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Archaeological finds in Little Shelford

Artefacts found in Little Shelford

Map of archaeological discoveries in Little Shelford


Archaeological report carried out for M11 widening (external link)

Fanny Wale book on archaeological finds

Cambs History on archaeological finds in Little Shelford


Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record

Cambridgeshire Historic Designation List

Bronze Age axe

A Bronze Age palstave, or early bronze axe, was found at Rectory Farm, Little Shelford. The axe dates from 2500 BC to 701 BC. It was presented to a museum.

Iron Age settlement

Settlement north west of Little Shelford Early Iron Age to 5th century Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD.

A series of settlement sites of Iron age and Roman British. By railway line on Hauxton road. (use map pic) This extensive enclosure complex lies on level arable fields that show no surface evidence of its existence.

Scheduled ancient monument north west of Little Shelford (off Hauxton Road) “the aeriel photpgraph shows an iron age and roman british settlement site with square and circular enclosures.”

There is still evidence of Iron Age and Roman occupation close to both sides of the River Cam and which is visible from aerial photographs. 

The most significant Iron Age and Roman archaeological remains are the settlements situated to the north-east and south west of the present-day rail line. The sites now remain as a crop mark and a palimpsest of Iron Age round huts and rectangular enclosures, with evidence of continuing settlement into the Roman period.

Environmental evidence shows an agriculture based on wheat, barley and peas, and cattle grazed on water meadows; Crop marks and palimpsests are something of a rarity due to coprolite mining around Cambridgeshire, and the preservation of the Little Shelford sites is nationally important.

D-shaped enclosure, 6 circular enclosures (? possibly barrow circles), linear ditch and pits. b) Complex of enclosures, ditches and pits. The site lies north of the railway

Roman coin hoard

A hoard of 44 coins "from Shelford" contains 4 of Claudius II, 1 of Gallienus, 18 of Victorinus, 6 of Tetricus I, and 1 of Tetricus II, along with others not identified. The latest coins belong to the y ears 270 - 273 AD. Now in the CAAM.


Roman kiln

1990 M11 survey. “south of the Shelford Road lies an area of Roman kilns discovered during construction of the M11.”


Saxon cemetery 410 to 700 AD

Burials of the pagan Anglo Saxon period were discovered in a sand-pit close to the River Cam and opposite the mill at Little Shelford. An associated find of saucer-brooches, a 'Kentish' shape buckle, and beads are in CAAM. There are drawings of the Artefacts found in Little Shelford


Vikings in Shelford

The transition of Anglo-Saxon rule to the Viking Danelaw had a big effect on the village. As an outpost at the edge of the Danelaw, lying within a region of great conflict, Little Shelford became an important strategic location. The Vikings who sacked Cambridge are known to have wintered at Shelford. At the time, only a single village (Shelford) existed, and debate remains as to whether the ‘wintering’ site refers to the present-day Little Shelford or Great Shelford. 

However there is a strong argument for Little Shelford as the site, as a settlement here would control the river ford, the topmost navigation point, and the Minster. The half-mile island in the river near present-day Little Shelford, now referred as the Hermitage, would have also provided a good site for keeping boats and securing an army. We know that Vikings used a similar location for this purpose on the River Trent.


Shelford mint

There are also indications of a working coinage mint at Shelford. Coinage from this mint is extremely rare, but coins have been found in the Cuerdale horde excavated in 1905 next to the River Ribble at Cuerdale in Lancashire, issued in the name of Earl Sihtric by somebody called Gundibert working at a mint in ‘Sceldfor’ (in modern English, ‘Shelford’).

This horde is thought to have been deposited between 903 and 910AD. The addition of a Danish mint and encampment to our picture of Little Shelford, along with the Anglo-Saxon Minster, demonstrates the village’s centrality to Viking trade and economy.

Wale book on archaeological finds

"It was in the middle of this field (in Whittlesfo​rd Road) that parts of a skeleton were found in May 1904. Pharoah-Ha​cker was digging stones and found it in a sitting position only two feet below the grass. There were enough bits of the skull, teeth and arm bones to be examined so Dr Wherry and Prof McKenny Hughes came from Cambridge to see them and decided that they were the remains of a Saxon woman. Besides the bones were two brass shoulder broaches, in good preservati​on, a metal buckle, and bits of a rusty instrument​, also a number of painted amber beads. These things have been preserved but the bones were reburied." 


From  A Record of Shelford Parva by Fanny Wale P16


An excerpt from A Record of Shelford Parva by Fanny Wale setting out some archaeological finds in Little Shelford.

arch map1.PNG

Map of archaeological finds in Little Shelford


Cambs history on archaeological finds in Shelford

There are remains of a pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery near to the river, south-east of the bridge. The village of Little Shelford grew up west of there, around the point where the Whittlesford road turns east to cross the river. It spread from a nucleus near the ford, including the manor house and church, westwards along Church Street and southwards from the west end of Church Street along the modern High Street, known in the early 19th century as Thames Street Road.


Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record

Highlights of the report include:

  • Evidence of an Iron Age settlement

  • A Roman coin hoard

  • A Bronze Age axe

  • Anglo Saxon features of All Saints Church

  • Anglo Saxon cemetery (410AD to 700AD)

  • Site of an old hermitage

  • Shelford Hall (1850)

  • The Manor House (1745).

Further details can be found in the Cambridgeshire Designation List Report.

Cambridgeshire Historic Designation List

The full Cambridgeshire Historic Designation List report includes details on 28 historical buildings in Little Shelford including:

  • All Saints Church (including Anglo-Saxon elements)

  • Hall Farmhouse, High Street (early 15th century)

  • Little Shelford Manor (built 1746)

  • The Old House - North wing of the original Shelford Hall (late 16th century)

  • The Navigator pub (late 17th century)

  • Manor farmhouse (early 18th century)

There is more information on historical buildings in Little Shelford in the Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record.


Other sections on the Little Shelford history website

The first history book about Little Shelford

Little Shelford's historical photos

Little Shelford's historical buildings

Famous people from Little Shelford's history

The history of Little Shelford

The archaeology of Little Shelford

Little Shelford in World War One

Old maps featuring Little Shelford

Old censuses from Little Shelford

Family trees with Little Shelford connections

Graveyard inscriptions from Little Shelford

Historical memories from Little Shelford

Historical stories from Little Shelford

Memories of old Little Shelford

The story of Little Shelford's village sign

Books about Little Shelford's history

Little Shelford's historical heritage trail

Other sources of information about Little Shelford's history

About Little Shelford and its history

The Little Shelford Local History Society

Website contact details

Other sister community websites

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