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Willington in the Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon Periods

As might be expected in an area close to a major river, in this case the Great Ouse, the local parishes contain a good deal of evidence of settlement before the Norman Conquest. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] details all these sites and find spots and is now on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway site. This article is taken from the various entries in the HER.

A very extensive area of complex cropmarks along an eastward-flowing stream course south of Bedford Road has been interpreted as a Romano-British village complex, containing a possible villa site marked by very regular rectilinear enclosures [HER 1861]. Straight double ditches of a possible Roman road approach from both west and east, though these may also represent a Neolithic cursus monument. Scattered smaller groups of enclosures lie to the south and east. A line of rectilinear enclosures, circular features, and linear features are clearly visible as cropmarks. Archaeological excavations near to the northern end of the cropmark complex, in a much less dense area of cropmarks, produced evidence for Iron Age occupation in the form of a double ring ditch enclosure, several pits, and linear features on various orientations. The parallel east-west ditches produced pottery of late Iron Age or early Roman date but their function remained unclear.

Another complex of linear cropmarks, thought to show a Roman settlement, is recorded from aerial photographs in the area named as Lime Hill in a survey of 1779 [HER 1860], falling close to the parish boundary with Mogerhanger. In 1860, workmen digging drainage ditches in the area found Roman pottery, two quern stones and an inhumation burial, near which was a coin thought to be of Magnentius (350-353 AD). The pottery included Samian as well as coarse wares. Samian was produced in Gaul from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD. A fragment of a late Roman bracelet was found in the area by a metal detectorist in 1989.

Excavations at Willington Quarry produced limited evidence for Roman occupation of the site [HER 14456]. The evidence shows general occupation and limited farming in the forms of an enclosure and ditches. Dating evidence was mainly provided by pottery from excavation in 1983. The site included a trackway in which a Roman cremation in an urn was recovered from the upper fill and had two funerary vessels were associated with it.

In a field to the west of Sheerhatch Wood in Willington a number of sherds of Roman pottery have been collected [HER 16183]. A minute book of the Bedford Archaeological Society [X69/16] records:  "Rev. A. Orlebar referred to many valuable specimens of antiquities discovered…in railway excavations at Willington, where many interesting Roman remains found" [HER 4792].

A Vicar of Willington was said to have possessed a remarkably well-preserved gold coin, of the Emperor Honorius, found in a field by a woman of the village [HER 6661]. Honorius reigned from 395 to 423 and thus his reign included the final withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain. A number of Anglo-Saxon finds were found by a metal detectorist at Hill Top Farm [HER 17739]. These included a brooch and a wrist clasp, both of which were made of copper, and a lead weight.