Dunstable archaeology talk digs deep to reveal town’s Roman, Medieval and post-Medieval past

On November 1, in its Jacobean Room, the Friends of Priory House listened to Central Bedfordshire archaeologist Hannah Firth talk about finds in and around Dunstable.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 9:55 am
Priory House. Credit: Jo Cross.
Priory House. Credit: Jo Cross.

Dunstable Town Councillor Peter Hollick said: “Within the confines of the Aldi site, Roman, Medieval and post- Medieval features were found.

“Three Medieval kilns were unearthed as well as a number of horse skeletons – was there a knacker’s yard there?

“Another kiln was discovered at the Woolworths site.

“On the A5-M1 link there was evidence of middle to late Bronze Age occupation.In the middle of this route, a pit was found with burnt bones, oats, barley and wheat.

“In the Ouzel valley, evidence of early middle Iron Age farming came to light. There was further evidence indicating late Iron Age and Roman cemetery sites with both cremations and burials.

“At Thorn Spring, remnants of a 12th century timber framed building were found as part of an early age settlement.

“The M1-A6 proposed route is part of the growth agenda and Central Bedfordshire’s Local Plan. Trial trenching has been undertaken revealing middle to late Iron Age finds as well as indications of an early Roman settlement.

“Finds alongside burials and cremations indicate the high status of the individuals. Pottery has also been found.

“Of later interest a second world war bomb crater was uncovered near the A6, no bomb – just the crater!

“Post medieval foundations along the front of the Norman King (now the new Tudor Garden of the Old Palace Lodge) were revealed.

“This building, contrary to some popular feeling, was very much a 20th century creation, with some old timbers inside. Its loss from an archaeological point of view when burnt down was not as some people thought.

“Post medieval walls and Kingsbury Farm lie beneath the Tudor garden, and one old wall abutting Church Street was saved and skilfully incorporated into the longer wall.

“The remains of the Augustinian Priory of St Peter is one of the true gems in Dunstable.

“White lines today and information plaques in the grass give the visitor an impression of where the buildings once stood before the dissolution of the monasteries.

“There is much backfill of rubbish in the area from when the Priory was destroyed. A Google Earth aerial image from 2017 shows the Priory as marked out.

“Within the wider precinct of the Priory, behind the Saracen’s Head, there is evidence of a brewery or bath house. At the back of Woolworths there is a sunken feature and a well. In 2010 the foundations of the 15th century buttress of the Priory Church was found which gives an indication of how the building has changed over the centuries.

“Work within the confines of the old Library and social service buildings is being undertaken and results will be available later.

“Dunstable has an enviable Roman and Medieval history. Many of our former Kings visited Dunstable. Tournaments were held, probably along Blows Downs. A recent exhibition in Priory House illustrated a time line for Dunstable showing its rich history.

“We often do not know what lies beneath our feet or indeed the history of what we see above ground. Soon interpretation boards will be set up in

Ashton Square about Middle Row. It is hoped work can be done soon to tidy up some of this important conservation area.”