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Anglo-Saxon Toddington

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. A burial site was found in 1819 to the south of the village in an area known as Warmark on the west side of a track known as Frenchman's Highway which has been dated to the 5th-6th centuries. If the 5th century date is correct then the site would equal the cemetery at Kempston as one of the earliest Saxon cemeteries in Bedfordshire. In addition to a large number of burials in shallow, parallel trenches finds included an iron shield boss, numerous swords, daggers and spears, a gilded copper alloy cruciform brooch and four gold saucer brooches, and a large number of glass and stone beads [HER2857]. Large numbers of human bones and urns were also found in 1829-30 immediately outside the village to the north-east [HER11954]. The existence of these two cemeteries suggests that there may have been a settlement within the town boundaries at this early date. According to local tradition a battle took place between Chalton and Warmark, a name which itself may indicate the location of a battle. However, it may simply be that the Saxon cemetery finds were mistaken for battleground remains.

Two other early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have been found in Toddington parish, one at Chalton in the south [HER91] and one at Sheepwalk Hill in the north-east [HER101]. Between 1844 and 1885 at least seventeen skeletons were found on Sheepwalk Hill, along with grave goods including pottery, jewellery, and knives. These burials have been dated to the 6th century AD.

The Cooper-Cooper collection at Northampton Museum includes two Anglo-Saxon brooches found at Toddington. One of these is a tinned bronze disc-brooch, 4.2cm in diameter, of a common type; the other is a more unusual large cruciform brooch. This is described by D.H. Kennett as follows: "The cruciform brooch is bronze, 13.9cm long with a maximum width of 7.8cm. It has a winged head-plate, whose central panel is decorated with a double quatrefoil stamp. All three knobs are half-round with a square expansion; in the case of the two side knobs this is cut back at the join with the knob, and somewhat rounded through wear on the outside. The bow is short with a median bar topped by a small square knob. The lappets, which are elaborate, with a disjointed and dismembered attempt at animal ornament, belong to Åberg's type. The animal head at the foot of the brooch has scroll nostrils and is of Åberg's type. Above all this is an extremely well-made brooch." He argues that the style of this brooch places its provenance within the Cambridge region and is one of a number of pieces of evidence suggesting extensive connexions between Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire in the later 6th century.

Toddington is first mentioned by name in a charter of 926 in which King Athelstan granted land at Chalgrave and Tebworth which he had bought from a Dane. Toddington was very close to the boundary between English lands and the Danelaw agreed between King Alfred and Guthrum in the Peace of Wedmore of 886, and this document suggests that for a time at least it may have been included within Danish territory. The charter refers to a holy well dedicated to St. Cyneburh. This can be identified as the Kimberwell, a natural spring on the parish boundary to the south west [HER6986].