Roman St Neots

The Roman era and its effects of the town of St Neots in Huntingdonshire

The Roman Province of Flavia Caesariennis.

The Romans in circa 55AD came to this area which was then only very thinly populated by a tribe known as the Iceni, dwelling in circular huts with mud walls, and roofs of reed thatch or turf. At first working in alliance with these locals, but their later invasion of 43AD saw the Romans attack and try to subdue the Iceni, leading to a bloody retaliation.

The main Roman settlement in Huntingdonshire was at nearby Godmanchester, also on the River Great Ouse. There is some evidence that roads might of run through the St Neots area to join their site at Godmanchester with another site near Bedford, most evidence of roads is found in Eynesbury, once again it was probably as a crossing point that this route was taken.

A cartoon of a Roman Senator

 

A cartoon of the Head of a Roman Emperor on a coin

A dig in 1933 conducted by CF Tebbutt suggested he had found the earthworks of a Roman encampment at Coneygeare, possibly to guard the river crossing. In a later dig G T Rudd found what could be the remains of a small Roman Villa, complete with hypocaust heating. Near by coins have been found from the reigns of Domitian, Hadrian and Constantinius, which would cover a time from the first to the fourth century AD. Mr G T Rudd also discovered in Eynesbury a roman cremation, a whiteware pot containing human remains, along with two glass bottles, one containing a bone needle and a white powder. Pottery from circa 50BC was also found on this site.

In Eaton Socon two stone coffins were found along with pottery of the third and fourth centuries, unfortunately the remains had been disturbed. There were signs that the two coffins had been placed over an even earlier internment, giving rise to speculation that this site may have been in use from the Bronze Age. Tesserae from mosaics and signs of hypocaust heating mean a building of some kind was constructed here, but the spread of the finds meant it would be difficult to decide whether they originated from one substantial building, or several smaller buildings. It would seem the two stone coffins might have been desecrated in the search for valuable grave goods, believing they contained the remains of the residents of the heated building/s with the mosaic floors, implying they were people of some status and wealth.

Agriculture would have been undertaken by the native dwellers of the area, scrub and woodland cleared to increase the production needed by the invaders to support the army and expanding settlement of Godmanchester. Dredging work carried out at Little Paxton revealed submerged timbers from the Roman period, possibly a small wharf and could indicate that they were using the river as transport, perhaps moving goods and men up to the flourishing centre at Godmanchester.

 

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