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Cotton End Before The Middle Ages

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

Cotton End has a number of potential prehistoric and Roman sites as well as spots at which artefacts have been found. The oldest of these artefacts is a Palaeolithic hand-axe [HER 683] found at an unspecified date between Shortstown and Cotton End. About 1976 some flint flakes dating to the Mesolithic or early Neolithic were found during field--walking south-east of Exeter Wood [HER 10598].

More evidence of occupation has been found for the Iron Age period. North-west of Rookery Farm crop marks show a complex of linear features as well as clusters of enclosures. The enclosures include two clusters of enclosures with curved walls that probably date to the Iron Age. A third cluster includes a rectangular enclosure and a possible banjo enclosure {so called from the shape it made on the ground), which are thought to indicate a later use of the site [HER 16659].

An extensive area of crop marks, including double-ditched track ways, small enclosures and ring ditches have been identified on the border of Eastcotts and Wilshamstead between Cotton End and Shortstown [HER 1181]. Late Iron Age as well as Roman material has reportedly been retrieved, including large quantities of pottery, roof and floor tiles, quern fragments and a small number of metal objects. Ring ditches are usually associated with the earlier Bronze Age either as the remains of barrows or huts.

Late Iron Age pottery was recovered from Hammer Hill south of Cotton End at an unspecified date [HER 16286] and a silver coin of Cunobelin dating from 15 to 35 AD was found at Cotton End [HER 281].

Some crop marks suggest prehistoric activity but without associated artefacts from field walking or excavation it is impossible to specify which period of prehistory. HER 16660]. West of the sewage works on the Eastcotts/Wilshamstead boundary there is a scatter of small enclosure crop marks. There is a group of interlinked enclosures of which four are irregular and there are three isolated rectilinear enclosures [HER 16660]. North of Rook Tree Farm is a small isolated sub-rectangular enclosure crop mark [HER 16701]. A rectangular crop mark is visible west of the High Road at its dog-leg turning south-east in Cotton End [HER 14750].

There is some evidence of later activity in and around Cotton End. A possible Roman road has been traced in Cotton End. It was suggested by a national group dedicated to finding Roman roads in the modern landscape – the Viatores. It may have run from Bedford to Ickleford [Hertfordshire][HER 10480] and lay close to or on the site of the modern A600. At Cotton End Nurseries a sestertius of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) was found. Four of these large brass coins were the equivalent of one silver denarius [HER 16020].

While field walking the route of a pipeline from Willington to Steppingley an opaque turquoise bead was found west of Exeter Wood. It was irregularly decorated with specks of opaque white, marbled with red-brown, which was possibly originally red. Its surfaces are weathered and its circular perforation has a red-brown colouration around one end. It is thought to be Anglo-Saxon in date [HER 13528].