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Romano-British small town and Late Iron Age settlement at Baldock

A Scheduled Monument in Baldock Town, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 51.9888 / 51°59'19"N

Longitude: -0.1809 / 0°10'51"W

OS Eastings: 525006.510825

OS Northings: 233827.482009

OS Grid: TL250338

Mapcode National: GBR J6Y.92N

Mapcode Global: VHGNM.T86P

Entry Name: Romano-British small town and Late Iron Age settlement at Baldock

Scheduled Date: 11 December 1985

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016305

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27913

County: Hertfordshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Baldock Town

Built-Up Area: Baldock

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Baldock

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes the known extent of the surviving buried remains of a
Romano-British small town and Late Iron Age settlement lying beneath and to
the east and west of the A507 Clothall Road. To the east, the settlement is
preserved beneath the buildings and grounds of Hartsfield JMI School and an
adjacent garden centre, while the remains to the west lie beneath a sports
field known as Bakers Close.
The settlement, which is known to have existed by the beginning of the 1st
century BC, grew up close to the source of the River Ivel at the intersection
of a number of prehistoric trackways, including the Icknield Way, on the
gently sloping chalk ridge to the north east of Baldock town centre.
A number of burials of Late Iron Age date, one of which was accompanied by
rich grave goods including bronze and iron objects, were discovered during the
1920s and 1960s. These suggested the existence of a settlement in the area
and its focus, to the east of the A507, was gradually revealed over a number
of years by aerial and geophysical surveys and by part excavation, but its
full extent is not yet known.
The area of the earliest settlement was defined by a series of burial
enclosures laid out to the north east and south west, while the northern,
southern and western limits appear to have been bounded by trackways.
Part excavations have shown that this early settlement, which may have been
the tribal centre of a sub-group of the Catuvellauni, included a number of
enclosures, some of which contained the remains of round houses, pits, wells
and other occupation features. Other enclosures were devoid of structures and
may have been farm plots.
By the Roman period occupation had expanded into the area of the burial
enclosures to the north east, and had become more dense within the existing
area, with houses and other structures being built over many of the pre-Roman
paddocks and enclosures. The settlement retained its essentially Iron Age
character throughout the Roman period, with round houses still being built at
least as late as the 3rd century AD. However, there was increasing
sophistication of building techniques and materials, with an increasing
tendency towards the construction of rectilinear buildings. There is presently
little evidence to suggest that the settlement area to the east of Clothall
Road contained any buildings with specialised functions, but some structures
are thought to have been substantial and, perhaps, imposing.
Early in the post-conquest period, a series of metalled streets and lanes was
laid out, based on existing boundary features, perhaps indicating an attempt
to Romanise the settlement. However, since at least one street is known to
overlie a pre-existing trackway, it is possible that the new streets were
little more than a consolidation of the original layout. The surfaces of these
streets were maintained throughout the Roman period.
There is no evidence that the town was defended, although a series of banks
and ditches to the south east, where the road from the Roman town of Braughing
enters the settlement, suggests a degree of control at this point.
Aerial and geophysical surveys have demonstrated the existence of a large
number of structural features to the south west of the settlement area buried
beneath a sports field on the western side of the A507. Aerial photographs
record a series of parchmarks representing the foundations of a small
Romano-Celtic temple with associated enclosures and other buildings, one of
which is thought to be a substantial town house.
Excavations in advance of development revealed traces of further structures to
the south. The nature of these structures and the extent to which they survive
is uncertain and this area is not included within the scheduling.
It is thought that the area to the west of Clothall Road represents a focus of
ritual activity which may have been one of the reasons for the siting of the
original Iron Age settlement and for the large number of cemeteries known to
have existed on its periphery. The remains here, which are thought to have
been built over the Iron Age sacred site, display much clearer indications of
Roman influence than the eastern area suggesting, perhaps, inhabitants with a
greater degree of wealth and status. It is possible that further remains
displaying similar Roman influence survive to the west, beneath the present
town, and that the temple and other features preserved beneath the sports
field are only a part of a more typical Roman town layout which evolved from,
and as an adjunct to, the Late Iron Age settlement.
A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these
are all fences, gates, the made surfaces of all paths and public highways,
traffic signs, street furniture, the sports club house on Bakers Close, the
temporary and permanent buildings, driveways, paths, playgrounds and garden
features of Hartfield JMI School, the house, garden centre structures,
greenhouses and car park at Home Land, and the telephone exchange building and
precinct; the ground beneath all these features and buildings is, however,
included in the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Five types of town are known to have existed in Roman Britain: coloniae,
municipia, civitas capitals, Roman provincial capitals and Roman small towns.
The first four types can be classified as `public towns' because each had an
official status within the provincial administrative system.
Roman small towns are settlements of urban character which lack the
administrative status of public towns, but which are nevertheless recognisably
urban in terms of morphology, features and function. They tend to lack the
planned rectangular street grids, public buildings and well-appointed town
houses of the public towns and instead are generally characterised by mainly
insubstantial timber or half-timbered structures. Some small towns possess an
enclosing wall, while others have masonry or earthwork defences. Additional
features include temples, bath houses, ovens, kilns and cemeteries.
Roman small towns began to emerge in the mid-first century AD. However, the
majority of examples appeared in the later first and second centuries, while
the third and fourth centuries saw the growth and development of existing
establishments, together with the emergence of a small number of new ones.
Some small towns had their origins in earlier military sites such as fort-vici
and developed into independent urban areas following the abandonment of the
forts. Others developed alongside major roads and were able to exploit a wide
range of commercial opportunities as a result of their location. There are a
total of 133 Roman small towns recorded in England. These are mainly
concentrated in the Midlands and central southern England. Some examples have
survived as undeveloped `greenfield' sites and consequently possess
particularly well-preserved archaeological remains.

The buried remains of the Romano-British small town and Late Iron Age
settlement at Baldock demonstrate a continuity and evolution of settlement
from at least the 1st century BC to the end of the Roman occupation. Part
excavation, together with geophysical and aerial surveys, has contributed to a
greater understanding of the layout of the settlement and later town,
suggesting a long period of occupation which, focussed on a site of ritual
significance, was a tribal centre during the Late Iron Age. Both these
factors, together with its strategic location, would have contributed to its
later development during the Roman period.
Valuable archaeological remains, including foundations, walls, floors,
surfaces, pits and ditches, buried beneath the present ground surface will
provide further evidence relating to the dating of the settlement, the period
of its occupation and the way in which it evolved in response to Roman
influence. These features will also illustrate changing methods of
construction, the functions of the various structures and the lifestyles,
occupations and religious practices of the inhabitants.
Environmental evidence preserved within and beneath the same deposits may
provide valuable insights into the diet of the occupants, and the nature of
the landscape in which the monument was set.
The monument is one of a number of Roman sites in the area, including the
villas at Radwell and Lammas Field (the subject of separate schedulings).
The relationship of these sites and the communication routes by which they are
linked, are significant for the study of settlement, demographic and economic
patterns during the Late Iron Age and the period of the Roman occupation.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burnham, B, Wacher, J, The 'Small Towns' of Roman Britain, (1990), 281-288
David, A, Geophysical plot of Bakers Close, (1992)
Niblett, R, Roman Hertfordshire, (1995)
discussion with archaeologist, Burleigh, G, Baldock as a cult centre, (1996)
discussion with archaeologist, Burleigh, G, Iron Age settlement at Baldock, (1996)
discussion with archaeologist, Burleigh, G, Roman Baldock, (1996)
discussion with field officer, Went D A, interpretation of excavated building as a mansio, (1993)
noted on visit to museum, Went, C, Theatre masks in Romisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne, (1992)
oblique colour slide, Went, DA, Bakers Close from east, (1991)
report by site supervisor, Richmond, A, Mosaic under floor of Baldock house, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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