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Houghton Conquest in Prehistory

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. By far the oldest thing found in what is now Houghton Conquest pre-dates humanity itself by millions of years. Chris Andrew found a plesiosaur from the Middle Jurassic (161 to 176 million years ago) in 1998 in Quest Pit. It was found to be a new species and was given the name Marmornectes candrewi in honour of its finder. Plesiosaurs had long necks, relatively round bodies, four fins and a tail shorter than their neck, being similar in appearance to the popular conception of the Loch Ness Monster. They were carnivorous.

The earliest traces of human occupation belong to the New Stone Age or Neolithic. A flint blade was found by field walking [HER 7469]. The Bronze Age followed the Neolithic and a Bronze Age round barrow has been identified south-east of Bury Farm [HER 7488]. It survives as an upstanding earthwork. It is reportedly about 54 feet in diameter and about three feet high but has been the subject of disagreement, with some opinion denying that it exists.

Something definitely Bronze Age was a copper alloy awl found in the parish [HER 18645]. A Bronze Age, or possibly early Iron Age copper alloy implement known as a palstave was found south of Chapel Farm [HER 18634]. It was probably made around the time what we now call the Bronze Age was fading into the Iron Age.

A reconstruction of an Iron Age round house at Flag Fen October 2011
A reconstruction of an Iron Age round house at Flag Fen October 2011

North of Hawhills Farm a small Iron Age occupation site has been identified [HER 18191]. Associated finds include daub, animal remains, flint flakes, a possible crucible for iron-smelting, a loom weight, a pot sherd and a bowl. Also from the Iron Age are features south-west to Wootton Broadmead just inside the Houghton Conquest boundary [HER 19749]. Finds associated with a ditch, possible pit and gully include flint flake, animal remains and pot sherds.

A scatter of flint was found at Chapel End Road during work on a pipeline [HER 18189], along with evidence of a pit and a gully. Flint was used throughout prehistory as the raw material was easily available and quicker to work than iron or the constituent parts for bronze.

Slight cropmarks south-east of Willow Farm [HER 3280] including linear features and rectangular enclosures may indicate prehistoric activity. Cropmarks are made by ancient buried walls, ditches and banks disturbing the growth of crops. Two small irregular cropmarks have also been identified south of Field Farm at How End [HER 16470]. Two small curved enclosure cropmarks were identified south-west of Barnacles in London Lane in 1996 [HER 16643].