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Iron Age and Romano-British Stagsden

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] details every Iron Age and Romano-British site and find in the county. It can now be found on-line as part of the Heritage Gateway website. A possible Roman pottery vessel was recorded by Bedford Museum as having been found in Stagsden but no further details are known [HER 416].

Stagsden is quite rich in sites which seem to have begun in the Iron Age and then continued through into the Roman period. Cropmarks north-east of Hanger Wood showed two rectilinear enclosures adjacent to the parish boundary with Kempston Rural before the construction of Stagsden Golf Course [HER 16552] and these were probably Iron Age or Romano-British. Certainly to the west of Hanger Wood excavation prior to the construction of the golf course revealed an enclosure surrounded by a ditch and pottery indicating late Iron Age and Romano-British habitation [HER 16348]. Settlement evidence comprised pits, a possible hearth, gullies and an animal burial.

Close by, north-east of Wickend Bridge, excavations in advance of the construction of the A422 Stagsden Bypass discovered a settlement on a south facing slope overlooking a small stream which runs into the River Great Ouse [HER 14711]. The settlement was enclosed by a bank and ditch and comprised two or more round houses, rebuilt on the same site a number of times. There were storage pits and kilns dating to the 1st century AD. Later ditches and a well indicated a shift of settlement in the Roman period.

In the same general area, south of Oxleys, excavations before creation of the golf course revealed a site occupied in both Iron Age and Romano-British periods [HER 16349]. One part of the site, south-west of the wood, was an early Iron Age enclosure, sub-divided at a later period. Directly south of the wood was a subsidiary enclosure with an entrance to the south-east and another in the north-west. Two parallel ditches were thought to define a trackway leading to the north-west entrance. Postholes and gullies provided evidence of buildings. Some of the buildings lay outside the enclosure.

North-east of Oxleys excavation suggested more enclosure ditches and some rectangular buildings. Pits were also identified and the settlement seems to have extended to the west and north and here, unlike the two other areas south of Oxleys, evidence was obtained for settlement continuing into the Roman period.

Further excavation, south of the line of the impending Stagsden Bypass in 1991 produced more settlement [HER 16520]. Two sites showed evidence of Iron Age origins and continued into the Roman period. To the east of Stagsden the settlement was dominated by round houses and groups of pits. The first phase of activity was a small, unenclosed settlement of two round houses, an enclosure further off and a number of pits - all middle Iron Age in date. By the late Iron Age two kilns had been constructed and pottery was being produced. An elaborate burial of a newborn baby was found in a shallow pit and, though the burial site was levelled soon after evidence survived of it being a hallowed spot for several following generations.The settlement continued into the Roman period and a stone lined pit or well was uncovered dating to this phase of activity.

West of the village the settlement continued well into the Roman period and showed evidence for four phases of activity. the first phase was in the early or middle Iron Age and included a groups of pits, a round house and, perhaps, the remains of an enclosure. The second phase, the late Iron Age, produced further pits and round houses, a pond and several hollows. A possible cremation in an urn was also recovered, though in very poor condition. Phase Three saw the settlement shift slightly and was characterised by rectangular enclosures and pits. The final phase, the 2nd to 4th centuries AD saw the settlement move back to the site of the second phase of habitation and the focus lay around a round house and enclosed fields.

In 1965, whilst sewer pipes were being dug at Spring Lane, a corner of a stone building wit ha thick layer of sand inside was found [HER 2555]. This was identified as Roman but no datable finds were recovered.