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Romano-British Shillington

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. There is quite considerable evidence for Romano-British activity in the modern parish of Shillington.

The Viatores are a group who are dedicated to trying to discover Roman roads in the modern landscape. There is a possible Roman road in Shillington [HER 10472], evidence having been found outside 52 High Road. This consisted of an old road surface four inches below current by builders in June 1959. The orientation seems to have been north-south or, perhaps, north-west to south-east. The surface included metalling with pebbles on the grey clay subsoil. The road was certainly in use in the late Middle Aged as sides of a 15th century leather shoe were found.

A Roman villa was found in 2007 to the north-east of Upton End at Ashton Well [HER 15256]. A small excavation uncovered part of the structure and the extent of the buildings is not currently known. It seems to have included at least one hypercaust, the Roman method of under-floor heating. The building is thought to be in L-shape. Rubbish pits associated with it show activity extending from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD.

Considerable numbers of Roman coins have been found in the parish. An antoninianus of Claudius II Gothicus (268-270) was found in a ploughed field [HER 9425]. Seventeen bronze coins from the 3rd to 5th centuries (260-410) were found in September 2005 near Chibley Farm, along with a Roman bracelet, finger ring and brooch dating from the 1st century AD. A single coin from the reign of Nero [54-68] dating from the period 55 to 60 AD was also found. Three more Roman coins were found south-west of Windmill Farm in 2004 [HER 18375]. One was dated to the reign of Claudius Gothicus or early in the reign of Aurelian [268-270], one was definitely Aurelianic (270-275) whilst the other was dated to late in the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), specifically 329 to 336.

More coins were found at Northley Farm between 2005 and 2006 [MER 18388]. Many are badly corroded but seem to range between 1st and 3rd centuries in date, others can be more precisely dated to the reign of Hadrian (117-138), Antoninus Pius (138-161), Septimius Severus (193-211), the British usurper Allectus (293-296) and Constantius II (337-361). A coin of Antoninus Pius dating to 145 or 146 was found south-east of Northley Farm in 2006 [HER 18394] along with a coin of Constantine dated 330 to 335. A bracelet and tweezers were also found.

A brooch of a type known as Colchester and dating from the 1st century AD was found south-west of Northley Farm in 2006 [HER 18400]. With is was a 3rd to 5th century finger ring and three coins dating from the reign of Vespasian (69-79), Trajan (98-117) and from the 2nd century. A stud and a trumpet brooch were found north-east of Upton Farm between 2006 and 2007 along with 20 coins ranging in date from the 1st century to 409 [HER 18412]. Six coins were found west of Northley Farm in 2006 [HER 18421]. Two are corroded and may date from 1st to 3rd centuries. The others are clearer, two dating to the reign of Vespasian, one to the reign of Nerva, specifically 97 and one to the reign of Antoninus Pius.

In 2007 jewellery and coins were found at Chibley Farm [HER 18482]. The jewellery comprised another Colchester brooch, a brooch of a type known as Langton Down, three of a type known as Hod Hill (all first century in date) and two T-shaped brooches which may be 1st or 2nd century. Twenty eight coins were also found dating from 260 to 402. Another Colchester brooch was discovered north-east of Upton Farm in 2007 along with a pin and a spoon and 36 coins dating between 69 and 402.

One coin hoard found in Shillington is of international importance. In was found in 1997 south-west of Kettledean Farm and comprises 123 gold aurei and 7 silver denarii. The aurei date from the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD) to that of Vespasian and mostly look as if they had been struck yesterday, so their circulation must have been minimal. Many of the coins are rare types and one is unique. The silver coins range in date from the Republic to Vespasian suggesting that all the coins were deposited either during the reign of that particular emperor or very shortly thereafter. The hoard was declared Treasure in 1998 and is now in Stockwood Museum in Luton. The best guess is that the coins were deposited for ritual purposes as a ritual or cult site.

Three Roman brooches were found west of Northley Farm in 2006 [HER 18393], one of Colchester type, another a T-shaped brooch. Two other finds come from a similar area – one of a 3rd to 5th century plate brooch [HER 18495] the other a 1st o 2nd century brooch in the shape of a swan [HER 18496]. A cosmetic mortar was found west of Northley Farm in 2005 , dating from the 1st or 2nd century [HER 18498] and a small assemblage north-west of the farm was found in 208 [HER 18585]. This comprises two 1st to 3rd century bracelets; two Colchester brooches; a 1st to 3rd century finger ring; a pin; two Hod Hill brooches; a pair of tweezers and a corroded coin.

A Roman bracelet and pin were found east of Chibley Farm near the Stondon boundary in 2006 [HER 18399]. Nearby another pin was found in 2008 [HER 18583].

The amount of Roman material found in Shillington, particularly the huge number of coins, is very surprising for an area which, before the late 20th century, had no obvious Roman associations such as a major road (like Watling Street) or Roman town.