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Roxton Before 1086

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.

The earliest signs of human activity in what is now Roxton come in the shape of two Palaeolithic tools. One of these is a handaxe found in an area north of Ford Lane during systematic field walking as part of a flint distribution survey [HER 881]. The axe is now in Bedford Museum. The other artefact is a flint core [HER 15901]. Parts of the original flake scars remain but the edges have been damaged by later knocks, possibly from machinery.

A tanged flint arrowhead, dating from the Neolithic or Bronze Age was collected from a site in the village [HER 2475]. A possible Bronze Age feature is a pit alignment in the small area of the civil parish of Roxton lying south of the River Great Ouse [HER 1477]. The alignment has been deduced from aerial photographs.

A Bronze Age flint scatter has been identified south of Ford Lane, the site of Redlands Gravel Pit [HER 14844]. The site seems to have continued in use beyond the Norman Conquest. It is located adjacent to a Bronze Age cemetery site [see below] and is close to the Rivers Great Ouse and Ivel. The Historic Environment Record notes: "A number of phases of activity occurred on the site the earliest of which appears to have been a ditch and post hole which are thought to be of a late Neolithic to Bronze age date. In 1972 a number of ring ditches were excavated which would appear to be associated with the ditches, pits and post holes uncovered in the 1995 excavations. The site produced little evidence for settlement, but arrangements of ditch terminals and post holes may indicate habitation enclosures as well as linear land divisions. The Iron Age activity is seen in a field system which included a palisade ditch. There is also possible Saxo-Norman activity seen on the site in the form of a finds concentration of pottery, charcoal and copper finds".

The Bronze Age cemetery site [HER 617] lies north-west of Roxton Lock. The Historic Environment Record states: "A group of five ring ditches, identified from aerial photographs, and excavated in 1972-1974 in advance of gravel extraction. The ring ditches represent a Bronze Age barrow cemetery, in use throughout the second millennium BC. Two urned primary cremation burials were retrieved, the remaining three barrows showing no surviving burial. Associated with one barrow was an external burial, in a small post-built structure. In some cases mound material survived, and posthole structures were found sealed underneath, indicating the presence of an earlier settlement. Evidence of a contemporary flint industry was found in the ditch fills of two of the barrows".

"The site was under cultivation during the Iron Age, and by the late Iron Age or early Roman period a field system had been laid out. It has been suggested that its location on the flood plain of the River Great Ouse indicates that the site was seasonally occupied, the main focus being above the flood plain. A ditch seems to have been placed to separate the barrows from encroaching fields in the first century BC, but this had been filled in by the mid first century AD". A habitation area was constructed in the centre of the area in the second century AD but this seems to have been occupied seasonally and for a short time only. Fragments of pipe-clay Venus figurines have been taken as evidence of a Romano-Celtic shrine on the site, two burials were found dating to the 2nd or 3rd century AD, one a cremation and the other an inhumation. Two hearths were found in the upper fills of one of the barrow ditches, and carbon dating placed one of them in the 4th century AD and the other in the 6th, indicating continued sporadic use of the site; an inhumation burial just inside the ditch of one of the barrows was dated to the 6th or 7th century AD. Two parallel linear features dating to the medieval period were interpreted as furrows".

A number of cropmarks in the parish are considered to be prehistoric but without associated artefacts a more specific date cannot be ascribed to them:

  • HER 1653: linear cropmarks east of the village.
  • HER 1832: cropmarks north of Tempsford Bridges indicating a block of sub-rectangular enclosures, visible on aerial photographs.
  • HER 1833: cropmarks north-east of the village - an area of sub-rectangular enclosures and other linear features. Archaeological trenching in the area uncovered very few features, none of which were datable.
  • HER 2664: cropmarks east of the Black Cat roundabout at the junction of the A421 and A1 - a cropmark group, probably representing sub-rectangular enclosures.
  • HER 15785: faint cropmarks south of Roxton Park, possibly a group of rectilinear enclosures.

A group of finds retrieved from the River Ivel during dredging operations prior to 1939 [HER 2025] include pottery thought to be Roman, Saxon and medieval, along with animal bone and red deer antler, and a triangular clay loom weight. An iron ring thought to be an Iron Age currency ring was also found, but , the Historic Environment Record notes, is not listed with the other objects in the Cambridge University museum.

In 1983 a telephone conversation [HER 4304] spoke of Roman pottery and a kiln in a market gardening area south-west of Roxton. Metal detecting in Roxton collected five Anglo-Saxon long brooches, a Roman bow brooch and a fragment of a post medieval pewter plate [HER 16181]. A number of Roman and possibly Anglo-Saxon finds were collected near Roxton church [HER 16217]. These included a silver denarius, two partial 1st century brooches and a tubular bronze object. The denarius dated from the Roman Republic, in other words before the initiation of the reign of Augustus, the first emperor, in 30 BC, and so was old by the time Britain was invaded in 43 AD.

Two Anglo-Saxon coins, called sceats, were discovered near Roxton [HER 16290]. One of the coins is from Essex or Middle Anglia and is thought to be circa 730-740AD.