Central Bedfordshire Council news and press releases

Roman remains revealed on Houghton Regis site set for new school

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Completion of the new state-of-the-art Houstone School in Houghton Regis will be delayed after the archaeological discovery of Roman, Neolithic and early Bronze Age remains dating back 4,500 years.

Set to be run by the Advantage Schools multi-academy trust, the first new secondary school we've built in the town – which takes its moniker from the historical name for the area, as recorded in the Domesday Book – was expected to open its doors to over 200 pupils from the start of the 2022/23 academic year in September. 

Children and young people will now be temporarily educated in the former University Technical College building on the same Kingsland Campus site, which is being refurbished to accommodate classes from September until spring 2023 when Houstone School is expected to be ready. 

The national shortage of building materials and a now resolved drainage concern have been among the challenging modern-day issues around the construction, while more historically significant has been the uncovering of ancient settlement activity and human remains. 

Bronze Age burial skeleton

Bronze Age burial skeleton. The skull is at the top and the legs are drawn up crouched position at the bottom.

The discoveries include: 

  • a 'ring-ditch' which is part of a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age barrow or funerary monument, around 4,500 years old
  • a human burial; the skeleton was placed in a crouched position within a pit near the barrow, suggesting it is likely to be of a similar date, which will be confirmed by radiocarbon dating (specialist analysis will determine the individual’s sex, age at death, and whether they were suffering from any diseases)
  • a line of 11 Bronze Age pits, around 4,000 years old, which represent an ancient boundary, stretching for at least 30 metres (they contained fragments of Bronze Age pottery and animal bone)
  • various other late Iron Age/Roman (200 BC–AD 400) ditches and pits are associated with a large settlement previously investigated within the Linmere development to the east of the Houstone site (pottery, animal bone, and other domestic artefacts were found)

The archaeological discoveries add to historic artefacts previously at the nearby Linmere housing development, also known as HRN1, which together give an insight to 8,000 years of human life in Houghton Regis.

Bronze Age round barrow

Bronze Age round barrow

Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, Councillor Sue Clark, said:

We’re very sorry that Houstone School will not be able to open in September as we’d planned, but we have worked hard to ensure pupils will be able to begin their secondary school education right next door, in a refurbished University Technical College building while we work hard to deliver the brand-new school building. I am sorry there have been a number of issues outside of our control that have held up progress on the new school, including significant archaeological discoveries.

Talking of the discoveries, Albion Archaeology Project Manager, Wesley Kier, said:

The results of the archaeological investigations at Houstone, together with those of the investigations carried out elsewhere within the Linmere development, provide a unique and regionally significant insight into the ancient land use and landscape of the area which stretches back at least 8,000 years.  

Bronze Age pit alignment

Bronze Age pit alignment

Stuart Lock, Chief Executive of Advantage Schools, said:

The new school building is going to be fantastic and we are going to provide pupils with the highest quality of education. But a school is much more than a building, and we will take our high expectations, academic ethos, excellent behaviour standards and be ready to run this school in temporary accommodation in September 2022. The principal, Elizabeth English, and I have visited the UTC building and it is of a high standard. Pupils will get a good deal from September, and we look forward to moving into our brand-new building early in 2023.

Elizabeth English, Houstone School Principal Designate, said:

I’m currently working with the Trust team to ensure the education we deliver in our temporary accommodation is matched to the standard we will deliver in the new building and all of our pupils will thrive at school. Whilst I share families’ disappointment over the delay to the build, I’m confident we will run a fantastic school at the UTC until the move to our new home is complete. I will work with our pupils and families to ensure the transition into both the UTC and the new building will be smooth and successful. I look forward to inviting you in to see our school in action from September.