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Iron Age and Romano-British Harrold

A Roman vessel dug up in 1815 [Z1224]
A Roman vessel dug up in 1815 

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] has details of all Iron Age and Romano-British finds and sites known in the county. It is now available on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website. It is often difficult to tell, without excavation, whether a site is Iron Age or Roman and, of course, a number of sites begin in the Iron Age and extend through into, or even beyond, the Roman period.

The Viatores are a group dedicated to discovering elements of the Roman road network in the modern landscape. They have identified three saparate road running through Harrold. One conjectural route may have have run from Irchester [Northamptonshire] to Kempston [HER 58] and was identified in 1964 from evidence of exposed mealling and roadside aggers combined with modern road lines and boundaries. Aggers are stretches of raised road with a ditch running along either side. The Historic Environment Record notes: "Doubt has since been cast on the identification as some of the boundaries were found to be post-medieval in origin, and there is no indication of the road on air photos of Kempston parish".

Forty Foot Lane [HER 59] was also identified as part of a Roman Road running from Fenny Stratford [Buckinghamshire] to Dungee Corner, where it perhaps joined the Roman road described below. The road forms the boundary between Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire and thus between Harrold and Bozeat. It meets the road suggested above as HER 58 at Dungee Wood as an agger is visible at this point. If the road continued north and north-eastwards it has been wiped out by the creation of Podington airfield.

The Viatores have also suggested a road running through the county through Harrold and Odell, to Felmersham and Pavenham, Oakley, Clapham, Bedford, Eastcotts, Haynes, Old Warden, Southill, Chicksands, Campton, Shefford, Clifton, Henlow. Meppershall and Shillington.

A late Iron Age and Romano-British farmstead was excavated between 1974 and 1978 in advance of gravel extraction in what is now a lake at Harrold Odell Country Park [HER 543]. Most of the site is in Odell but the field system extended west of Odell Road and so lay in Harrold.

Just north of Peach's Close, during gravel extraction during the 1950s, Bronze Age and Anglo-Saxon graves were found [HER 64]. Along with the graves were remains of seven Iron Age huts with pebble floors and a large number of storage pits reused as rubbish pits. Shallow ditches divided the huts from the surrounding fields and one of the pits contained a burial. A lot of poor quality pottery was found along with a small bronze object dating from the early 1st entury AD, on the eve of the Roman conquest.

More Roman occupation was found at Lodge Farm [HER 1182]. It was a production site for pottery and tiles. Finds reported from the site in the 19th century included a slate apothecary's stamp and a large number of coins dating from the 2nd to the early 5th century. During the winter of 1968-1969 a kiln was excavated and further excavations followed from 1969 to 1971. Production of pottery and tile exploited local clay deposits and began in the mid 1st century AD, very shortly after the Roman conquest and continued into the early 5th century (the last Roman military presence left Britain in 410).

Foundation trenches for a series of alterations and extensions to 10 Church Walk produced evidence for a ditch running west-south-west to east-north-east on the eastern side of the house. A single sherd of pottery was used to date the ditch to the Roman period [HER 18232]. More Roman as well as Iron Age pottery was later recovered from Church Walk [HER 18259].

In 1815 a Roman two-handled vessel or flagon was found by workmen digging for gravel in the appropriately named Potters Close [HER 60] south-east of New Road (see the illustration at the head of the page). The vessel is now in Bedford Museum. A drawing exists of a late Iron Age bowl labelled as having also been found in the field and two skeletons were reportedly found on the site.

A number of places in the parish have deposits of slag from iron working. These sites are all thought to be Dark Age or early medieval in date. However, slag found west of Odell Road also had a Roman coin associated with it [HER 838]; slag and charcoal south of Park Barn [HER 834] also had a sherd of Iron Age pottey associated with it and two other slag sites each had a Roman coin found nearby [HER 838 and 5193]. Two areas of slag are thought to be from Roman occupation: a rectangular enclosure near the Bozeat boundary [HER 832] south-west of The Slipe was probably a bloomery or iron works and scatters of Roman pottery have been found in the area; another bloomery is situated in woodland and was associated with a heap of cinders twenty five metres long and half a metre high.

Other Roman occupation sites and finds are as follows:

  • Roman pottery was found north-west of Santon Barn by field walking [HER 830];
  • Roman sherds found by field walking south-west of Dungee Wood [HER 840];
  • Roman pottery was found north of Daisy Castle near the Bozeat boundary [HER 842];
  • Roman pottery, tile and stone found by field walking east of Nun Wood [HER 4428];
  • a scatter of Roman tile and pottery and herringbone walling suggests a substantial Roman building on an east-facing slope north-east of Park Wood [HER 6379];
  • a gragment of Roman quern stone for grinding corn, now in Bedford Museum, was found in Harrold [HER 11302];
  • A loop fastener of 1st or 2nd century date, used on a harness, a late Iron Age brooch and two Roman copper alloy mounts were all recovered from Harrold Lodge Farm [HER 15888];
  • a sestertius, the highest value Roman bronze or brass coin, of Antoninus Pius (138-161) was found near Harrold Bridge [HER 15890];
  • faint cropmarks north of Daisy Castle [HER 16482] of two irregular enclosures maybe related to evidence of Roman occupation recorded west of the site [HER 842 above].