archaeology

Andrew Bryant’s map, 1822

The sign from the A507 (the former Great North Road) to the village reads ‘Radwell Only’: the community lies on a single street running west from here. Radwell Lane passes under the A1 motorway, crosses the River Ivel and stops at the parish boundary on the west side. The parish is a curious reversed-L shape, the area to the northwest being part of Stotfold in Bedfordshire. How did it get to be such a strange shape? What do we know of its history? There has never been a large village in the parish. It had an unexpectedly large population at the time of Domesday Book in 1086, which can hardly have lived in cottages surrounding Radwell Lane.

There is a lot of archaeological evidence from Radwell, despite it being a small parish. It covers human history from the Late Neolithic (third millennium BC) onwards, allowing a general assessment of land-use over the centuries. For the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, the Roman period and the later medieval period onward, we can identify at least some of the places where people were living. There is an intriguing possibility that the medieval estate, based around Radwell Bury, was a direct successor to one of the most magnificent Roman villas known in the area.

Read more about the archaeology and early history of Radwell here.

Cottages in Lilley

The parish of Lilley lies on the western edge of North Hertfordshire, mostly north of the A505. Its northern boundary follows the early medieval line of the Icknield Way, and it abuts Bedfordshire to the west. Part of the parish once included Mangrove Green, now in Offley. Three areas now in Lilley, one stretching from the eastern edge of Ward’s Wood in the west to Kingshill Plantation in the east, the second from west of Lilleypark Wood to the boundary wall of Putteridge Bury and a third to the east of Dogkennel Farm, were formerly part of Offley. The longer version of this post, linked below, explores how this complex arrangement came into being.

Although the first record of Lilley is in 1086, when Domesday Book was compiled, the community has a much longer history. It is possible that the settlement initially lay in the northern part of the parish and developed from the estate of an undiscovered Roman villa. Its move south to East Street and West Street perhaps happened when the parish church was founded, before the Norman Conquest. Archaeological remains take the story back to earlier periods when there were farmsteads and valleys across the landscape. There may even have been a henge (an oval area enclosed by a chalk bank) on a hillside overlooking Mazebeard Spring.

Read more about the history and archaeology of Lilley here.

A beaker, probably hand made at Much Hadham, typical of pots made after 400

Two years ago, I put together a small exhibition for Baldock Museum on Roman Baldock. It meant not only choosing a selection of interesting objects not on display in North Hertfordshire Museum but also writing the text for panels on the wall. I wrote enough to put into a leaflet, which I intended to make available at the Museum. As well as telling the story of the ancient town and its people, it contained a brief catalogue of the artefacts in the cases. It so happened that the exhibition coincided with a major programme of work on Baldock Town Hall, which meant that the Museum was closed for a long stretch during the year it was supposed to be on open.

Now that North Hertfordshire Museum is also temporarily closed, it seems a good idea to make the leaflet available for people to read. It explains how the ancient settlement has been revealed over the past hundred years. Beginning with remote prehistory, it looks at why the settlement came to grow up in the hollow between the hills of North Hertfordshire. The main part of the leaflet talks about the development and decline of the Roman town, looking especially at its people and their beliefs. The catalogue gives further insights into the history of Baldock. There are 22 A5 pages in all.

Download a copy here.