempston Rural Lower School.

Cropmarks north-west of Church End were excavated in May 2004 [HER 13976] and a cemetery of thirty eight graves was found. Ten graves showed evidence of coffins and only one contained grave goods – a knife and a coin. Roman settlement remains have also been found west of Green End – on the east side of Tithe Road [HER 977]. These included the rim from a mortarium as well as Iron Age pottery.

Anglo-Saxon pottery has been found at Box End [HER 15243] suggesting continuity of settlement in the area from the Iron Age through to the Dark Ages.