Baldock Settlement

Minor Settlement

A settlement existed here from early in the first century B.C. and it continued to be occupied throughout the Roman period. It is situated close to the source of the River Ivel and grew up 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. The settlement covered at least twenty hectares, the majority of buildings being contained within the south-east angle formed at the crossing of the Braughing-Sandy road and the ancient Ridgeway.

Various archaeological surveys have revealed a pattern of rectilinear ditched enclosures separated by lanes laid out almost at right-angles to the Braughing road. The enclosures contained storage-pits, wells and buildings, mostly of native design represented by circular wall trenches between nine and a half to seven metres in diameter, though at least one building was of rectangular floor-plan, with walls of chalk and flint measuring some seven by thirteen metres.

Late Iron Age Burials

Cemeteries are known to have been placed at the northern and southern extremities of the settlement, and excavations at the southernmost site accounted for three hundred and seventeen cremations and at least thirty inhumations, ranging from the late-first to third centuries, though some of the inhumations may have been of fourth century date.

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.

Tribal centre

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.

Roman Small Town

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.

Romano-Celtic temple

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.

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.

Epigraphic Evidence from the Baldock Area

Although no Latin inscriptions on stone have been recorded in the R.I.B. for the Baldock settlement, an inscribed sheet of lead has been found at Clothall (TL2732), about two miles south-east of Baldock along the road to Braughing.

RIB 221 - Curse upon Tacita

Tacita, hereby accursed, is labelled old like putrid gore.


vetus: vetustas is used in a medical sense of inveterate ulcers by Celsus 5, 26, 31 and 21, 74, 127. signeficatur, for significatur. deficta, see RIB 6 (London).

There is a Romano-British villa 2 miles north-west at Radwell (TL2335), another 4 miles to the south-west at Great Wymondley (TL2029), and one more some 8 miles north-east at Litlington (TL3142) in Cambridgeshire with a Romano-British burial mound nearby (TL3241). Substantial Roman buildings have also been discovered at Shefford (TL1338), which lies about 9 miles to the north-west in Bedfordshire.

Roman Roads in the Area

The ancient trackway from Verulamium (St. Albans) in the south-west possibly continued on its course north-east to Wimpole Lodge and then onwards to Snettisham on the Metaris Aestuarium (The Wash). Likewise, the road south-east from Braughing may also have continued in a north-westerly direction to Bannaventa (Whilton Lodge) on Watling Street via a small settlement at Duston, though it is more likely that this road linked up with Sandy to the north.

References for Baldock

  • Britannia ii (1971) p.269;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965). 

Map References for Baldock

NGRef: TL2433 OSMap: LR153/166

Roman Roads near Baldock

NNW (11) to Sandy Possible road: NW (47) to Dvston Possible road: NNE (11) to Wimpole Lodge Ridgeway: ENE (17) to Great Chesterford Icknield Way: WSW (17) to Dvrocobrivis (Dunstable, Bedfordshire) S (12) to Welwyn (Hertfordshire) SE (11) to Bravghing

Sites near Baldock Settlement
  • London (Londinium) Roman Settlement
    Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54), Legionary Fort, Palace and Triumphal Arches
  • Lincoln (Colonia Lindum) Roman Settlement
    Aqueduct, Colonia, Legionary Fort, Pottery and Roman-Building
  • York (Eburacum) Roman Settlement
    Colonia, Legionary Fort, Marching or Temporary Camp and Triumphal Arches
  • Hibaldstow Roman Settlement
    Minor Settlement
  • Braughing Roman Trading Post
    Iron-work and Minor Settlement
  • Water Newton (Durobrivae)
    Minor Settlement
  • Wimpole Lodge
    Minor Settlement
  • Great Casterton Roman Fort
    Bath House, Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54) and Vicus
  • Ancaster Roman Fort
    Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54)
  • Salterford (Causennis?)
    Minor Settlement
  • Owmby Settlement
    Minor Settlement