Bedford councillors discuss potential of Roman Villa project in Manton Lane

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Council committee memebers have praised ‘imporant’ work of the team at the Bedford Roman Villa dig on Manton Lane.

Bedford Borough Council’s Environment and Sustainable Communities Committee meeting last week was entirely devoted to receiving a presentation on the Roman dig.

Stephen Cockings and Elizabeth Sayer, both part of the team, delivered a presentation explaining the story of the excavations on the site.

The committee was presented with the story of the excavations as well as a possible scenario to the role of the site in Roman Britain.

Part of this story is developing evidence that Bedford - in the later Roman Empire - may have been the site of a major centre managing wheat production in the Ouse Valley.

Described as the ‘bread basket’ of Roman Britain, what may have been a large imperial estate could have been responsible for supplying the Roman army defending the frontiers of Hadrian’s Wall.

Councillor Roger Rigby, who chaired this meeting, said: “In all my years a councillor it is probably the first time a formal committee meeting has been devoted to one subject and it shows the value councillors and the council place on the importance of the discovery.

“Mr Cockings presented an extraordinary possibility of Kempston in the late 3rd and early 4th century being an important port on the river for the movement of grain around Roman Britain and the Rhine.

“Other excavations in the area are developing a new theory that instead of Bedford having little relevance at this time, it actually played an important part in the north western provinces of the late Roman Empire.

“If these theories can be fully developed and proved, the value to Bedford of this new history through tourism and education will be very valuable.”