/ The Cemeteries of Roman Baldock

The ancient town of Baldock occupies a shallow bowl in the hills that run west-southwest to east-northeast through North Hertfordshire, a northeastern extension of the Chilterns (Figure 1). It lies close to the source of the River Ivel, which flows northwards to join the Bedfordshire Ouse, but is not situated on a river. It is also at a road junction, with pre-Roman tracks from Braughing, Verulamium, and Sandy converging with the line of the Icknield Way to the southeast of the springs. It seems to have functioned as a local market centre, with evidence for small-scale craft production, although osteological evidence suggests that a proportion of the townspeople were agricultural labourers. Even so, there is evidence from all periods of a degree of personal wealth and literacy that places at least some of the inhabitants in the upper strata of Romano-British society.

This view of the town contrasts with Stead’s (1975, 128) dismissive comment that the town resembled an overgrown Little Woodbury Iron Age farm. Instead, the evidence now points to its success as a cult centre of at least sub-regional importance. Lead sealings that apparently name the settlement and its council (C·VIC—either Curia Vic... or C Vicanorum) demonstrate the presence of a curial class employing the trappings at least of self-government, while the variety of the population’s burials (which include at least two suspected sub-Saharan Africans) and the extreme longevity of the settlement into the fifth century and beyond show it to have been economically successful and socially diverse.

Figure 1. Baldock location
Figure 1. Baldock location

Cemeteries and Burial Rites

At least twenty-two formal cemeteries are currently known in the town (Figure 2; Table 1), with five pre-Roman square enclosures, an early inhumation cemetery, mixed-rite early Roman cemeteries and late to sub-Roman inhumation cemeteries. Those to the northeast, southeast and south of the town are the best known; others may have existed to the west, but this is the area occupied by the new town established by the Knights Templar in the 1140s, which has not been extensively explored archaeologically. The formal burial grounds range in date from around 50 BCE to c 550 CE, with the Welwyn type burial discovered in 1967 an early outlier. There are additional burials from Icknield Way and Orchard Road to the northwest of the Roman town that may be parts of hitherto unrecognised cemeteries. Since the first burials were discovered in 1925, a little over 2000 burials have been recorded from the town’s cemeteries and 69 others from more informal contexts.

Figure 2: Later Roman Baldock: Cemeteries in use after 200 CE: 1 Icknield Way East, 2 Clothall End, 3 Icknield Way Roadside, 4 Royston Road, 5 Sale Drive East, 6 Sale Drive West, 7 Yeomanry Drive South, 8 California, 9 Wallington Road, 10 The Tene, 11 Walls Field, 12 Clothall Road, 13 South Road
Figure 2: Later Roman Baldock
Cemeteries in use after 200 CE: 1 Icknield Way East, 2 Clothall End, 3 Icknield Way Roadside, 4 Royston Road, 5 Sale Drive East, 6 Sale Drive West, 7 Yeomanry Drive South, 8 California, 9 Wallington Road, 10 The Tene, 11 Walls Field, 12 Clothall Road, 13 South Road
Table 1: Cemeteries in Baldock
CemeteryTypeDateNumber of gravesPublication
California Large EnclosureSquare cremation enclosurec 50–25 BCE7+Burleigh 1982
Wallington RoadInhumation then cremation cemeteryc 50 BCE–310 CE174
Icknield Way RoadsideInhumation cemeteryc 50 BCE–250 CE13
California Small EnclosureSquare crema- tion enclosurec 40–1 BCE3+
Icknield Way East EnclosureSquare crema- tion enclosure?c 25 BCE–75 CE17+
Clothall EndMixed-rite cemeteryc 20 BCE–300 CE20+
Stane StreetInhumation cemeteryc 20 BCE–105 CE82Stead & Rigby 1986: 77; burials 24 & 25
South RoadCremation cemeteryc 10 BCE–125 CE7+
Mercia RoadCremationsc 1–50 CE4+
Yeomanry Drive NorthCremation cemeteryc 1–105 CE59Stead & Rigby 1986: 77; burials 22 & 23
Sale Drive EastCremation cemeteryc 1–250 CE68
Downlands Enclosure ASquare enclosurec 1–25 CE1+Stead & Rigby 1986: 61
Downlands Enclosure BSquare enclosurec 25–50 CE1Stead & Rigby 1986: 61
Clothall RoadCremation cemeteryc 50–105 CE8+Stead & Rigby 1986: 61–75
Sale Drive DolineMixed-rite cemeteryc 50–400 CE15
Yeomanry Drive SouthMixed-rite cemeteryc 70–300 CE16
Walls FieldMixed-rite then inhumation cemeteryc 70–310 CE351+Westell 1931
Royston RoadMixed-rite then inhumation cemeteryc 70–450 CE720Stead & Rigby 1986: 75–77
Sale Drive WestMixed-rite cemeteryc 75–300 CE58
Icknield Way EastMixed-rite then inhumation cemeteryc 175–450 CE34+Burleigh et al. 2006
CaliforniaInhumation cemeteryc 300–550 CE98
The TeneInhumation cemeteryc 350–450 CE80+Burleigh 1980; Stead & Rigby 1986: 78

The range of cemeteries and burial rites covers virtually the whole range of types attested in Roman Britain with a few notable exceptions (such as the geographically restricted stone cists and, curiously, plaster burials). The earliest cemeteries were single-rite, with cremations in square enclosures and cremations or inhumations in less clearly defined cemeteries. Some of the enclosures may originally have contained square barrows, attracting secondary burials in the tops of the mounds. One site—Mercia Road—has a number of cremations associated with a circular building at the northeastern end of an open-ended linear enclosure some 190 m long; it is likely that the structure was a shrine or mortuary house as the enclosure was the only formal route through a line of posts inserted into an existing pit alignment, separating the settlement zone from the burial zone. Its use ended in the middle of the first century CE, with the careful burial of an adult male dog in one of the largely silted ditches appearing to mark its formal closure. By around 70 CE, the pre-Roman sites had largely been abandoned, with only the former inhumation cemetery at Wallington Road continuing in use, although as a uniquely cremation cemetery. In their place, a number of enclosed mixed-rite cemeteries developed, generally at road junctions and encircling the town. These cemeteries continued in use until the late third or early fourth century. From the late second century on, a number of uniquely inhumation cemeteries were established and at least three of the old mixed-rite cemeteries (Royston Road, Walls Field and Icknield Way East) remained in use as a inhumation cemeteries. All of these inhumation cemeteries were used into the fifth century (probably into at least the middle of the century) and one (California) was still receiving new burials in the middle of the sixth.

Cremation burials can be divided into two basic types: urned and unurned. In most cemeteries, the majority were apparently urned and consisted of one or more vessels placed in a pit; in early cremation burials, the ashes were placed directly on the floor of the grave, while from the early first century CE onwards, they were usually contained in one of the vessels. Most did not have any other objects with them, although some contained items of personal adornment. Occasionally, the vessels were placed in either a wood-lined pit or in a box. In one cemetery, Royston Road, unurned cremations outnumbered urned cremations by a factor of about 3:2 (Burleigh 1993: 43). Some cremations appear to have been performed in situ (so-called bustum types [McKinley 2000: 39]) and several were very incomplete, with connective tissue surviving the cremation process (Burleigh 1993: 46). Two pyre bases are known, at Wallington Road and Royston Road, whilst a pyre débris pit associated with the Iron Age bucket burial in the California Large Enclosure was located close to it. The latest cremations identified date from the later fourth century in the Icknield Way East Cemetery.

Inhumation burials occur at all periods from the mid first century BCE into the sub-Roman period: there was never a time when they were not being deposited. However, the fewest were made between the mid first century CE and the late second century, when cremation was the dominant rite. There is no trace of a coffin in many graves, although the presence of bodies with limbs laid close together, especially with the arms close to or on the chest, suggests the use of shrouds. Some inhumation burials seem to have been treated almost casually, with the limbs flailing about wildly in the grave. A significant number were prone or laid on one side; from the late second century on, some were decapitated (McKinley 1993). Although there is not always osteological evidence to show how this was performed, the archaeological context makes it clear that the head had been removed before burial. At least one of the inhumation cemeteries, The Tene, seems to have been well ordered, with few intercutting burials and all aligned uniformly with head to the west (against the usual pattern of head to the northeast or east seen in other cemeteries); it is tempting to suggest that this burial ground, which was in use from the mid fourth to early fifth centuries, was the cemetery used by the town’s Christian population if we employ the criteria suggested by Charles Thomas (1981: 228ff.). The California cemetery, on the other hand, belongs to Rahtz’s (1977: 55) Type A: sub-Roman secular.

The re-use of graves for secondary and even tertiary burials is attested especially at the late Roman cemetery at California, where it is associated with later graves. Whilst there was a degree of intercutting in some of the early inhumation cemeteries, such as Stane Street, in the California cemetery, there are examples of burials in coffins where the almost complete but disarticulated remains of an earlier occupant of the same grave have been arranged around its outside (Burleigh 1993: 48). In some instances, it may be suspected that family relationships were involved in the decision to exhume then reinter a previous occupant, but in many cases, there is no obvious explanation.

This Appendix contains extracts from the catalogues of the cemeteries at California and Icknield Way East. They contain all the descriptive matter relevant to contextualising the pots from Baldock discussed in the body of the paper, including a description of the grave, the human remains and all associated grave gifts. They will form part of the full catalogues to be published in the report on the Late and Sub-Roman cemeteries of Baldock, currently in preparation.

A Note on Nomenclature

There have been a number of schemes used for naming the different sites in Baldock both in print and in the archive. In an attempt to rationalise the system, Gil Burleigh and Jonathan Drake devised a format in the early 1980s that gave each archaeological intervention a code number, beginning with BAL-. Initially, the numbers were used to refer to the areas investigated since 1980, so that the first area of Upper Walls Common to be excavated became BAL-1, the second BAL-2 and so on. The system was then extended to include earlier fieldwork by Ian Stead, Percival Westell, Erik Applebaum and John Moss-Eccardt. However, a number of specialists had begun to write their reports using terms that had been supplied before the numbering system was established. Thus the terms ‘Wallington Road,’ ‘Barratt Site,’ and ‘BAL-11’ all refer to the same cemetery. The use of the numbering system then led to confusion when a single number was assigned to large areas; in the excavation area BAL-1, at least three separate burial grounds can be recognised, while in area BAL-15, at least seven separate cemeteries were encountered.

After the numbering scheme was devised, Ian Stead published the final report of his excavations from 1968 to 1972, in which a lettering scheme was employed (Stead & Rigby 1986: 30–32). This scheme corresponds neither to the Burleigh/Drake system of the early 1980s nor to the scheme used by Stead during his campaigns. This was then adapted for The ‘Small Towns’ of Roman Britain (Burnham & Wacher 1990: 284) and has thereby gained wider currency. Other publications have compounded the confusion further by adopting different schemes to suit their purposes and the matter is not helped when specialists refer to ‘the’ Romano-British cemetery (e.g., McKinley 1993).

In the publication of the first volume of Burleigh’s excavations from 1978 to 1994 (Burleigh & Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2010), an attempt was made to establish a terminology for the different burial grounds identified in Iron Age and Romano-British Baldock that it is hoped will avoid the confusions caused by earlier publications. No scheme can be perfect, but this may help to resolve some of the issues arising from the incompatible terminologies used by different writers.

Table 2: Site codes and site names for cemeteries excavated 1926–2006
Cemetery nameBurleigh/Drake code and site nameStead & Rigby 1986; Burnham & Wacher 1990Other names
CaliforniaBAL-1 Upper Walls Common, northwestern corner by CaliforniaVSite 33 (Applebaum 1932)
Mercia RoadBAL-2 Upper Walls Common, southwestern edge
Wallington RoadBAL-11 Upper Walls Common, southeastern endSUpper Walls Common; Barratt Site
Royston Road; Stane Street; Yeomanry Drive North; Yeomanry Drive South; Icknield Way Roadside; Sale Drive East; Sale Drive West; Sale Drive DolineBAL-15 Royston RoadE, XTB, TH, TK (Stead Archive)
Downlands Enclosure A; Downlands Enclo- sure BBAL-23 Upper Walls CommonATC, TG, TJ, TM, TO, TR, TT, TU, TV, TX, TY, TZ (Stead archive); Site 27/28 (Applebaum 1932)
Walls FieldBAL-25 Walls Field, southeastern endPSite 2/11/12 (Apple- baum 1932)
South RoadBAL-28 South RoadRLondon Road Convent; Site 8/15 (Applebaum 1932); Kayser Bondor; Tesco; Convent of Providence
The Tene Chieftain’s BurialBAL-30 The TeneF, JChieftain’s Burial; TE, TN (Stead Archive)
The TeneBAL-31 The TeneJClinic site
BAL-32 The TeneKTB (A), TQ (Stead Archive)
Brewery FieldBAL-33 Brewery FieldLSite 26 (Applebaum 1932)
Clothall RoadBAL-36 Clothall Road widening, eastDTF, TS (Stead Archive); Walls Field (Stead & Rigby 1986: 61-75)
The TeneBAL-40 The TeneJTP (Stead Archive); Site 18 (Applebaum 1932)
Icknield Way East; Icknield Way East EnclosureBAL-45 Icknield Way EastN, WSite 14 (Applebaum 1932)
South RoadBAL-47 The Convent CemeteryTLondon Road
The TeneBAL-48 65 High StreetJ
Wallington RoadBAL-80 14 Westell Close

California Late Romano-British Cemetery


The cemetery occupies roughly level ground on the northern side of the scarp that runs roughly west-northwest to east-southeast through the settlement. It is at a crossroads, in a corner plot. To the south lay a doline that had been a focus for Middle to Late Iron Age ritual activity, including disposal of the dead, but which was metalled in the Roman period, suggesting that it had been deliberately and symbolically sealed. The site lay across the road from the large Late Iron Age burial enclosure discussed above and had been used in the Late Iron Age as a burial ground in a smaller enclosure, also discussed above. During the first century CE, the site had been colonised for domestic use, which was when the plot was initially laid out; wells on the site suggest that this use continued into the late third or fourth century. The first Romano-British inhumations appear to have been deposited around 300 CE, the earliest examples being those to the south.

Catalogue of Burials (Extract)

Ninety-eight separate burials were attested in this cemetery, although they occupied only eighty-one graves. This was largely a reflection of the extensive re-use of grave cuts and the presence of a number of cuts containing no bone whatsoever. The practice of exhumation before secondary and tertiary interment was generally performed with great care, so it is possible that the ‘empty’ graves were originally occupied, the bones of former occupants being removed elsewhere. A similar practice was observed in the doline to the southeast.

1041(1049)early fifth century CE249619 341194
Older adultm[21–22]
Extended supine inhumationhead to southwest

A subrectangular grave aligned with the long axis running northeast to southwest. It was much wider to the northeast; the reason for this is not known. Only the northwestern edge of the main cut was close to vertical.

The grave contained the skeleton of an older adult male. The body was laid in a supine position with the head to the southwest. The arms were flexed and the hands were turned inwards to rest on the abdomen.

Hobnails were found around the feet, suggesting that the deceased had been wearing shoes; it is probably reasonable to conclude that they were also dressed for burial. To the north of the left foot lay a small beaker as a grave gift. The entire assemblage was contained within a nailed wooden coffin, visible as soil staining as well as being indicated by the presence of coffin nails. It was possible to distinguish soil from the grave backfill above the coffin lid that had collapsed into the void when the lid had finally given way. Several bird bones found in the grave may also have been the deliberate deposit of a gift of food.

Soil Description
1042Red to brown loam containing 15% chalk lumps 1–3 cm2 and 1–5% flint fragments 2–4 cm2 and 1–5% chalk flecks.
1046Dark to mid brown loam containing 15–20% chalk lumps 1–4 cm2 and 5% flint fragments c 3 cm2.
1048Light brown loam containing areas of 50–70% chalk lumps 0.5–2.0 cm2 and 1% flint fragments 2–3 cm2 to regions containing 1–5% chalk lumps 0.5–1.0 cm2 and 1–5% flint fragments 1–2 cm2.
Layer represented the infill of coffin volume, therefore associated directly with layer above—1042.
1043Dark brown loam appeared as a thin line in the position of the former coffin and related to the nail positions recorded from the grave.

Human Bone

Male elderly adult

1.72 m

Most of skeleton present except lower thoracic vertebrae and part right pelvis

Bone condition

Eroded and fragmentary


8 7 6 5 4 3 X 1 | / X X 4 5 6 7 X

X X X X / / 2 1 | X 2 3 4 X X X 8

Loose teeth

Calculus, periodontal disease


Degenerative joint disease vertebrae, Schmorl’s nodes, fractured right fibula

Additional material

1 human proximal left fibula


Trochanteric fossa exostosis, metopism


Rib, pelvis, vertebrae, skull

Animal Bone
1049Bird and mammal bones.



<7218>Nail (no. 1)

<7219>Nail (no. 2)

<7220>Nail (no. 3)

<7221>Nail (no. 4)

<7222>Nail (no. 5)

<7223>Nail (no. 6)

<7224>Nail (no. 7)

<7225>Nail (no. 8)

<7226>Nail (no. 9)—bottom

<7227>Nail (no. 10)

<7228>Nail (no. 11)—bottom

<7229>Nail (no. 12)

<7230>Nail (no. 13)

<7231>Nail (no. 14)

<7232>Nail (no. 15)

<7233>Nail (no. 16)

<7234>Nail (no. 17)

<7235>Nail (no. 18)—bottom

<7236>Nail (no. 19)—bottom

<7237>Nail (no. 20)—bottom

<7238>Nail (no. 21)

<7239>Nail (no. 22)

<7240>Nail (no. 23)

<7241>Nail (no. 24)

<7243>Hobnails—34, left

<7243>Hobnails—34, right


<7265>Rubbing stone


Terminus post quem fifth century CE.

ResidualFabrics 2, 2/3, 8, 12, 39.
ResidualFabrics 2, 4, 8, 11, 16, samian.
ResidualFabrics 2/3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 16, 27, 51, 39, 49.
<7753>Grave gift: fabric CC8, almost complete. Lightly micaceous red ware, covered in thin matt brown slip. Miniature jar (see Young type C101), made only at Sandford (Oxon), uncommon. Late 3rd to 4th century. Poorly made, a ‘second.’

1125(1327)fifth century CE249567 341146
Adult[21–24]Earlier than: 1322

A subrectangular grave with the long axis aligned east-northeast to west-southwest, with a gap of about 200 mm around the coffin. The coffin was visible partly as a soil stain and by the position of coffin nails at the west-southwestern end. A small beaker lay roughly half way along the northern edge of the coffin, overlapping its line; it is unclear if it had been placed on top of the coffin, if it lay outside it to the north or if it were contained within the coffin.

About 60% of the grave had been destroyed by later burial 1322(1331), which had removed the entire northeastern end of the burial in this grave. Since no in situ bone remained at the southwestern end, it is possible that the body contained in the coffin was still articulated and was completely removed by the later grave-diggers. Grave 1322 contained the disarticulated remains of two adults (1328/9) in addition to its occupant (1331). To explain this sequence, two suggestions can be made. Firstly, that one of the individuals represented by (1328/9) was the occupant of grave 1125 and that the second individual was the primary occupant of grave 1322, but that 1322 was subsequently re-used for the interment of (1331), mixing the two earlier burials. Secondly, that one of the individuals represented by (1328/9) was the primary occupant of grave 1125, which was subsequently re-used for the burial of the second individual in (1328/9), the contents of the re-used grave then being mixed when it was disturbed by grave 1332, which only ever contained the deliberate deposition of (1331). It is impossible to decide between these two scenarios or to establish which of the individuals comprising (1328/9)—an adult male and an adult female—might have been the primary occupant of grave 1125. Understanding the sequence is further complicated by the presence of the beaker: if 1125 had been redug, it is then impossible to determine whether it belonged with the primary or the secondary burial.

Grave 1125 lay on the northern edge of a discrete cluster of graves. The cluster included numerous intercutting and recut graves, a phenomenon that appears to be a very late feature in the cemeteries of Roman Baldock.

Soil Description
1327Dark brown loose loam containing c 15–20% chalk lumps c 1–2 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 2 cm2.
Context represented the final infill of the former coffin.
1353No details supplied—the layer and the next context represented the surviving external coffin fills, with the grave good vessel recorded coming from 1353.
1354Light brown firm loam containing c 15–20% chalk lumps c 2 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 2 cm2.
Human Bone
13271 thoracic vertebra, 1 proximal hand phalanx, 1 right hamate, long bone and calcaneum.



<7688>Nail—no. 1

<7689>Nail—no. 2

<7690>Nail—no. 3

<7691>Nail—no. 4

<7692>Nail—no. 5

<7693>Nail—no. 6

<7694>Nail—no. 7

<7695>Nail—no. 8

<7696>Nail—no. 9

<7697>Nail—no. 10

<7698>Nail—no. 11

<7699>Nail—no. 12—bottom board

<7700>Nail—no. 13

<7701>Nail—no. 14


Terminus post quem third century CE.

ResidualFabrics 2, 3, 12.
ResidualFabrics 9, 39.
<7685>Grave gift. Fabric 11? complete. Fine micaceous red and grey ware. Smoke discoloured over max. girth with rouletted bands on shoulder. Long-necked beaker (Rigby type 311), Much Hadham ?3rd to 4th century CE.

1187(1194)fifth century CE249635 341180
Adultf[17–20]Earlier than: 1196

A subrectangular grave, its long axis aligned northeast to southwest, slightly broader to the southwest. Its southeastern edge was disturbed by the digging of grave 1196 almost on top of it.

The grave contained the supine body laid of an adult female with the head to the southwest. Both legs and arms were flexed, with the knees touching the northwestern edge of the grave and the hands resting on the lower part of the abdomen. Most of the rib cage and much of the spinal column were missing. This may suggest the use of quick-lime, which at Baldock tended to be used sparingly and frequently only on the chest and abdomen of the corpse.

No coffin was identified but the disposition of the body does not suggest the use of a shroud. A ceramic bowl had been placed on the floor of the grave to the north of the feet.

The grave was subsequently clipped by a trench dug in 1980 to provide a storm water drain for the new estate that was about to be built. It did not remove any substantial part of the grave.

Soil Description
1193Mid brown loam with occasional mottling of green containing 10% chalk lumps 0.5–1.0 cm2 and 1% flint fragments c 2 cm2.

Human Bone

Female adult

Most of skeleton present except scapulae and thoracic vertebrae

Bone condition

Eroded and some fragmentation


Degenerative joint disease cervical vertebrae


Hypotrochanteric fossa


Rib, long bone, pelvis

<8278>Rubbing stone


Terminus post quem late second century CE.

<7758>Fabric CC3, complete, white ware, completely covered with matt black slip. Slip now badly worn. Bowl distorted and poorly made. Miniature of Nene Valley prototype?
ResidualFabrics 1, 2, 2/3, 4, 8.

1367(1446)fourth century CE249638 341266
Young/mature adultf[17–20]Later than: 1462

A subrectangular grave, its long axis aligned northwest to southeast. It was the penultimate in a group of intercutting graves to the northeast of the centre of the cemetery.

The grave contained the supine body of a young to mature adult female with the head to the southeast. The right arm was extended down to the crotch, while the left arm was flexed so that the left hand rested on the right hip. The body lay in a coffin, the position of which could be determined from the locations of coffin nails.

The head had been removed before burial and placed between the shins, looking back up towards the body. There was space for the removed head at the end of the coffin: might this be an indication that the body was laid in the casket before the head was cut away from the trunk? The archaeological evidence is unequivocal about the status of this as a decapitation burial; however, there was no sign of cutting on the cervical vertebrae or at the base of the skull. Osteologically, it would have been impossible to determine that this was a decapitation if the head had been replaced in the correct anatomical position.

The burial was accompanied by two ceramic grave gifts, a whetstone and a coin. One of the vessels, <7915>, was placed inside the coffin, by the right ankle of the body. This was a miniature copy of a Much Hadham ware carinated jar; the size led to it being characterised as a beaker during excavation. The second vessel, <7916>, was propped between the coffin and the edge of the grave, about halfway along the southern edge. This was a small Nene Valley white-ware colour-coated bowl. The whetstone lay inside the coffin, by the left knee. The coin apparently lay in the left hand.

Soil Description
1417Red to mid brown firm loam containing c 20–25% chalk lumps c 1 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 2 cm2.
1439Light to dark brown friable loam containing c 15–20% chalk lumps c 1 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 1 cm2. Layer represented the possible decayed position of the former coffin lid. If so then it had collapsed at the southeastern end of the grave.
1441Light to dark brown friable loam containing c 15% chalk lumps 0.5–2.5 cm2 and c 1% flint fragments c 2 cm2. Layer represented grave fill around line of former coffin.
1449Mid brown firm loam with patchy hint of green, containing 15–20% chalk lumps 0.5–2.0 cm2 and 1% flint fragments c 1 cm2. Layer represented base fill of grave.

Human Bone

Female young to middle-aged adult

1.63 m

Most of skeleton present except some foot phalanges, upper cervical and lower thoracic vertebrae

Bone condition



NP 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 NP

NP 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 | 1 2 3 4 5 6 X NP

Unerupted and impacted left canine tooth anterior mandible. Enamel hypoplasia, calculus, periodontal disease


Schmorl’s nodes, partial obstruction left jugular vein foramen

Additional material

1441: rib fragment and 3 misc. fragments


Metopism, parietal foramen, squatting facets


Rib and vertebra




Copper alloy

<7814>Coin 1984.6.60


<7831>Nail—no. 1

<7832>Nail—no. 2

<7833>Nail—no. 3

<7834>Nail—no. 4

<7835>Nail—no. 5

<7836>Nail—no. 6

<7837>Nail—no. 7

<7838>Nail—no. 8

<7839>Nail—no. 9 side

<7840>Nail—no. 10

<7841>Nail—no. 11

<7842>Nail—no. 12

<7843>Nail—no. 13

<7844>Nail—no. 14

<7845>Nail—no. 15

<7846>Nail—no. 16

<7847>Nail—no. 17

<7848>Nail—no. 18 side

<7849>Nail—no. 19

<7850>Nail—no. 20

<7851>Nail—no, 21 bottom


Terminus post quem late fourth century CE.

ResidualFabrics 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12.
ResidualFabrics 1, 2.
ResidualFabrics 1, 8, 49, CC16, samian.
<7915>Fabric 49, complete. Bright orange-red ware with traces of surface polishing survive in patches. Miniature necked and carinated jar. Possibly late in date and possibly wheel made. A miniature copy of Hadham carinated jars which are common from Baldock.
<7916>Fabric CC3, complete. Fine white ware, completely covered in patchy dark brown and orange metallic slip. Small dish of 3rd century type.

1413(1425)fifth century CE249731 341318
Adultf?[21–24]Earlier than: 1393

A subrectangular grave, its long axis aligned northwest to southeast. Although partly disturbed by a drain cut in 1980 at right angles to it, enough survived to show that the body had been laid in a supine position with the head to the northwest. The recovery of a single hand phalanx suggests that at least one of the arms was extended alongside the body. Although only the lower legs survived, they clearly belonged to an adult, possibly female.

The position of a wooden coffin was shown by nails close to the corners. The coffin also contained a number of grave gifts, including two ceramic vessels and a set of hobnails. The twenty-four hobnails lay alongside the lower left leg and foot, indicating that the footwear was not being worn by the corpse and was presumably provided for use in the afterlife. A cup, <7812>, stood beside the left foot, while a jug, <7811>, stood beside the right; the two appear to have formed a matching set, being in the same worn colour-coated fabric. Both vessels were partly smoke discoloured, suggesting that they had been used to warm a beverage by the fire. The fact that the cup was standing on its pedestal when found suggests either that it was placed in the coffin after it had been lowered into the grave or, if it had been placed beforehand, was held in place by something (presumably organic) that has not survived.

Feature [1393] partly disturbed the grave fills but was not so deep as to have disturbed the burial. Its purpose is unclear. More serious was the damage to the grave caused by the construction of a storm drain in 1980. It crossed the grave more-or-less at a right angle, about one third of the way down from the head. This had removed the torso, including the arms and head, while the majority of the femurs had been pulled from the grave by the bucket of the digger, leaving only the distal ends.

Soil Description
1392Compact chalk rubble. Layer represented surface spread of chalk over top of grave from the construction of the 1980 storm water pipe trench.
1457Green to mid brown friable loam that occupied a void created in the trench wall, when parts of the skeletal remains were ripped from the grave section by the machines bucket.
1412Mid brown friable loam containing c 20–25% chalk lumps c 2 cm2. Layer represented grave fill in northwestern end of the grave, probably same as 1414.
1414Light brown compact loam containing chalk silts and c 25% chalk lumps c 0.5–3.0 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 2 cm2. Layer represented side fill of grave, outside coffin line.
1405Light brown firm loam containing chalk sits and regions of high chalk concentrations c 35–50%, 0.5–3.0 cm2 and c 1–5% flint fragments c 4–5 cm2. Layer represented grave fill over top of coffin position.
1422Light brown firm loam containing chalk silts and c 25–30% chalk lumps c 1–2 cm2. Layer represented fill within coffin position.
1437Dark brown compact loam containing chalk silts and c 25% chalk lumps c 1–2 cm2 and c 5–10% flint fragments c 3–5 cm2. Layer represented grave fill around coffin position.
1436Green to mid brown friable loam containing c 15–20% chalk lumps c 1–2 cm2 and high quantity of chalk silts. Layer represented the decayed remnants of the coffin.

Human Bone

?female adult

Fragmentary femora, tibiae, fibulae and feet

Bone condition

Poor, eroded

Additional material

1436: 1 proximal hand phalanx and 1 fragment


Squatting facets


Long bone



<7800>Nail—no. 1

<7801>Nail—no. 2

<7802>Nail—no. 3

<7803>Nail—no. 4

<7804>Nail—no. 5



Terminus post quem late fourth century CE.

ResidualFabrics 2, CC3.
ResidualFabric ?2/3.
<7811>Fabric ?CC8, complete. Fine red ware, covered in thin polished brown slip, smoke discoloured panel from spout to base. Small jug in ‘matched set’ with beaker.
<7812>Fabric ?CC8, complete. Hard fine red ware covered in thin polished brown slip. Smoke discoloured on rim and max. girth. Miniature beaker, Oxford or Much Hadham. Part of ‘set’ with jug. Unusual type, nearest being Oxford C391, presumably 5th century.
1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 16, CC8

3630(3633)early to mid fifth century CE249648 341278
Infant[21–23]Earlier than: 1463

A small subrectangular grave, its long axis aligned northwest to southeast. Little of the infant burial survived, although the fragmentary cranial remains recovered from the northwestern end of the grave show that the body had been laid in a probably extended position with head to the northwest. The dentition suggests that the child was under 7 years old, with unerupted mandibular incisors.

The body was contained in a nailed wooden coffin, partly also visible as a soil stain. It contained three ceramic grave gifts, all placed inside the northeastern edge. These consisted of a worn samian dish, <8871>, a Nene Valley ware beaker, <8872>, and a miniature bowl, <8873>, that may have been smashed before deposition. The samian dish contained an unidentified residue that was not retained for analysis. It also stood on its edge, indicating that it had been placed in the coffin after it had been lowered into the grave, was held in place by something that had not survived or stood originally on the lid and fell in when the lid collapsed. A soil discolouration in the centre of the coffin may have been an organic residue, perhaps clothing for the child, which may have helped keep the vessels in place while the coffin was lowered into the grave. The samian vessel must have been around two centuries old by the time of its deposition; the curation (or salvaging) of old samian for burials is a phenomenon seen in a number of ‘late Roman’ graves in Baldock.

Soil Description
3631Red to mid brown firm loam containing c 5% chalk lumps c 0.5–1.0 cm2 and 5% flint fragments 2 cm2. Fill above and fill of former coffin.
3634Green/grey to mid brown firm loam containing 50% chalk lumps 0.5–2.0 cm2 and 5% flint fragments c 2 cm2. Layer represented the grave fill between the sides of the coffin and the grave cut.
3632Green/grey to dark brown compact loam containing 30% chalk lumps 4 cm2 and 5% flint fragments 3 cm2. Layer represented the position of the former wooden coffin.

Human Bone


Fragmentary skull vault

Bone condition

Poor, eroded and fragmentary


1 deciduous right mandibular 2nd molar, 2 unerupted permanent mandibular incisors, 1 unerupted right maxillary canine in fragment of jaw





<8861>Nail—no. 1 top

<8862>Nail—no. 2

<8863>Nail—no. 3 top

<8864>Nail—no. 4 bottom

<8865>Nail—no. 5 bottom

<8866>Nail—no. 6 bottom

<8867>Nail—no. 7 bottom

<8868>Nail—no. 8 bottom

<8869>Nail—no. 9



Terminus post quem mid fourth century CE

ResidualFabrics 2/3, 3, 4, 41.
ResidualFabrics 1, 2, 12, 34.
<8871>Fabric Samian, complete. Ludowici, type Td ‘4 leaved’ stamp. Not particularly worn but with a chip out of rim. ?Orange matrix lying on dish. Probably late product from Rheinzabern and associated potteries.
<8872>Fabric CC3, complete. White ware, entire vessel covered in matt brown slip. En barbotine scrolls. Vessel misshapen and very worn. Nene Valley type 54. Neck and rim smashed at time of burial.
<8873>Fabric CC10, complete. Fine soft buff ware, very few traces of thick red slip. Miniature bowl (see Young 1977, C113). Very worn and possibly smashed at time of burial. About 340 to 400 CE in date
ResidualFabrics 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12, CC3, CC3, CC8, ?CC8, prehistoric/fired clay.

Icknield Way East Romano-British Mixed-Rite Cemetery


Discoveries of several burials had been made over a number of years from the area between Royston Road, Icknield Way East and North Road (known locally as The Triangle), but these were thought to have been isolated finds. For example, skeletal material was unearthed at the north end of California, at its junction with Royston Road, in 1962. This led to an interest being taken in a site on Icknield Way East, opposite the end of California, when redevelopment began in 1988. An initial brief inspection of the footings for number 22 seemed to bear out the impression of scattered burials, but it became clear after initial cleaning of the sections that a large number of inhumations had been disturbed. It was decided to investigate several areas of the site more thoroughly and a team from North Hertfordshire Museum Service’s Field Archaeology Section undertook small-scale excavation in advance of footings between March and June 1988.

This lay on the very edge of the low ridge running roughly west-northwest to east-southeast through the settlement. It is the only cemetery so far known to have lain to the north of the Romanised line of the Icknield Way, which otherwise appears to have defined the northern limit of settlement and burial in the town. It probably lay opposite the junction of Icknield Way with the road travelling northwest from the cemetery at California, at the edge of the scarp overlooking the town. As such, it may have been in a prominent location. This could have been enhanced by the presence of the Late Iron Age burial enclosure to the west, especially if its central burial had originally been marked by a mound. The late Roman cemetery intruded slightly onto the site of the earlier enclosure, although there was a ditch parallel and close to the northeastern enclosure ditch, suggesting the continuity of boundary lines at least up to the time the cemetery expanded to the west. The first burials seem to have been deposited shortly before 200 CE, over a century after the last burials were deposited in the enclosure; some were almost certainly of fifth-century date.

Catalogue of Burials (Extract)

7012(7013)late fourth to early fifth century CE247408 342616
Mature/older adult[20–21]
Urned cremation
Depth: 230 mm

A roughly circular pit about 0.40 m in diameter with steep sides, cut about 0.23 m into solution material. It contained two vessels, (7013); one was a large jar, with its rim detached for about half the diameter of the vessel, the second was a folded beaker of unusual form with a pedestal and wide-mouthed trumpet neck.

The jar contained cremated bone from a mature or older adult; the sex could not be determined. The bone is described by the osteologist as ‘worn’ and she suggests plough action as the cause: the excavated evidence is clear that this burial was undisturbed: it was perhaps the result of root action. Fragments of iron nails were found mixed in with the cremated bone, elements of which were attached to the bone. These may derive from a coffin containing the body on the pyre, from a bier on which the body was placed or from the pyre structure itself.

Soil Description
7011A friable mid yellowish brown clayey sandy silt (5/25/70%) containing chalk flecks, occasional chalk lumps (<5 mm diameter), occasional flints (<20 mm diameter) and two larger flints (60x30 mm).

Human Bone

Mature/older adult

Total weight: 1150.1 g


Left clavicle—blue/black; Left occipital condyle, skull base fragments, right mastoid process, many vault fragments (especially inner surface), dorsal thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, left innominate, left scapula, humerus shaft, left proximal radius and shaft, femur shaft, tarsal bone—blue; ulna shaft—blue/grey; proximal radius, left proximal femur—grey. NB. It was noticeable that the poorer reduced bone fragments are more worn than the others.

Virtually undisturbed urned cremation.


Terminus post quem late fourth century CE.

7013Fabrics 11, CC3.
AFabric 11, complete. Blue grey ware. Burnished over rim, lower body left matt. Wide necked jar (Stead & Rigby 1986 no. 793–4).
BFabric CC3, almost complete. Orange ware, dark brown colour-coat. Double band of rouletting above and below folds. Alternate circular and slit folds. Long neck, flared rim. Unusual form similar to Nene Valley type 52 (Howe et al. 1980, 20). Late fourth century CE.

All illustrations in the Appendix are © North Hertfordshire Museum.

Works Cited

    Applebaum, E. S. 1932. “Excavations at Baldock in 1932.” Transactions of the St Albans Architectural and Archaeological Society: 244–58.
    Burleigh, G. R. 1980. “A Roman Inhumation Cemetery, The Tene, Baldock, North Herts.” Hertfordshire’s Past 9: 35–37.
    Burleigh, G. R. 1982. “Excavations at Baldock 1980–81: An Interim Report.” Hertfordshire’s Past 12: 3–18.
    Burleigh, G. R. 1993. “Some Aspects of Burial Types in the Cemeteries of the Romano-British Settlement at Baldock, Hertfordshire, England.” In Römerzeitliche Gräber als Quellen zur Religion, Bevölkerungsstruktur und Sozialgeschichte: Internationale Fachkonferenz vom 18.–20. Februar 1991 im Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, ed. M. Struck. Mainz: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (Archäologische Schriften 3), 41–49.
    Burleigh, G. R., and K. J. Fitzpatrick-Matthews. 2010. Excavations at Baldock, Hertfordshire, 1978–1994, Volume 1: An Iron Age and Romano-British Cemetery at Wallington Road. Letchworth Garden City: North Hertfordshire District Council Museums Service & North Hertfordshire Archaeological Society (North Herts Museums Archaeology Monograph series, vol. 1).
    Burleigh, G. R., K. J. Fitzpatrick-Matthews, and M. Aldhouse-Green. 2006. “A Dea Nutrix Figurine from Baldock.” Britannia 37: 273–94.
    Burnham, B. C., and J. Wacher. 1990. The ‘Small Towns’ of Roman Britain. London: B T Batsford.
    Howe, M. D. J. R. Perrin, and D. F. Mackreth. 1980. Roman Pottery from the Nene Valley: A Guide. Occasional paper 2. Peterborough: Peterborough City Museum and Art Gallery.
    McKinley, J. I. 1993. “Short Report on a Decapitation from the Romano-British Cemetery at Baldock, Hertfordshire.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 3(1): 41–44.
    McKinley, J. I. 2000. “Phoenix Rising: Aspects of Cremation in Roman Britain.” In Burial, Society and Context in the Roman World, ed. J. Pearce, M. Millet, and M. Struck. Oxford: Oxbow, 38–44.
    Rahtz, P. 1977. “Late Roman Cemeteries and Beyond.” In Burial in the Roman World, ed. R. Reece. London: Council for British Archaeology (Research Report 22), 53–64.
    Stead, I. M., and V. Rigby. 1986. Baldock: The Excavation of a Roman and Pre-Roman Settlement, 1968–72. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies (Britannia Monograph 7).
    Thomas, C. 1981. Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500. London: B T Batsford.
    Westell, W. P. 1931. “A Romano-British Cemetery at Baldock, Hertfordshire.” Archaeological Journal 88: 247–301.