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Kensworth in the New Stone Age and Bronze Age

A reconstructed Bronze Age hut at Flag Fen
A reconstructed Bronze Age hut at Flag Fen

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. There is a very rich vein of information for habitation in Kensworth before our first documentary source - the Domesday Book of 1086.

A considerable quantity of material relating to these two eras has been found in Kensworth as well as a number of sites associated with burial. The Bronze Age only gradually emerged from the Neolithic and the use of stone tools continued throughout it because, especially in an area like South Bedfordshire, flint was easily available and was easier to work than the copper and tin needed to make bronze. As a result a number of finds could date to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

Two Neolithic axes were reportedly found in Kensworth at unspecified dates before 1904 [HER 2009 and HER 2030]. A number of Neolithic flint scrapers were also found at an early date [HER 2010]. In 1892 Dunstable archaeologist and antiquarian Worthington George Smith found four complete or partial Neolithic axes east of Church End [HER 2029]. In 1886 he found “the upper or cutting part of a polished celt [axehead] on Dunstable Downs” in an area inside the parish of Kensworth [HER 12,149].

At the chalk quarry at Mount Pleasant in the north-west of the parish a variety of Neolithic implements have been found scattered [HER 13,570]. They incuded a leaf shaped arrowhead, an axe and a small quantity of flint flakes. Another axehead was found in the location at a different date [HER 13,576]. A Neolithic axe was found north-east of the club house of Dunstable Golf Club [HER 13,575]. A single axe and a number of axes have also been found in Kensworth at unspecified dates [HER 13,577 and HER 14,077].

The Historic Environment Network records seven instances of finds of flints which could belong either to the Neolithic or the Bronze Age as follows:

  • Field-walking at Kensworth Quarry before it was extended, revealed 332 pieces of flint, mostly flakes and cores, though including blades, scrapers, an arrowhead, a knife and an axe. Trial trenches produced very few finds and suggested that it was unlikely that the site was occupied in either the Neolithic or the Bronze Age [HER 16,081];
  • A small scatter of flint flakes was discovered north of the village [HER 16,251];
  • Field-walking produced a scatter of flint flakes from an area west of Lodge Farm [HER 16,253];
  • A small scatter of flint flakes was found east of Church End [HER 16,255];
  • A small quantity of flakes from the early Mesolithic to the late Bronze Age were discovered, along with Iron Age or Romano-British pottery west of Church End [HER 16,258];
  • A scatter of flint flakes and a fragment of a Romano-British quern, for grinding corn, have been found north of Church End [HER 16,259];
  • Field-walking north-east of Church End produced a scatter of flint flakes as well as some Romano-British pottery [HER 16,260].

Three Bronze Age burial sites have been identified in Kensworth. A round barrow was excavated on land forming part of Dunstable Golf Club (it is now destroyed) and it produced burials of a woman and a child. The finds were transferred to Luton Museum and included two pots, three stone hammers or grinding stones, two scrapers, two very chipped axes and a white pebble. An arrowhead was also found but later lost. A later cremation was also interred in the mound [HER 10,025].

In 1887 a boy’s skeleton was dug out of a ruined round barrow south of Dunstable Golf Club’s club house [HER 10,445]. The barrow lay a thousand yards south of the famous Five Knolls barrow cemetery on the east side of the road from Dunstable to Studham. The original grave had six or seven later burials around it including that of the boy. All graves had been disturbed and robbed save that of the boy’s, which contained five flint flakes, nodules of iron pyrites and a scraper. The boy was estimated to be about fourteen years old and had a condition known as brachycephaly - a flat head.

A large scatter of flints fractured by fire was discovered by field-walking south of the village [HER 16,250]. The scatter also included some flints unaffected by fire. A possible round barrow has been identified south-west of Lodge Farm [HER 14,107] and cropmarks north of Dedmansey Wood may be prehistoric [HER 15,308].