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The Puddingstone Track: Deconstructed

  Puddingstone Track

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Along the Track: SUFFOLK

Barnham

"In yard at the Grafton Arms" (first mention 1957):

At first Dr. Rudge simply recorded this as "stone in yard".1 It wasn't until 'Lost Trackway' that he expanded his description slightly, saying "a large puddingstone lies in the yard, and was probably used as a mounting-block".2 Stables belonging to this late 18th/early 19th century inn still exist on the site, so it's probable that the stone was to the rear of the building. It was reported on the 'Megalithic Portal' website in late 2010 that the stone was then about to be removed and destroyed, in order for the yard to be paved. I visited in 2015, and indeed no such stone was to be found there. Closed as a pub in 2013, after taking on various other uses and names it is now (2020) a housing development called Grafton Barns. It stands on the western side of the A134, a little north of Barnham village, at TL86507957.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.10.

 

 

Barnham

"Corner of barn, West Farm" (first mention 1957):

1 miles further south, and 600m west of the A134 is West Farm, at TL86067675. Here, said Rudge, "a unique conglomerate trackstone stands in the farmyard and from it a broad 'green road' runs for nearly a mile northwards, pointing straight to the Ouse ford" [at Thetford].1 Exactly what was 'unique' about it he never explained, but elsewhere he called it a 'small' boulder, at the corner of a barn. Today, the farm site is a complex of residential barn conversions and cottages, with neat fences and closely-cropped grass all around. The boulder is unlikely to have survived. The 'green road' will be considered below, along with other paths which Rudge considered to be 'confirmatory evidence' of his Track.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track: Further Discoveries' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11 (July 1952), p. 515-6.

 

 

Culford Heath (Ingham)

"On Culford Heath" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

All that Rudge stated about this stone is that it was another 'small boulder'. He gave a map reference of TL858747, which is 1 miles south of West Farm, on the Wordwell/Ingham parish boundary. There is no public access to it nowadays, but the boundary runs along an extension of a track known as Cooper's Drift. On Hodskinson's 1783 map of Suffolk this was part of a much longer route named Euston Ride, which ran from Culford to Euston. But this ran south-west to north-east, contrary to Rudge's imagined Track alignment. It's unknown whether or not this stone still exists.

 

 

Ingham

"Beside barn, Neville House Farm" (first mention 1957):

Just over three-quarters of a mile south of the previous rock, "stone beside barn" is the only information given by Rudge in 19571, followed by "small boulder" in 'Lost Trackway'.2 Even since Rudge's time the farm site has been completely revamped, with virtually all the old barns removed or replaced. The stone has almost certainly also been swept away. About the same distance again takes us south to the next marker on the Track, at Bodney Farm.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.10.

 

 

Ingham

"Small boulder, Bodney Farm" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

As a public footpath runs right past it, I visited Bodney Farm in August 2016. This is no longer a working farm, with only a few barns and partially derelict buildings remaining, apparently mostly used for storage. A few metres west of the main barn, at TL8543072157, I found a conglomerate rock among a line of small boulders and other objects arranged along the edge of a grassy area. It's not exactly large, only 35cm x 33cm x 20cm high, composed of large irregular flints compacted in a sandstone matrix. This is clearly not in any original position, but I can't claim that it's the same rock that Rudge recorded here; and I would think it too small for even him to have accepted as a mark-stone on his Track.

 

 

Ingham

"At roadside, Ingham Crossroads" (first mention 1955):

Another three-quarters of a mile or so brings us to the crossroads on the A134 about which the village of Ingham was formed. Initially, the stone here was simply noted as being at the roadside1; two years later, it was still only "end of wall by roadside".2 It's only in Rudge's final work that the boulder was said to be "set in the ground beside the pedestrian path, and at the end of the boundary wall of the Griffin Inn (also known as the Cadogan Arms)".3 This would place it at TL8553370780, where the southern end of the wall meets the pavement. The pub is now known as The Cadogan; I visited in 2015, but there was no sign of the stone. I suspect it may have been removed some years earlier when fencing was erected around the car park, and an opening created at that end for pedestrian access.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.257.

2. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

3. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.10.

 

 

'Confirmatory evidence': 'green roads' from Barnham to Ingham:

In 1955, Rudge stated that "From the Ingham crossroads stone an unbroken right-of-way leads due north, by footpaths and grassy tracks, via Bodney Farm, Nevillehouse and Bodney Heath. From the West Farm stone this line continues towards Thetford by an unused 'green road'".1 He believed that these paths were a survival of the alignment of his Track, and gave the impression that they formed a continuous 'unbroken' route. But this wasn't true even in Rudge's day, according to the 1955 Ordnance Survey 2 Inch map, which he himself used.

 

While there were, and in some cases still are, some sections of path that ran roughly north-south, many others ran in different directions and never joined up. The 'green road' that still runs directly north from West Farm stops dead after two-thirds of a mile when it's crossed by a track called Duke's Ride, and from older maps it's clear that it never went further. There is no trace of any direct path between West Farm and Culford Heath. It must be borne in mind that West Farm, Neville House Farm and many others in the area, along with the tracks leading to and around them, didn't even exist until the 18th century. This is when the Culford and Euston estates owned this whole region, privately enclosing the fields and dividing them into lots for agriculture.2 Other tracks undoubtedly originated as medieval droving roads and driftways for the movement of cattle and sheep - but there's no available evidence to suggest that any were prehistoric in date.

 

One such is the Cow-path, which started with a now-vanished footpath leading from Ingham crossroads. Much of it still exists, however, running north past Bodney Farm (photo left) and almost to Neville House Farm. There it becomes a field boundary that veers slightly eastward before stopping when crossed by another heathland track called Chalk Lane. In 1955, there was then another path which branched off north-west at that point, to join up with an existing old track called Elveden Road that carried on towards the village of that name. In 1888 it was mentioned as "an old trackway (the Cow-path) that once led from Ingham to Elveden and the country beyond".3

 

Rudge, however, remained convinced that the Cow-path had originally led all the way from Ingham to Thetford, and had at some later stage been diverted westwards towards Elveden - despite having no evidence.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.258.

2. Susanna Wade-Martins & Tom Williamson: 'Roots of Change' in 'The Agricultural History Review' Supplement Series 2 (B.A.H.S., 1999), p.37, 86, 144.

3. Henry Prigg: 'On a Roman British Cemetery at Ingham, near Bury St. Edmunds' in 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology' Vol.6, part 1 (1888), p.41.

 

 

Little Livermere (Great Livermere) (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"Churchyard at Little Livermere" (only mention in print 1952; read to the EFC 1951):

Slightly more than 1 miles north-east of Ingham crossroads is the ruined church of SS Peter and Paul at Little Livermere (TL88187185.) In the early days of his theory, when he began seriously exploring beyond the confines of Essex, Dr. Rudge thought that his Track headed south-east from Thetford rather than south. None of the Suffolk stones above had yet been discovered. His first stone in this county was therefore to be found at Little Livermere (part of Gt. Livermere parish), "just outside the churchyard".1 Since later finds changed his mind on the Track's alignment, this one was never mentioned again and no further description was given. Some twenty years earlier, however, the great writer M.R. James noted here "a large unworked stone under a tree by the churchyard gate".2 Unfortunately we can't know if it was indeed a conglomerate as Rudge claimed, as the church and its yard are on the private property of Park Farm, and public access is strictly prohibited. The sequence of his earlier version of the Track was: Livermere church - Thurston church - Felsham Manor - Chelsworth church. These other points are dealt with below.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.24 (read 24/11/51.)

2. M.R. James: 'Suffolk and Norfolk' (Dent & Sons, 1930), p.73.

 

 

Timworth

"Farmyard wall, Timworth Green" (first mention 1955):

After heading in a consistent southerly direction since Thetford, after Ingham crossroads the Puddingstone Track begins to make a gentle eastward curve. Almost a mile from Ingham, the stone here still survives, and this one is definitely a large, pebble-filled conglomerate. I first visited here back in the 1970s; inexplicably, I failed to take either photographs or dimensions. This is unfortunate, as the stone is now so completely enveloped by ivy that it doesn't look like a boulder at all. Despite thrusting my arm into the mass of vegetation, I couldn't even touch the stone. The picture on the left is taken from Google Street View in 2010.

 

In 1955 Dr. Rudge said the stone was "against farmyard wall" at Timworth Farm.1 In 1957 it was "behind wall of farmyard" at the same farm.2 It was only in 'Lost Trackway' that he expanded upon its location. There he didn't mention any wall, but said that when he first saw the boulder it was standing 'prominently' beside the green (at its western end.) Then new stables were built and it was "moved to a corner" out of the way.3 Now, it can be found at TL8581369281, on the grassy verge just outside the gate to Dalmer Lodge, which used to be stables for the farm across the road. Just behind the farm there was once an old clay pit, which is where I suspect the stone originated.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.257.

2. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

3. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.10.

 

 

Fornham St. Martin

"Corner of track, Hall Farm" (first mention 1955):

1 miles further on is another stone that I visited in the 1970s. It stands at TL8643967142, at the end of a wall, at the entrance to the yard of Hall Farm, which is next to the junction of two roads called Farm Drift and Bury Drift. The latter Rudge said was locally known as 'Peddlers' Way', and coincided with the alignment of his Track. But the road is only about 600m long, and isn't particularly old. Even later than the farms and their trackways at Barnham and Ingham, those in this area were only laid out in 1820, when the fields were enclosed by the owner, the Duke of Norfolk. The photo on the left is of the stone as I saw it in the 1970s.

 

Rudge also said that this small boulder had for generations been "the traditional 'hiring-stone' for the farm, at which labourers were engaged and on which their wages were paid".1 In 1977, the then-owner of the farm, Robert Long, told me that in fact he still met his men there every morning. He added that it was "really only a sort of marker on the Roman road that used to go through here." His son Andrew told me the same thing when I revisited in 2018. Unfortunately for that idea, traces of the only 'possibly Roman' road in the vicinity are more than half a mile away, and on a completely different alignment. Since the Long family only began farming here in 1960, I have a vague thought that maybe this is a garbled memory of the day that Dr. Rudge came here in the early 1950s and told a previous farmer about his theory of the Puddingstone Track.

 

In the late 2000s I looked again for this stone on Google Street View, but failed to find it in its remembered location. I therefore wrote elsewhere on this site that it had now vanished. But in 2014 I received information that it had recently been uncovered, still on the same spot, but now concealed by the growth of a conifer hedge.2 It is now almost completely sunken into the soil, covered in leaf litter and totally hidden from sight (photo left.) I was only able to see and measure its top surface - 71cm x 42cm - by laying flat on the ground and reaching under the hedge.

 

Hall Farm has a photo of the 'hiring stone' taken during the First World War in which it's slightly further away from the wall end, and laying flat on the surface, not embedded. I have a suspicion that, like the Timworth stone, it may simply have been dug up from one of the many clay and gravel pits that dotted the surrounding fields in the 19th century.

 

Whatever its origin, it should never have been a part of Rudge's Track. This is NOT a puddingstone or other type of conglomerate, but the very hard form of sandstone known as sarsen.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.258.

2. Information from Sam Barker of Hall Farm, 15/5/2014.

 

 

'Confirmatory evidence': Catteshill and Eastlow Hill mounds:

In the first half of the 1950s, Dr. Rudge seems to have been very uncertain as to the course his Track had taken in Suffolk. Back when the Livermere stone was still part of it, he thought the route took a more pronounced south-easterly swing, and went via Thurston (see below.) In early 1952 for example, he gave a list of eight places along that projected route where he expected puddingstones to be found.1 None ever were. As late as 1957, a stray 'find' at Felsham (see also below) pulled him in that direction, only to be rejected later.2

 

He then determined that the Track had maintained its gentler curve, and had passed over two artificial mounds, Catteshill and Eastlow Hill. Both were marked on maps as 'tumuli' i.e. ancient burial mounds, and he was convinced that both had been raised solely to place a (now-lost) puddingstone on top so that the traveller could see it more clearly "above the level of the featureless plain".3 This was just as he believed had occurred at Grime's Graves.

 

Catteshill has been destroyed, but used to stand at a spot nowadays named Cattishall (TL88476541), just south of Great Barton. Rudge said that both mounds had been excavated, but their purpose had never been discovered. He clearly missed that, in the 1957 excavation of Catteshill, it was revealed to have been no more than an Iron Age or Roman midden - a dung or domestic waste heap. Eastlow Hill is a scheduled monument still existing just north-east of Rushbrooke (TL89956175.) It was actually excavated as far back as 1844 and found to contain a Roman burial chamber, complete with skeleton in a lead coffin. It and three others (later destroyed, which held Roman cremations) formed a group known as the Four Hills, and are believed to be the graves of a family that lived in a known villa nearby.

 

So, not only was the purpose of both mounds known in Rudge's day, but so was their age, showing that they couldn't have been raised as part of any supposedly-prehistoric trackway. The fact that no puddingstones were known at either should have ruled them out in any case.

 

1. Anonymous (with info from Rudge): 'Pudding-stones' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11, No.5 (Jan. 1952), p.245.

2. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

3. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.11.

 

 

Thurston (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"In churchyard" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Rudge called this one of his many 'pagan' stones that he thought demonstrated the antiquity of his Track.1 It didn't last long however. Apart from a line in early 1952 that "the stone stands in the churchyard a few feet from the church wall", it was never mentioned again.2 This was almost certainly because he had changed his thinking about the Track's direction - but it should have been for a far more obvious reason. This object is not only NOT a puddingstone, it isn't even a natural rock at all!

 

It's still there in St. Peter's churchyard at TL9293365252, on the south side towards the east end of the church, and no more than two metres away from a buttress. The entire church collapsed in 1860. It was swiftly rebuilt the following year, but one huge lump of medieval flint and rubble from the earlier church - 1.5m x 0.9m x 0.85m high -  was left beside the path. One side of it clearly shows worked ecclesiastical masonry mortared into the mass. I find it hard to understand how Dr. Rudge could have made such an egregious error.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.24 (read 24/11/51.)

2. Anonymous (with info from Rudge): 'Pudding-stones' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11, No.5 (Jan. 1952), p.244.

 

 

Bradfield St. Clare (uncertain, classed by Rudge only as 'possible')

"Near Sutton Hall Cottages" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

Even in the final manuscript of his book Rudge was unsure of the next point on the Track after the two mounds he claimed as 'confirmatory evidence'. At some point he received a report "that a large boulder was excavated from a field near Sutton Hall Cottages".1 The map reference he gave - TL905570 - is a general one for the Hall itself, a 16th century moated house. The Cottages are about 180m further east, and surrounded by fields. He seems to have considered the report as no more than a 'clue', and the boulder as only a 'possible' Track-stone. This is just short of seven miles SSE of the 'hiring stone' at Fornham St. Martin.

 

1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.11.

 

 

Felsham (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"At Felsham Manor" (first mention 1957):

Although Felsham was included on a list of "Points on the Conglomerate Track" in a paper read to the Essex Field Club in November 1951, it wasn't until 1957 that Rudge noted a stone here. He said that in the previous year, "a typical boulder was found at Felsham Manor, near the entrance to the drive".1 I'm unsure how he could have miscounted, but he later reported "two very large boulders flanking the entrance to Felsham Hall".2 This would place them at TL9423056941, beside Cockfield Road at the western end of the village. However, after searching unsuccessfully for a continuation of the Track, he came "finally to the conclusion that here was another example of the tendency among country folk to adopt these boulders for decorative purposes." There was no sign of any boulders at the drive entrance when I visited Felsham in July 2017. This entrance seems to have been widened and fenced in recent times, so the stones might have been removed; but, there are also plenty of trees and dense bushes among which they could be concealed.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.11.

 

 

Preston St. Mary (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"In ditch east of Charity Farm" (only mention 1955):

The sole entry for this stone simply says "Stone in ditch, 400 yards east of farm (unconfirmed)".1 Another that seems to have been reported to Rudge but never seen by him, and another which we can't be sure was even a puddingstone. The map reference he gave of TL954519 actually places it within a wood called Bushey Ley. However, 400 yards (366m) east of Charity Farm actually takes you to a spot in an empty field 110m short of the woodland, south-west of its western end. It obviously didn't fit with his evolving ideas of the Track's alignment, and received no further mention.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'Further Observations on the Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 4 (1955), p.257.

 

 

Cross Green (Hitcham) (uncertain, classed by Rudge only as 'possible')

"At Cross Green" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

The puddingstone said to be here is only another 'possible' marker on the Track, like the one at Bradfield St. Clare just less than six miles away. It's another that Rudge never saw himself, having heard of "the recent discovery of a boulder at Cross Green" by the well-known author and walker John Hillaby.1 He never stated the source for this, and I've been unable to find a mention of it in Hillaby's published works. Hillaby himself was a supporter of Rudge's theory, and wrote a favourable article about it in 1952; he didn't however refer to his own boulder, so I suspect he found it long afterwards.2

 

The map reference given by Rudge - TL990528 - may just be a general one for the locale, but it seems to point to the long grassy footpath that runs behind houses on the east side of the B1115 Hitcham Causeway. It seems quite likely that Hillaby would have chosen to walk this path if he came through Hitcham on his travels. I walked it in 2017, but unfortunately found no boulder. Although Dr. Rudge accepted it as no more than another 'clue', it does shift the route considerably more in a south-easterly direction, and much closer to a section of Track in which he had more confidence, beginning at Bildeston.

 

1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.11.

2. John Hillaby: 'The Oldest Highway - on London's Doorstep' in 'London Evening News', 12/8/1952.

 

 

Bildeston

"At the Old Bull Inn" (first mention 1957):

Fourteen miles from Fornham St. Martin, Bildeston held the next stone that Rudge was certain about. If the Hitcham stone is accepted, the Track has now turned directly south - but doesn't hold that direction for long. He first glimpsed this stone behind the house of the local doctor, and learned from him that it had originally been sited in the middle of the adjacent market square. In 1864, a clock tower was built on the spot and the boulder moved to the south side of the square, outside the Old Bull Inn. At some point afterward, said Rudge, it was moved again to the rear of the building, when the inn closed and became a private dwelling - and later, the home of the doctor.1

 

I learned from the Bildeston historian Sue Andrews that the inn had actually become a house in the same year that the tower was built. She identified it as what is now Tower House, which sits on the corner of Chapel Street and the High Street. The stone was against a back wall, and could be found at TL9928649436. I called at the house in May 2016 to discover that the stone was no longer there. The new owners had only moved in during the previous November, and had no knowledge of its whereabouts. They offered to let me know if it ever turned up hidden away in the shrubbery, but I've heard no more. Dr. Rudge's photo (left) shows a roughly conical stone perhaps a metre high. It's definitely not Herts Puddingstone, but it's impossible to tell from the picture if it's another type of conglomerate.

 

Oddly, 'Lost Trackway' gives a slightly different tale about the moving of the boulder. There, he says the doctor told him that it was moved from the centre of the square in 1898 to allow for the building of a drinking fountain. This was to commemorate the previous year's Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.2 I find this very strange, as his earlier account of 1957 was factually correct, there has never been a fountain in the square, and the village did not build anything for the Jubilee.

 

As at Chesham (Bucks) and St. Albans (Herts), Rudge saw significance in the fact that his mark-stone had stood in the market square. He believed that such a stone was "without a doubt the nucleus around which the earliest settlement gathered".3 With respect to Bildeston, that notion is erroneous. It's now known that the original settlement was half a mile to the west, on higher ground around the church, where there are traces of a deserted village. The current market place did not exist until the 13th century.

 

Rudge also claimed in 1957 that the boulder when it was in the square was "at the intersection of two Roman roads." This too is incorrect. It's true that the course of a Roman road (Margary 34a) went across the valley in which Bildeston is located from north-east to south-west, but the crossing point was north of the village, at least a quarter of a mile from the market place. Another Roman road (Margary 330) reaches Hitcham from the north, but it's only ever been conjecture that it then takes a sharp turn to approach Bildeston.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.53.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.12.

3. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.21 (read 24/11/51.)

 

 

Chelsworth (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"North wall of church tower" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

In another article in early 1952, Rudge called this stone "a fine specimen...partly buried in the foundations on the north side of the tower" at All Saints church.1 The article included a picture of Dr. Rudge himself looking at the stone, which enabled me to locate it at TL9803447922, in the angle between tower and north aisle. I saw and photographed it in 1975 (left), but for some reason didn't think to take dimensions. As it was partly buried in the lower wall course, from memory the visible portion seemed to be roughly 40cm x 25cm x 30cm. The important thing, however, is that it was NOT puddingstone or another conglomerate, it was plain old sandstone.

 

The realisation of that fact may be what caused Rudge to never mention this rock again after 1955. More likely is that once again it failed to fit his changing ideas of the Track's route. Between Bildeston and the (yet-to-come) confirmed puddingstone at Kersey, this and another discarded stone at Semer would have had his track zig-zagging across the landscape, changing direction between south-west and south-east five times!

 

I went back to Chelsworth church in May 2016, only to find that the stone was effectively lost somewhere beneath dense clumps of weeds and nettles, as well as miscellaneous rubble and debris. The same conditions existed at the base of all the church walls. Having later read in the village newsletter that a clean-up operation had taken place, I returned again in July 2017. The walls were indeed all now clear, but the stone itself was also gone. Only a cement patch now remains to show where it had been.

 

1. Anonymous (with info from Rudge): 'Pudding-stones' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11, No.5 (Jan. 1952), p.244.

 

 

Chelsworth

"At farm, Chelsworth Common" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Here we're about 1 miles SSW of Bildeston. The first mention describes it thus: "Chelsworth Common stone...Lying by door of farm".1 This was soon narrowed down to "by the back door" at Common Farm, also known as Lower Common Farm.2 Again Dr. Rudge provided a photo of the stone, but this isn't very helpful, as most of it is hidden behind a barrel. He later added that it was "a large boulder" and had been "brought from somewhere on the farm".3 I visited the farmhouse in 1975, to be told that the stone was long gone. It seems that a kitchen extension on the rear of the house did away with it. Its position would have been at TL9860947248. "Somewhere on the farm" presumably means that it came from one of the surrounding fields; but if Rudge didn't know its original location, the question arises how he could know that it complied with the route of his Track. If the 1832 tithe map is anything to go by, those fields were numerous and extensive - and in at least one of them, field 158, there was a chalk pit whence it could have originated.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.30 (read 24/11/51.)

2. Anonymous (with info from Rudge): 'Pudding-stones' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11, No.5 (Jan. 1952), p.244.

3. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.12.

 

 

Drakestone Green (Semer)

"In farm orchard, Drakestone Green" (first mention in print 1950; read 1949):

At this point while following the Track, the stone here is thus far the first to survive all the way from Rudge's first paper read in October 1949 to the final manuscript of his book in 1983. Attracted by the 'Drakestone' name, Rudge came here in the summer of 1949 and enquired of the farm owners (at that time, the Ranson brothers) if they knew anything about puddingstone. He was led to the farm's orchard and shown "a large block of the local conglomerate".1 His photograph taken at the time (left) shows Albert Ranson standing next to the stone, a long dark boulder protruding from a dirt bank in front of a young hedge.

 

The farm in question is Drakestone (now Drakeston) Farm (TL99454533), about a mile SSW of Semer Bridge, and 1 miles SSE of the Chelsworth Common stone. I looked for this "great block of ferruginous conglomerate"2 in 1975 and found it, not within the orchard, but partially buried in the roadside bank on the south side, about 50m south-east of the farmhouse (photo left.) Although Rudge later3 called it an "immense specimen", I thought it to be only about a metre long, with perhaps 50cm visible above ground. It is indeed a pitted ferricrete boulder, with small pebbles bound in an iron oxide rich matrix.

 

I looked for it again in 2016, but was unable to locate it. A couple of weeks later I contacted the current farm owner, who informed me that the stone was still there, but now hidden beneath the overgrown roadside hedge. He guessed it to be about 3 feet (91cm) high. He also told me of a similar stone about 620m further west along the road that was 'hidden' at Roper's Green.4 If Rudge had known about it, I'm sure he could have found a way to incorporate it into his Track.

 

Dr. Rudge claimed that 'drakestone' was an old Suffolk word for a particular type of conglomerate rock, but there's no evidence for this. He also thought that the locality must have been named after the stone, but Hodskinson's Suffolk map of 1783 actually records it then as 'Greetston Green'.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'Evidence for a Neolithic Trackway in Essex' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.28, part 4 (March 1950), p.178 (read 29/10/1949.)

2. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.24 (read 24/11/51.)

3. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.12.

4. Information from Mike Thorogood, Drakeston Farm, 28/5/16.

 

 

Semer (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"At roadside" (only mention in print 1950; read 1949):

This was described as a "conglomerate block" by the side of the B1115 road, which runs southward from Bildeston, and which "probably marked the ford...over the river Brett".1 Rudge's map reference (TM002467) seems to indicate the area of scrubland just south of the bridge, on the eastern side of the road. I looked unsuccessfully for a stone here in 2017, but since the 1950s, the road has been altered and widened several times, including for the construction of a new bridge in the 1990s. As I said above under Chelsworth, this stone was very quickly discarded from the Track as it no longer fit Rudge's concept of his route.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'Evidence for a Neolithic Trackway in Essex' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.28, part 4 (March 1950), p.178 (read 29/10/1949.)

 

 

Kersey

"At north end of village street" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Herts Puddingstone originated in the geological layer that used to be called the Reading Beds. Generally speaking, in the eastern region it stretched in a narrow band from St. Albans, north-eastwards to the Ipswich area. Dr. Rudge said that Kersey was the northernmost point on his Track that he found 'true' puddingstone, everything north of that being local conglomerates.

 

The first stone here, a jagged-edged slab with a pitted surface, can be found at TL9998244264, embedded in the pavement outside No.2 Ancient Houses. This is on the west side of The Street, at its far northern end, and is three-quarters of a mile SSE of the boulder at Drakestone Green. When Rudge saw it, there was no actual pavement, simply a dirt sidewalk kerbed with loose stones.1 Then, the stone was more tabular, level, and raised slightly more above the soil. Now, successive resurfacing has left it canted towards the road, with less visible. It measures 102cm x 72cm x 20cm at its highest point. One edge is broken, showing pebbles that have sheared clean through - a characteristic of Hertfordshire Puddingstone. But, the pebbles are angular flints rather than rounded, indicating another variety. In 2016 it came close to being destroyed, when it was mistakenly identified by the Highways Department as a trip hazard. Luckily, the local people - for whom the stone is one of the village's many tourist attractions - managed to stop it in time.

 

Rudge believed that The Street was aligned with his Track, leading to the next stone 150m away, which he thought marked a ford over the stream that feeds the river Brett.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), facing p.24 (read 24/11/51.)

 

 

Kersey

"At ford at bottom of street" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

The second Kersey stone on the Track protrudes from the pavement at TM0005744130, just by the corner of Bridge House. Close by is a little footbridge and the picturesque ford, normally known as the watersplash, just where The Street becomes Church Hill. It's a small rounded stone, only 40cm x 30cm x 25cm high.

 

Rudge amazingly tried to claim this one as 'true' puddingstone as well, but it's NOT any type of conglomerate at all. It's actually what is commonly called 'sparkling sandstone', where quartz grains are enhanced by silica, and the surface sparkles in sunlight. I'm continually amused at the confidence (or audacity) in Dr. Rudge's words to those he would have continue his search for the Puddingstone Track (his italics): "most important of all, every stone must be a puddingstone, without exception, recognisable as such without the slightest hesitation".1 In the Suffolk section alone, this is the fourth stone that he at one time or another included on his Track which has contradicted his own ground rules.

 

It's here at Kersey that the direction of the Track begins to change significantly. All the way from Grime's Graves - indeed all the way from Heacham in the 'discarded' section - the general trend has been south-south-eastward. Now it begins to swing to the SSW, with a further shift to the south-west following soon afterward. Of course at some point it had to, in order to link up with the route that Rudge had already established in Essex during 1949.

 

1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.9.

 

 

Polstead

"At House Farm" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):

2 miles from the Kersey 'ford stone' we come to Polstead Heath, in the parish of that name. Rudge gave a map reference of approximately TL994403, which is a field about 200m north of White House Farm. Old Ordnance Survey maps confirm that its previous name was indeed House Farm. Here, "the farmer reported the finding of a large stone, later cut up to form supports for a foot bridge over a brook. This was seen and confirmed".1 Whether or not it was an actual puddingstone is, of course, unconfirmed.

 

1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.13.

 

 

Whitestreet Green (Polstead)

"At Whitestreet Green" (first mention in print 1950; read 1949):

A very sharp swing WSW brings the Track just over a mile further on to TL9755039513. Here stands what Rudge called "a magnificent boulder well known in the district".1 It can be found embedded in the roadside verge just outside a house at the eastern end of Spring Lane, close to its junction with Calais Street, and adjacent to the green that gives the hamlet its name. This is a definite conglomerate, a rounded boulder about a metre high, which I visited in 1977. A slight turn to the south-west for three-quarters of a mile, on an unlikely route across the formerly-marshy confluence of the river Box and one of its tributaries, takes us to the next stone at the south-eastern tip of the parish of Boxford.

 

1. Anonymous (with info from Rudge): 'Pudding-stones' in 'East Anglian Magazine' Vol.11, No.5 (Jan. 1952), p.243.  

 

 

Boxford

"At Peyton Hall" (first mention 1957):

Rudge only received a report of a stone here, and never saw it himself, thus he first recorded it1 as "Peyton Hall, wall (unconfirmed.)" Much later he clarified this to mean that the stone had been "built into the wall around the estate".2 The Hall is very remote and with no public access, originating as an old manor house of the 15th or 16th century. I can find no evidence that the estate has ever had a wall around it, and certainly not in the 20th century - fences and hedges, but no walls. I'll return to the matter of this stone when dealing with the next one, as they (potentially) have an interesting connection.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.54.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.13.

 

 

Leavenheath

"At parish boundary corner" (first mention 1957):

All that Rudge initially said about this stone was that it had been "removed about 1940".1 In 'Lost Trackway' he said he had been told that it had stood "at the Boxford parish boundary", being removed and never returned in the early days of World War Two.2 He gave a map reference of TL968379, which is in a field about 700m due south of Peyton Hall, and which has never been on the Boxford boundary. It's actually close to a right-angled turn on the boundary between Stoke by Nayland and Polstead parishes.

 

When I started checking old large-scale OS maps of the area, I noticed a small dot at this location, labelled as 'Stone'. This kind of label usually refers to a boundary stone of some kind, so I decided to investigate further, at the Suffolk Records Office.3,4 I found that the stone had actually been placed there in 1862. It was one of six that bore the inscription 'L. St. M. C. C., 1862', followed by a number. The initials stood for 'Leavenheath St. Matthew Consolidated Chapelry', and this was No.1. Up to that year, Leavenheath had merely been a scattered community of few houses, with a chapel dependent upon Stoke by Nayland. Then, by slicing off parts of five surrounding parishes - including Stoke and Polstead - the 'consolidated chapelry' of Leavenheath was created the following year by Queen Victoria granting a petition from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It only became a civil parish in 1952, after further changes to its boundaries.

 

Stone No.1 was placed at TL9684537867 to show where the new boundary line of Leavenheath left the sharp turn in the Stoke/Polstead boundary and continued on north - to stone No.2, on the southern edge of the Peyton Hall grounds.

As far as I can determine, four of the six chapelry stones are lost; it's possible that two may still exist, but they are in inaccessible locations. For all I know, all six might have been genuine puddingstones. Roger Loose of Boxford has recorded more than 130 boulders in that parish, both sarsens and puddingstones, all apparently originating in the nearby river Box and its tributaries.5 But a stone put in place in 1862 couldn't have been part of Rudge's prehistoric Track, and it may be that the same could be said of the previous stone, at Peyton Hall.

 

1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.54.

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.13.

3. FB80/N/3/1: Papers relating to the boundaries of the consolidated chapelry of St. Matthew's, Leavenheath, 1863 (SRO, Bury St. Edmunds.)

4. FM500/2/6b: Map of the consolidated chapelry of St. Matthew, Leavenheath, 1862 (SRO, Bury St. Edmunds.)

5. Roger Loose: 'The origin of the Sarsen stones in Boxford, Suffolk' from the former Boxford village website, date unknown.

 

 

Bures (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)

"By hedge" (only mention 1957):

Here, Dr. Rudge made a decision that makes absolutely no sense to the supposed route of his Track. Between 1951 and 1956 he had traced no stones in the seven miles between the one at Whitestreet Green in Suffolk, and another at Fordham in Essex. During that time he was "almost certain" that the Track would have entered Essex by the ancient crossing of the river Stour at Nayland1 - which would have been quite logical. But in a 1957 article he announced that a puddingstone at Bures meant that his route suddenly shot south-westwards for nearly four miles, crossed the Stour there, then headed due south for another 3 miles, totally ignoring the stone he had already established at Fordham.

 

This new boulder he only listed as "TL918345. St. Stephens Chapel, Bures, (by hedge)".2 This stone was undoubtedly reported to him by a correspondent, as it's highly unlikely that he would have searched here, so far from his previously-projected path. The map reference is too imprecise to accurately locate it - but it doesn't really matter, since Rudge never mentioned Bures again, and came up with yet another crossing point into Essex.

 

1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'The Conglomerate Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.23 (read 24/11/51.)

2. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.54.

 

 

'Confirmatory evidence': Wissington ford:

Having discarded the Bures stone, by the time of his manuscript for 'Lost Trackway' Rudge had discovered two stones in the western part of Little Horkesley parish in Essex. He therefore found himself back in the Nayland area in search of a suitable river crossing, this time slightly to the west. He claimed that "there is a usable ford from Wissington used by travellers from Nayland, and crossing into the County of Essex, brings the traveller to a place known as Frog's Hole".1

 

That name applied to a farm that used to exist just within the parish of Wormingford, and implies a ford just south of Wiston Hall in Wissington. I can find no evidence for a crossing at that point - although there used to be one about three-quarters of a mile further west. In 2001 it was recorded that a deep ford existed "within living memory" between the farms of Creem's and Bowdens, at about TL94413362.2 However it should be noted that, before the navigation of the Stour was improved in the 17th century, the river was distinctly wider and more fast-flowing. There's certainly no evidence that any medieval or post-medieval ford would have existed since the days of Rudge's prehistoric trackway.

 

1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.13.

2. Rosemary Knox: 'Is it Wiston or Wissington?' (Knox, 2001), p.98, 100.

 

Essex

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