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Romano-British Shefford

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] details every Romano-British find and site known in the county. It is now available on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website.

Two sites in Shefford may either be Iron Age or Roman. One of these is a cropmark south-east of the town [HER 11766]. It is trapezoidal i nshape with a smaller curvilinear enclosure attached and a separate oval enclosure lying to the south-west. The other is a cropmark south of Beal's Wood [HER 2861] which is approximately rectabgular and defined by double ditches to the north and west.

In 1826 a wealthy early Roman burial was found whilst digging gravel south of Ampthill Road [HER 379]. It was recorded as a small cemetery surrounded y a sandstone wall but the nature and number of grave goods have led later researchers to consider that it may well have been a single, powerful Romanised Briton. Goods included numerous pottery and glass vessels, funnels, a lead object (perhaps a military standard), coins, an ivory musical instrument and an iron lampstand. A stray Saxon burial lay nearby as indicated by a pair of 6th century gilt brooches.

Near the burial were the remains of a building, at the time interpreted as a temple but, from the description, more likely to have been a hypercaust system for a villa, as noted in re-examination of the area in 1940. A number of small archaeological excavations since the 1990s have found evidence for occupation from the Iron Age through to the 3rd or 4th century AD. two large buildings have been found, one of which had aisles, painted wall plaster and mosaics.

Roman finds were reported from Shefford in 1836 [HER 3113]. A farmer reportedly found silver and copper coins whilst ploughing only three of which were identifiable and belonged to the British usurper Allectus (293-296) and the Emperor Constans (337-340). Two pottery vessels were also reported, an amphora (for wine or oil) now in Bedford Museum and another vessel now in the British Museum. A base to a Roman greyware jar was found at the junction of the Rivers Flit and Hit at some unspecified date [HER 16021].

Shefford was thus a Roman settlement. The Viatores, a group dedicated to finding elements of the Roman road network in the modern landscape, have proposed three Roman roads in the parish. One [HER 10480] may have run from Ickleford [Hertfordshire] to Bedford passing through Shefford - a good deal of metalling has been found on the river bed thirty yards north of South Bridge and a similar feature in the river forty to fifty yards east of North Bridge - either could represent this conjectural road. Another possible road has been identified as running through the county from Astwick to Husborne Crawley and beyond [HER 5342] and another from Shefford itself to Cardington and, possibly,Bedford [HER 717].