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Ireland and Rowney Before 1086

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] details all prehistoric and Roman finds and sites known in the county. It is now on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website.

The earliest evidence for human activity in what is now Southill comes from Southill Park. A light tranchet axe dating to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age was discovered there and is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford [HER 8100]. South of New Rowney Farm is an incomplete cropmark [HER 14776] which may be a ring ditch. Ring ditches, as the name suggests, are roughly circular ditches and are usually associated with the Bronze Age; they are often thought to be round barrows destroyed by later ploughing. This feature may, however, be of modern agricultural origin.

Other prehistoric sites in the area are now represented solely by cropmarks and none can be more accurately dated other than to say that they probably belong to some period of prehistory. They are as follows:

  • a circular cropmark at Old Rowney Farm [HER 14774];
  • a field with irregular cropmarks, south of Abbey Farm and west of Claypits Farm, some of which are circular [HER 14775];
  • a block of sub-rectangular enclosure cropmarks north of Old Rowney Farm [HER 16755];
  • an elongated D-shaped enclosure with an entrance to the south on the crest of a south facing slope and lying north of Keeper's Warren [HER 16756];
  • a rectangular enclosure cropmark on a crest over a small valley to the north-east in Southill Park [HER 16774];
  • a compact block of roughly rectangular enclosures lying south of Southill Park [HER 16775].

A Roman road may run through the area, it has been suggested that earthworks at New Rowney Farm [HER 5176] may represent its remains. Similarly, an agger has been identified east of Southill Station [HER 5185]. Aggers are raised rampart-like structures with a ditch on either side, the road having run along the crest of the rampart.