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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016305

Date first listed: 11-Dec-1985

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British small town and Late Iron Age settlement at Baldock
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: North Hertfordshire (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: TL 25005 33846


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27913

Legacy System: RSM


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)

End of official listing