Hidden East Anglia:
The Puddingstone Track: Deconstructed
Along the Track: HERTFORDSHIRE
Part 1: Cheshunt to Tyttenhanger
'Confirmatory evidence': "a castle or heap of stones":
Dr. Rudge never determined exactly what route his Track took immediately after crossing the river Lea, but was certain that it passed through the town of Cheshunt. According to him, the earliest name of the settlement was that recorded in Domesday Book, namely 'Cæstaleshunt'. He called it "a name which place-name students are unwilling to speculate upon", adding that "Most explanations have linked it with some aspect of hunting, ignoring the significance of the first syllable which suggests a castle or heap of stones".1
In this, he was trying to forge a connection with the town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire which is also on his Track, and will be examined later. There, multiple puddingstones are incorporated into the church fabric, and the 10th century name of it was 'Cæstæleshamm' - 'the water-meadow by the heap of stones.'
But - Cheshunt was never called 'Cæstaleshunt'. There is no record of this form of its name at all. The name given in Domesday is actually 'Cestrehunt', meaning 'the huntsmen of the chester'. In this case, 'chester' is probably a derivation of 'cæster', referring to a Roman station. The Roman road called Ermine Street ran north to south through the town, and it's quite possible that there was some kind of fortification here. Just where Rudge got 'Cæstaleshunt' from, I do not know.
1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.7.
"Flamstead End stone" (first mention in print 1950; read 1949):
Although Rudge said two years later that "We have not been able to trace the course [of the Track] through the town of Cheshunt", in his very first paper he wrote that "A line of four boulders of Herts conglomerate, sighted in a straight line from Flamstead End to Appleby Street runs west-north-west from a site marked 'Roman Camp' on the map".1
Apart from the fact that the four stone positions given do NOT form a straight line, the 'Roman Camp' can also be disregarded. Rudge had every right to mention it, as the Victoria County History in 1914 recorded one there, at TL352030. But the earthwork - now long gone - at that site was known even in the 18th century to have been a remnant of an artificial river course cut in 1602.
The puddingstone at Flamstead End (roughly two miles west of the last Essex stone) was another never seen by Dr. Rudge as it had been lost to urban development some years before, but older locals told him about it. It apparently stood "beside the roadside at Gardener's Farm." This is an establishment that I haven't been able to trace, but which was probably one of the hundreds of glasshouse nurseries here. Most of these were swept away by construction of the former GLC Rosedale Estate which was begun in 1970, but the area was already starting to be developed in 1950. The boulder was situated at or close to a ford where a tiny stream, Rag's Brook, crossed Flamstead End Road (TL3475603405).2 Nearby, the road becomes Longfield Lane at a junction with Park Lane. The ford was initially preserved when the estate was built, but was later covered over. Now, the brook is heavily channelled, and flows in a deep gully in front of Victorian houses on the south side of Longfield Lane. The stone was therefore probably on the north side, where there is modern housing.
1. E.A. & E.L. Rudge: 'Evidence for a Neolithic Trackway in Essex' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.28, part 4 (March 1950), p.179 (read 29/10/1949.)
2. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.5.
"Digdag Hill stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
Just over half a mile north-west of Flamstead End, Longfield Lane splits into Holbeck Lane and Dig Dag Hill. Between the two is a long grassy triangle (pictured left), where Rudge was told a puddingstone had stood until recent years. 'Stone' is actually shown here, at TL3394303940, on the Ordnance Survey Six Inch map up to 1899. Apparently, when it was decided to bring a bus route down Hammond Street (now Hammondstreet Road) and along Dig Dag Hill - which I've found out was in 1941 - the stone was removed and buried in a roadside bank near houses called Digdag Villas. I haven't been able to locate the Villas, but there is still a significant raised bank on the north side of the junction. It should be noted that the stone may have originated close by, as the 1892 OS 25 Inch map shows a gravel pit no more than 50m to the south.
"Appleby Street stone" (first mention in print 1950; read 1949):
Further to the north-west is Appleby Street. Rudge gave two map references for this stone, but only the earliest (TL330045) fits the location he gave, which was "roadside by farm gate". This places it about two-thirds of a mile from Dig Dag Hill, at the entrance to Gammon or Gammons Farm, which is more precisely TL3300704507. There's now no gate at the roadside, and no puddingstone any more, as the drive has been widened to allow for larger vehicles. This same drive is also a public bridleway called Gammons Lane, which features in the next entry.
"Gamman's Lane stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
The last three boulders were almost in the 'straight line' of which Rudge spoke, but this fourth one throws it off. Gammons (not Gammans) Lane runs NNE from Appleby Street to and past Gammons Farm, and used to be an old drove road leading to the common. Rudge spoke of fragments of puddingstone lining the edge of a pond near the lane, which of course he believed to be the remnants of a single boulder, just as at Pinchtimber Farm in Essex. His map reference makes it fairly certain that he was referring to the small pond that used to exist at TL33040460, about 18m west of the main farmhouse. This was still shown on the 1960 OS 2½ Inch map, but has long since been filled in. As the pond was about 100m NNE of the stone once by the farm gate, and the direction of his Track was still roughly north-west, it doesn't fit the route at all.
"Lawrence Farm stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
This would seem to be yet another stone that Rudge heard about, but never located or saw himself. It was said to be hidden in woods, behind the farmhouse at St. Lawrence Farm (TL31460488.) The woodland covers about 7½ acres, is called Calves' Croft, and begins about 60m north of the farm. Here we're about a mile WNW of the stone by Gammons Farm gateway, and just north of the Darnicle Hill road that leads to Newgate Street.
Newgate Street (Hatfield)
"Tolmer Hill stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
Once across a bridge over Cuffley Brook, Darnicle Hill becomes a road called Newgate Street Village, leading up a steep hill to the hamlet of that name. The centre is about two-thirds of a mile west of St. Lawrence Farm. The most that Dr. Rudge ever wrote about a stone here was "Tolmer Stone (TL304050) on roadside to Newgate Street, reported by the British Association's survey of Erratics, 1880, unconfirmed".1 The name 'Tolmer' refers to the old manor house of Tolmers Park and its grounds, just south of the road, and has become synonymous with the hill and surrounding area.
Between 1873 and 1913 the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) produced many reports by their 'Committee on Erratic Blocks', recording the location and geological type of boulders around the country. Contrary to Rudge's assertion, there was no such report in 1880. This would seem to be an error for the report of 1885 (published the following year), which in fact notes not one but three boulders of "Herts Plum-pudding stone" on the approach to Newgate Street.
The only location given is "Hill going up to Tolmer's Church".2 The map reference given by Rudge has to be no more than a general one for the hill - but given that Newgate Street is built on a high spur of land, there are roads ascending the hill not only from the east, but from the south and north as well. These boulders could have been almost anywhere outside the village, and they were hardly of a size useful as sighting points on a trackway. The sizes recorded (converted to metric measurement) were 68cm x 50cm x 23cm, 68cm x 35cm x 30cm, and 40cm x 35cm x 20cm.
It should be pointed out that, just south of the line of Rudge's Track, an outcrop of Herts Puddingstone is known where the railway line crosses Cuffley Brook. Also, the soil of the whole area from here westwards to St. Albans was described back in 1819 as "abounding more or less with smooth pebbles which, at various depths, are conglomerated into plumb-pudding stones, in some places so near the surface as to impede the plough".3 Not many boulders remain, but the former abundance of puddingstone in this and other regions emphasises that plotting the line of a 'prehistoric track' from the few survivors is merely an exercise in selectivity.
1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.16.
2. 'Thirteenth Report of the Committee (into Erratic Blocks)' in 'Report of the Fifty-Fifth Meeting of the BAAS' held in Sept. 1885 (John Murray, 1886), p.324.
3. James Dugdale: 'The New British Traveller' Vol.3 (1819), p.4.
Newgate Street (Hatfield)
"Near New Park Farm" (first mention 1957):
Still in Newgate Street, running WNW from its centre is New Park Road. This ends at New Park Farm, then continues in the same direction as a track, which is now part of the 'Hertfordshire Way' long-distance path. Rudge said that a boulder had been found here, partially buried, by a schoolboy in 1956, and gave a map reference of TL291054. This places it along the path about 250m beyond the farm. Only four years later, "a fine puddingstone" was reported to be against the left-hand gatepost at New Park Farm.1 Whether or not Rudge's boulder had been moved there from the path, I don't know.
1. Gerald V. Millington: 'Hatfield and its People. Part 4: Newgate Street' (Workers' Educational Association, Hatfield Branch, 1960), p.5.
2. E.A. Rudge: 'The Puddingstone Track' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.30 (1957), p.54.
Tyler's Causeway (Essendon) (NOT ON FINAL VERSION OF TRACK)
"Birchwood Cottage stone" (only mention in print 1952; read 1951):
About 700m past New Park Farm, the footpath turns sharply north for another 300m. There it meets a minor road called Tyler's Causeway. Close by is a junction with Woodfield Lane and Cucumber Lane, in the angle of which sit Nos.1 and 2 Birchwood Cottages (TL28460584.) Which cottage is supposed to be the one with the puddingstone, Dr. Rudge didn't make clear, and he never said anything more about it. There's no trace of any boulder at either today. The 1885 BAAS report on erratic blocks mentions a Herts Puddingstone 45cm x 38cm x 30cm inside the garden gate of a cottage on Tyler's Causeway, that was brought from a field about 2½ miles away. There are (and were) so few houses on the Causeway that this seems likely to be the same as that cited by Rudge. Perhaps it was this more distant origin that caused him to drop the stone from his Track, even though it would have fitted the general alignment to the next one, at Wildhill.
"Wildhill, in field south of road" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
Dr. Rudge brought the Essex Field Club here in 1951 on another outing, where they saw "a large and impressive example [of conglomerate] lying prone" in a field beside a small stream just south of Wildhill's Woodman Inn.1 This is about 1½ miles north-west of Birchwood Cottages, and two miles from New Park Farm. A footpath runs southward from the bottom of the inn car park, but the stream is 40m away, and in between is private land occupied by grazing horses - so I was unable to confirm whether or not the stone still exists. If it does, it should be at about TL26310671.
1. 'Reports of Meetings' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 1 (March 1952), p.58.
"Millward's Park, in dense undergrowth" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
A Hatfield House park-keeper apparently assured Rudge "that a boulder stood somewhere in the densely overgrown jungle of rhododendrons in Millwards Park".1 The operative word in that sentence is plainly 'somewhere'. The park - the eastern edge of which is just less than a mile west of Wildhill - measures well over a mile from north to south. If the boulder was anywhere near those limits, how could it be accepted as being on the line of the Track? Rudge gave two unhelpful map references - the first is exactly in the middle of the park, so is obviously just a general position. The second is well outside, more than halfway back to Wildhill! The stone certainly couldn't be searched for now. Millward's Park is part of the Hatfield House estate, and public access is not allowed. In addition, the park was replanted in the 1960s, with dense conifer stands now concealing the old parkland trees.
1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.5.
"Bullen's Green stone" (first mention in print 1952; read 1951):
About 1¼ miles west of the edge of Millward's Park is the hamlet of Bullen's Green, part of Colney Heath parish. According to Rudge, local residents told him that a puddingstone had been buried in the foundations of No.27 Bullen's Green Row. The first map reference given is TL207063, which takes you to an empty field half a mile west of the hamlet, and is therefore useless. The second, in 'Lost Trackway', is TL214060, which lands on the southernmost houses on the east side of Bullen's Green Lane. I've been unable to find a record of any 'Row' by that name.
No.27 Bullen's Green Lane, on the east side, was built c.1970, so couldn't have been the house referred to by Rudge in 1951. On this same side of the Lane, Nos.55-61 are a Victorian terrace, while Nos.45-53 are more modern, replacing a 19th century row of six terraced houses. It's possible therefore that Bullen's Green Row referred to this row of houses rather than a road. Either way, the boulder was lost beneath a 1950s housing development, and is yet another that Dr. Rudge never actually saw. It's impossible to know where it originally stood, or indeed if it was a puddingstone at all - but that never stopped Rudge including it as a marker on his Track.
He also never knew about No.56, on the west side, where new residents in 1989 "found a puddingstone greeting them on either side of their doorway".1
1. Dudley Wood: 'Hertfordshire Puddingstones' in 'Colney Heath Chronicle' Sept. 1989, p.7.
"Colney Church, roadside" (first mention 1954):
St. Mark's church, a mile further west, was only built in 1845, so Rudge didn't include this as one of his 'pagan' stones. By the time he learned about the puddingstone here, it had already been "missing since road alterations".1 This probably refers to the rearrangement of the junction of High Street, Church Lane and St. Marks Close that took place in the late 1940s/early 1950s. But exactly where the stone stood, it's impossible now to determine.
Herts conglomerate was commonly found in the fields of Tyttenhanger Green just to the west, and in the fields near Tollgate Road, which runs from Colney High Street to North Mymms. In 1989 it was said that "it was, and I think still is, the farmer's practice when encountering a puddingstone either to carry it to the field side or, if too big for this, to use sledgehammers to break it up into pieces of a small enough size to drag into a hedge".2
1. E.A. Rudge: 'The Statistical Evidence for a Conglomerate Alignment in Essex' in 'Essex Naturalist' Vol.29, part 3 (1954), p.182.
2. Dudley Wood: 'Hertfordshire Puddingstones- found any lately?' in 'Colney Heath Chronicle' June 1989, p.16.
Tyttenhanger (Colney Heath)
"By the Barley Mow, Tyttenhanger" (only mention 'The Lost Trackway', 1994):
That line is all that we have for this stone, that it was somewhere close to the inn (TL18920597), which stood half a mile WSW of Colney church, beside Barley Mow Lane. Originally a farmhouse, the Barley Mow Inn closed in 1984, becoming a private residence. In 2017, I could find no puddingstone anywhere nearby. The following year, the old inn was demolished and new housing built on the site.
Tyttenhanger (Colney Heath)
"Hillend Farm Gate, roadside" (first mention 1954):
Dr. Rudge's map reference for this one, TL185059, is actually more than 100m south of the farm, and 150m east of the only entrance Hill End Farm has ever had (which is at TL1833505937.) At this point, a third of a mile west of the former inn, Barley Mow Lane becomes Tyttenhanger Green, and a narrow byway called Hixberry Lane joins it from the north. I suppose it's possible that a puddingstone might be hidden somewhere in the vegetation, but the gateway and adjacent area were severely altered in the 1960s, to allow the creation of a lay-by and bus stop.
Tyttenhanger (Colney Heath)
"By the roadside, Tyttenhanger" (first mention 1954):
A puddingstone known hereabouts as 'The Block' was supposedly a local landmark at the roadside until 1920. If Rudge's map reference of TL177060 is meaningful, it stood beside Highfield Lane, about a third of a mile west of the Hill End Farm entrance.
He said that this and the two previous stones "stood about 200 yards (183m) from each other, probably representing the average spacing along this length of the track".1 Unfortunately, his measurements were about as good as his map references and his ability to tell puddingstone from sarsen, as it's 569m from the Barley Mow to the farm gateway, and 600m from there to the approximate site of 'The Block'.
1. E.A. Rudge (ed. John Cooper): 'The Lost Trackway' (1994), p.16.
The next puddingstone on the Track, about a third of a mile WSW, is technically still about 30m within the civil parish of Colney Heath. But as it's now part of the expanding sprawl that is the city of St. Albans, I will include it in that section.