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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 3rd July 1953, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Centuries Added to Story of Rushden
Discoveries belong to Roman era
Several centuries are added to the known age of Rushden – and, for that matter, Higham Ferrers – as the result of the discovery last April of human remains on land between Spencer Road and Hayway.

It was in mid-April that workmen excavating on the site of Rushden’s new school for girls found a small cluster of brown bones about thirty inches below the surface. The bones were handed to the police and then, when their great age became apparent, passed into the care of Mr. A. Norman Groome, the Rushden solicitor and archaeologist.

Shortly afterwards some small pieces of pottery and an old coin were found at the same spot. Mr. Groome sent all the finds to London for expert examination and has now received a report which indicates that there were permanent settlements in this neighbourhood during the Roman occupation.

Expert View

The story, as told by Mr. Groome, reveals that the expert consulted was Mr. W. F. Grimes, director of the London Museum, who is a leading authority on the subject.

He states that a coin found on the site is a “third brass” of the Roman Emperor Victorinus, dated 268 – 270 A.D.

The pieces of pottery show a degree of admixture. Two fragments are colour coated and late Roman, and a further group are also of Roman origin, one being a piece of a late white ware mortarium. The remainder of the pottery is what is called “native ware” and is of course, work which might belong to any date but, being wheel made, is certainly Beigic or later.

Evidence of a settlement at Rushden during the Roman occupation has been found in the excavation for a new school near Hayway. Human bones were dug up where the branch leans against the
earth on the right, and holes dug many centuries ago can be
traced on the wall of earth.
The bones which were found included the greater part of the skull and probably represent part of the skeleton of a man. They appear to have been disturbed at some time past, and this may account for only part of the skeleton being preserved. With these bones is one odd specimen belonging to a small person, and this may have come from another part of the site.

All the finds come from a level about two or three feet below the present surface of the field, and at this level in many places a layer of loose stones, rubbish, animal bones and odd pieces of pottery can be seen. It is thought that at the time the site was occupied this would represent the surface.

Near the spot where the bones were unearthed are two pits about seven feet deep, which have certainly been dug at a much later date, and it may have been in the digging of these that the skeleton was disturbed. Under the black top soil is a layer of gravel, and below that blue clay, and it was probably to reach the water retained by this clay that the pits were dug.

The clay also ensures a good supply of spring water and the gravel ensures a light, well-drained top soil which in early times would carry sparse vegetation and form an ideal clearing site for settlers. The settlement could be for a period starting in the first century B.C. and continuing after the Romans left soon after 400 A.D. but the actual objects which can be dated only cover the last 150 years of this time.

Without further evidence it can only be said that the people used the southern slope of this hillside during the latter part of the Roman occupation of Britain and that the skeleton probably belongs to the same period.

New Lights

It is known that there was a good-sized Roman town at Irchester and settlements at Stanwick, Raunds and other places along the Nene Valley.

At the north end of Higham at least three Roman coins of about the year 300 A.D. have been dug up, and others have been found on the Irthlingborough side of the valley.

On some maps a presumed Roman road is shown along the right bank of the Nene Valley from Irchester to Castor, where there was a thriving township with a well-known pottery industry.

It has never previously been suspected that Rushden and Higham were permanently settled until the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the seventh century. It is known that these later settlers often avoided the earlier sites for superstitious reasons, and that it may be that the pleasant slope from the moors to the hilltop was once a small village where the cultivation of a few small fields provided a living for a few Romano-British natives and was later abandoned when the Romans left Britain or later when the Anglo-Saxon invaders arrived and chose another site.

Local people tell of other skeletons having been found on the north side of Hayway and in the old sand pits, and it may well be that further links in the story will come to light.

The pieces of pottery which have played the major part in dating the site are all rather unpromising material to look at but anyone finding any object on or near the site, however unromantic it may appear, will do local history good service by submitting it for expert inspection.

Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, Sept 9, 1970, transcribed by Kay Collins

Iron Age 'village' found at Rushden
Thanks to the keen eye of Mr. L. G. Roberts, of Knuston Spinney, Rushden, an early hutted settlement dating back to the Iron Age has been discovered in Rushden.

Excavation of the site started yesterday and supervisor Mr. Peter Woods, said: "This is one of the most important and extensive sites I have worked on." Already a Roman coin, evidence of an infant burial and a lot of pottery have been unearthed.

The settlement is in a field just off Boundary Avenue, under what is to be a new playing field for Rushden Secondary School for Boys.

Mr. Woods explained: "Just before work started on taking off the top soil, Mr. Roberts, whose house overlooks the field, told the county council that he had seen from his bedroom window crop marks.

"He suggested that there were features of archaeological interest under the field. When they started to remove the top soil a careful watch was kept and almost immediately it became obvious that just beneath the top soil there were a large number of drainage ditches, rubbish pits and hut circles."

Mr. Woods added: "There are a lot of dark patches in the clay and this is where the soil has been cut away and filled in with refuse. As far as we can tell the range of the occupation dates from 200 BC to about 150 AD. This covers the Iron Age, the Roman Conquest and the early Roman period.

"Some of the rubbish pits go down to two or three feet and there is a possibility that we will find a perimeter ditch. At Hardingstone this was five feet deep and 12 feet wide."

Although excavations have just started, Mr Woods has already been plagued with people visiting the site. Many have picked up objects and taken them away. He is appealing to people to keep away from the site.

He said: "The Roman coin was picked up by someone but luckily we got it back. These coins are not worth much but to us they are very important."

Rushden police are making periodic visits to the site to keep unauthorised people away.

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