Hidden East Anglia:


The Puddingstone Track: Deconstructed

  Puddingstone Track






Part 1: Ley Hill to Church Street, Chesham




"Leyhill Common stone" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

When Rudge said "Fragments on common near road", I have to assume he meant Bovingdon Road, which runs through the middle of it.1 The map reference he gave, SP995023, is hundreds of metres away from the road and beyond the common. Much of Leyhill Common is now wooded, with part of it on both sides of the road being taken up by a golf course since the early 1900s.


According to his own letters, on February 18th 1950 Dr. Rudge and his wife drove to the Ley Hill and Chesham area, on that day finding the puddingstones previously mentioned at Game Farm and Game Farm House. They also found three more in the nearby village of Botley.  On a rough sketch map he drew a straight line connecting all these stones, and marked an 'X' with the label 'expect one here' on Leyhill Common. This would have been deep into woodland a considerable way north of the road. On the 20th he sent this map and some notes to his fellow Track enthusiast in Chalfont St. Giles, Mrs. Pilcher. In May she responded with a much larger map showing every stone - puddingstone and sarsen - that she had found or knew of between Bovingdon and Bradenham. On that map she marked on the common "edge of field, broken piece" next to an 'X' that was indeed north of the road, but much closer to it, and near the edge of the golf course.2


From this I infer that 'broken piece' became 'fragments', and Rudge's usual assumption that a single boulder had once stood on the common. Like the puddingstones at Game Farm, he clearly had second thoughts about the Ley Hill mark-point on his Track, as it was never referenced again after 1952.


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

2. Letters from Dr. Rudge to Mrs. R. Pilcher, 20/2/1950 and 16/5/1950.



Botley (Chesham)

"Botley stone, by gate of Botley House" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

The village of Botley is just north-west of Ley Hill, and east of Chesham, most of it stretched out along both sides of Botley Road. The first puddingstone here used to stand at SP9813402251, which is a mile west of the previous stone at Game Farm House. That map reference is where the gate to Botley House used to be, on the north side of the road, replaced in the 1970s by a detached residence called Old Barn House. A new cul-de-sac was built beside it, making the new house a part of Wannions Close, and presumably destroying the stone in the process. Rudge called it a 'large boulder', and thought that it had been moved from elsewhere to stand by the gate. The fact that he had no idea of the provenance of this or many other stones is a critical weakness of his Track theory.



Botley (Chesham)

"Tames Farm stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Rudge's first mention of this stone said that it was "by corner of barn, near road", in Botley.1 His book says that "a boulder stands at the corner of an outbuilding, twenty yards from the north verge of the road".2 I cannot find a trace of Tames Farm on any Ordnance Survey map, of any period. What I was able to find was that 'Tames (Botley Farm) Ltd' was incorporated in 1947, struck off the companies register by 1982, and one of its owners, Leslie Tames, recorded as bankrupt the following year.


In his printed works, Rudge gave two map references for the farm. The first is at the eastern end of the village, a site which has been occupied by the houses of Joiners Close since before 1925. The second, in 'Lost Trackway', is a long way east of the village, not too far from Game Farm in Hertfordshire! In one of his letters to Mrs. Pilcher he called it "Botley Farm (Tames Ltd)", and placed it at a third location, SP980023.3 That puts it correctly on the north side of Botley Road, but where a cul-de-sac called Lee Farm Close was built in the 1960s. This was on land owned by Lee Farm, the farmhouse of which still exists just west of the Close. This location also jibes with the sketch map sent by Mrs. Pilcher to Dr. Rudge, where an arrow points to 'Tames Nurseries' at virtually the same spot.


Tames Farm was presumably a short-lived nursery venture as part of, or in partnership with, Lee Farm. If correct, the stone that was here (and which was seen by the Essex Field Club on their September 1951 outing), was no more than 120m west of the Botley House stone. I looked round the area in 2017, but could find no puddingstones.


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

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.18.

3. Letter from Dr. Rudge to Mrs. R. Pilcher, 20/2/1950.




"Lee Farm stone" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Only fragments again here, which were said to be by the roadside in Botley, on the northern verge. But once more the exact location is uncertain. The map reference given is the same as that occupied by Lee Farm Close, so I assume the verge outside the farmhouse was meant. There is another site named Lee Farm further west along Botley Road, but this seems to be a fruit nursery not in existence until about 1970. I had a cursory look along the verges during my 2017 visit, but found nothing. Rudge obviously didn't think the fragments important, as they were soon discarded from the Track.



Botley (Chesham)

"Hen and Chickens stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

About 240m further west along Botley Road, and again on the northern side, is Botley's only pub, the Hen and Chickens. Built in the early 16th century as an 'open hall' house, it was first licensed as an inn before 1822. Rudge described here a small boulder "partly embedded in the soil at the end of a low wall which demarcates the inn yard from the public roadway".1 I have a photograph from c.1900 (see left) and a postcard of 1907 showing the puddingstone, which have enabled me to locate it exactly at SP9781402130, a couple of metres west of where a telephone pole stands today. The boulder can be seen at bottom right in the photo, with the children next to it. Unfortunately, a drawing of the pub shows that both wall and stone had gone by 1959.


From the Hen and Chickens, Botley Road continues heading west, to enter the newer parts of the town of Chesham. Rudge however felt that his Track left the road to go another mile south-west, reaching the old town by means of footpaths across White Hill, the 160m high ridge that pushes against the eastern edge of the town - a place that he declared to be "the centre of the culture responsible for devising our track".2


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.18.

2. 'Reports of Meetings' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.57.




"Lewin's Yard" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Rudge wrote that "A remarkable number of the old trackstones still stand in Church Road [actually Church Street], Chequer's Yard, and Lewin's Yard".1 The latter is a narrow alleyway that enters the market place on its eastern side, while Chequer's Yard (now gone) exited the market on the western side, but a little further south. As will be seen in the next entry, a puddingstone is known to have stood in the middle of the market place. When Rudge took the Field Club there on their outing in 1951, "Members were then led to the market square where the site of the missing Market Stone was shown, and the course of the trackway crossing the present road from alleyway to alleyway was described".2


The implication is clear that these two alleys (originally leading to closed yards) complete with their own puddingstones were - at least approximately - aligned on Rudge's Track, and on the important 'Market Stone'. As the course within Chesham never changed, even up to 'Lost Trackway', it's odd that Rudge never mentioned the alleys or their stones again. I think it's possible he decided that the stones were placed there in more recent times for corner or wall protection - but the alleys would still have provided some 'confirmatory evidence' for the Track.


The point where Lewin's Yard meets Market Square is at SP9593601468, just south of the Clock Tower. Right at the entrance, at the south corner, is set a small boulder of Herts Puddingstone, measuring 70cm x 20cm x 30cm high. A little further along the side of the building, a sarsen has been set in concrete against the wall, and at the far corner another puddingstone, this one 60cm x 20cm x 25cm high.


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

2. 'Reports of Meetings' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.57.




"Market Stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):

According to Rudge, "The most interesting trackstone has unfortunately disappeared. It stood in the centre of the tiny Market Place, which lies at the western end of Church Road, until about fifty years ago [i.e. c.1900], when it was removed as an obstruction to traffic and deposited in front of a shop near the Broadway. In 1928 it was moved once more, and all trace has now been lost. This Market Stone was without a doubt the nucleus around which the earliest settlement gathered".1 In fact the Market Square lies at the eastern end of Church Street, and it's now believed that the early Saxon settlement and market were further west, in the area of St. Mary's church.


Until it was demolished in 1965, the Square was dominated by the Town Hall, whose southern end was level with the opening to Lewin's Yard. In 1992 the current Clock Tower was built close to that end of the Town Hall site. So, to be in the centre, the stone must have been at approximately SP9591801467, a few metres south of the Tower. On the 1951 Field Club outing mentioned above, "Corroboration of the existence of the market stone was astonishingly obtained in situ from a good lady in a shop abutting the site, who remembered seeing the stone there." Nevertheless, I've pored over dozens of photos and drawings of the market place from 1850 to 1910, and have been unable to find a single one that shows what Rudge called "a solitary upright pillar of conglomerate".2


One of his letters records that in April 1951 Dr. Rudge visited Chesham again, "to look for the 'market stone' which was moved many years ago to a corner outside Tree's Drapery Stores in the Broadway. Mr. Tree told me he had it removed in 1938".3 (Note: not 1928, as he stated in print.) The Broadway is at the north end of Chesham's High Street, a wide triangular area now dominated by a roundabout with a war memorial at the centre of it. Previously it was an even broader empty space surrounded by shops, where people would congregate for celebrations and other gatherings.


At the southern end of The Broadway, on the west side, was the drapery store known as the House of Tree, at SP95970166. This was No.50 Broadway, and next door at No.52 (until at least 1915) were the estate agents Holbeche, Pain and Alderson, "whose premises were marked outside by a large puddingstone".4 In fact there was an access yard between the two premises, and the stone was just at its entrance, against the north wall of the House of Tree.5 Nowadays the building line has completely changed, and Nos.48-52 have been supplanted by a large M&Co clothing store. Once again I've searched old photographs of that area for a glimpse of the stone in its later location, but without success.


A 1960s follower of the Track theory and correspondent of both Rudge and Mrs. Pilcher obtained a story from an elderly former Chesham man about a puddingstone at The Broadway, which I find both interesting and a little confusing. In that story, he said that "At Chesham Broadway, my uncle recalled a local boundary stone. This was moved as it was in the way of the traffic, as a boy I've sat on it many times. Then it was stolen and no-one knew about it. This was a pudding stone. The river ran nearby and still does (piped drain.) This was the old boundary of the shepherds and traders".6 It's true that the buildings on the west side of the High Street are indeed built over a long culvert of a stream that rises at Higham Mead and joins other tributaries of the river Chess just below the market place. But this sounds as if there was a second puddingstone at The Broadway, one that had been there a lot longer than about 1900, and one of which there seems no other record.


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

2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.18.

3. Letter from Dr. Rudge to Mrs. R. Pilcher, 24/4/1951.

4. Clive Birch & John Armistead: 'Yesterday's Town: Chesham' (Barracuda Books Ltd, 1977), p.39.

5. Information from reminiscences about Chesham shops by Bill Howard, on the Chesham Museum website.

6. Letter from Mr. J. Climpson to Miss K. Dunbar, 12/7/1961, copied to Mrs. R. Pilcher 18/7/1961.




"Chequer's Yard" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

As I said earlier, the entrance to Chequer's Yard was on the west side of the market place, but about 18m south of Lewin's Yard. Another Track-stone was said to have been there, but the yard was demolished in the 1960s to allow for the construction of St. Mary's Way. Only the north wall at its eastern end survives, now forming the south wall of the shop at No.8 Market Square (SP95910145.) There are a few old photographs of the entrance, but none at an angle to show any stone that might have been there.


After describing the 'Market Stone', Rudge went on to say that "Across the market place was a row of shops, with a pedestrian passage...preserving what was clearly a right-of-way to the west. A few yards beyond, this path led to the foot of a low mound, known as 'The Bury', on the summit of which was the parish church of Chesham".1 The 'pedestrian passage' could only have been Chequer's Yard, as there was no other alley leading west from the market. But it was not a right of way. It was a closed yard, bounded by walls, and provided no access to the church whatsoever. As for "a few yards beyond", it was actually nearer 170m in a straight line from the end wall of the yard to St. Mary's.


1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.6.




"Church Street stone" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):

Like the Lewin's Yard and Chequer's Yard puddingstones, this was only mentioned in passing once. All that Rudge said was "Removed from yard of No.44 in 1950".1 No.44 Church Street is a 17th century house with a carriage opening, that leads to the yard behind, otherwise known as Old Bells Court (SP95790147.)


The carriage opening is almost directly opposite the main path to St. Mary's church, whose puddingstones deserve the next section of this study to themselves.


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


Bucks Part 2: St. Mary's church, Chesham

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