3,500BC - 1200AD

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A Time Line For Houghton Regis

Houghton Saelig is an old English name for our parish. It means fortunate Houghton. Fortunate because the old village was on a hill, and therefore not likely to flood. The place-name Houghton derives from the OE ‘hoh’ (spur of hill) and ‘tun’ (farm). Regis was added to distinguish it from Houghton Conquest. Houghton Regis effectively gave birth to Dunstaple ('dun' meaning hill, 'estaple' being the old French word for market) since some of the king's land at the Icknield Way and Watling Street crossroads was given over to forming a market on the downs in the 12thCentury. The Civil Parish Boundaries of Houghton Regis have changed over the years. The thin red lines indicate edges of areas lost over time, primarily to Dunstable, some to Luton. (map source)

Updated regularly (and especially during 2014). Author: Alan D Winter
 I hope you enjoy reading through this time line, and if you have suggestions for more dates, or corrections, and the source, please use my Contact link to let me know. Thanks for reading, and I hope it encourages you to find out more by reading local history books. Alan Winter.

Beginnings | 1200AD - 1800AD | 1800AD - 1930 | 1930 - Present |

Earliest Times

Ice Age (2.4 million years ago to 9,500 BC): Chalk hills are left above forest, rivers and marsh. Traders, immigrants, travellers follow the Norfolk to Hampshire ridge, and a track known as the Icknield Way develops.

Neolithic (9,500 BC - 2,500BC): Neolithic or New Stone Age men settle on Puddlehill (now a cutting used by the A5). Cows, pigs, sheep, and primitive arable farming.

Bronze Age 2500BC - 800BC : Maidenbower was a site of importance in this area. Different groups lived at Puddlehill. Beaker people. Early bronze objects.

Iron Age 800 BC - 43AD : Evidence of a farmstead in the north east of the area of what is now Houghton Regis has been proven, together with a double ditch trackway. 600BC - First iron ploughs.
100 BC - Belgium and Eastern France stock farmers arrive, using force to control.

Catuvellauni tribe at Wheathamstead, spread out, becoming prosperous traders, including to Maidenbower. Shards of Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman pottery found during trench excavations for A5-M1 Northern Bypass preliminary works (ref.)

AD 43: Roman Emperor, Claudius, invades forcing locals to build the hardened road of Watling Street, cutting away the summit of Puddlehill, cutting the hill off from Maidenbower (read more on this abstract of The Roman Period). Farmers living in flimsy huts. Beginnings of Dunstable (Durocobrivis) at the Watling Street/Icknield Way junction. Romano-British *duro- "walled town.", A pathway, now a bridleway, to the west of the A5 cutting is suggested to have been made in Roman times.

Excavations by the Manshead Archaeological Society under Les Matthews, archaeologists uncovered a number of Roman buildings before quarrying on Puddlehill. The site dates from 50-200 AD. On display at Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton.
Found in 1907 by Worthington Smith at Maiden Bower. In total eleven pots and five Samian vessels were collected. The remains of wooden coffins and cremation urns were also uncovered. Probably dated from 100-200AD. On display at Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton.
Trackways lead to the Maiden Bower fort. Roman coins and pottery have been found at Shirrell Spring at Sewell. Also in the Sewell area have been found Roman coins, brooches, finger rings, and strap fittings. (source)

AD 217: Durocobrivae (now Dunstable) listed in Antoinine Itinerary as being 12 Roman miles north of Verulamium (now St. Albans).

cAD 410: Roman soldiers finally leave to defend Rome.

571: Cutha, a Saxon, wins a battle at Biedcanford (ref Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) taking settlements along the Icknield Way, causing destruction of Durocobrivis. Saxons rule this part of England. People make settlements away from the unsafe crossroads of Watling Street/Icknield Way. "hoe" - spur of a hill, "tun" - Saxon name for a village. "saelig" - holy or fortunate. Hence "Hoetun Saelig".

Excavated burial of a Saxon warrior at Puddlehill, buried about 600AD. Killed by a blow above his left ear that had smashed his skull. On display at Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton.

8thC: Danish raiders in the area, burning, looting, invading. AD 913 local people repel Danish invasion of Luton. (ref Anglo-Saxon Chronicles). AD921 Danes raid and destroy Durocobrivis.

926: North of Houghton Regis parish, the settlement at what is now known as Chalgrave was called East Coten (‘east cottages’) (Discover history for  Chalgrave, Tebworth, and Wingfield).


1003-1066 During Edward the Confessor's time, 3 hides of land at Sewell were in the tenure of Walgrave, a man of Queen Edith, and later were handed to the Royal Manor of Houghton by Ralph Tallebosc.

1042-66: Houghton is a Royal Manor. Edward the Confessor's Queen gave Sewelle to a servant Walraven (#1). Sheriff of Bedfordshire gave it back to the Royal manor of Houghton.

1066: After the Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror took over the Manor of Houghton. He gave the church and its lands to William the Chamberlain, previously owned by the Saxons (possibly by Morcar, rector of Luton). Sewell was an independent manor before the conquest, but was annexed by Ralf Taillebois, the Sheriff between 1066 and 1086 to the royal demesne.

1086: Houstone, Sewelle, Cadendone, Canesworde (modern day Houghton Regis, Sewell, Caddington, and Kensworth) listed as places in the four quadrants of the Icknield Way/Watling Street junction in the Domesday Tax Report. Durocobrivae is not mentioned, believed to have been in ruin for some time. Houstone,  which probably included all the land later assigned to Dunstable, had about 1200 acres (10 hides) of productive land, 24 ploughs (24 x 8 oxen), woodland on heavier land for 100 pigs, plus meadow. Houghton inhabitants: 38 villagers (mainly arable workers), 12 smallholders (craftsmen, artisans), no serfs (teenagers, retired, disabled), 50 families, population estimated at 240. Potentially they were trading at the crossroads in what was Durocobrivae, and at Upper Houghton. They were comparatively highly taxed.


1100: Henry I of England became king in August, and soon after builds a market town on his estate at Houghton in an effort to raise revenue from rents and levies on trade. 'men to come and rent building land at 12d per acre'. About 450 acres (1.8 km2) of Houghton land was given over. This becomes known as Dunestaple which simply means "the market": Explanation - the French D'un - (O.F. a.) the one, of one, and the Old French 'estaple'  which was a counter, stall; regulated market, depot," taken from a Germanic source akin to Middle Low German stapol - see http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=estaple)

Portrait of Henry I, King of England (c.1068-1135)

1109: A royal residence for Henry I is completed in Houghton at the North East of the crossroads in the Dunestaple area with stone from Royal quarry of Totternhoe. This is called Kingsbury.

1121: King Henry I gives the church lands in Houghton to his illegitimate son, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester.

1122: King Henry I stays at Kingsbury for Christmas (ref.)

1125: An order of Augustinian canons is by now established in a Priory opposite the Palace.

1131: King Henry I stays at Kingsbury for Christmas.

1132: King Henry I gives to the canons the "the whole manor and burg of Dunstaple with the lands to the same town ... the market of the said town and schools ... common in the wood of Houghton and the pastures of Houghton and Caddington and Kensworth and Totternhoe and the quarry of the same town". Privileges in the charter extended to giving the canons complete control over the town and its residents.
At the same time, the Royal Manor of Houghton was given to the Norman baron, Hugh de Gurney.
Freemen from Houghton lost their rights to grazing and wood gathering around the market crossroads (where Icnield Way and Watling Street met) so Henry gave to them Buckwood, an estate near present day Markyate. (Buckwood amalgamated with Humbershoe and other pockets of land in the late 18th century to form the parish of Markyate).

The confusion over exactly what Henry I had granted in Houghton lead to a constant struggle between the prior and the lords of the vil. More about Henry I on the Dunstable Timeline.

1136: Possible date for building a new church at Houghton.

1137: King Stephen stays at Kingsbury for Christmas.

1138: Enquiry on behalf of the King shows that 60 acres behind the church at Kyngggeshoughtone have become William Chamberlain's (see 1066) personal secular property.

1153: Earl William, son of Earl Robert of Gloucester, gives Houghton church and its lands to St. Albans Abbey who continues to own and runs them until the dissolution of the monasteries. Tithes collected from the whole village on behalf of St Albans Abbey.


1203: King John visits the Priory, and licenses a new annual fair, St Fremund to be held on 10-12 May.


Beginnings | 1200AD - 1800AD | 1800AD - 1930 | 1930 - Present |

Bibliography for the timeline