PUDDINGSTONES are a mysterious kind of stone which are a geological feature of the Chilterns, but which are especially found around Chesham.

What is puddingstone?

Puddingstone is a conglomerate of stones, especially pebbles, whose colour contrasts with the setting around them. They were formed in ancient times when pebbles and other stones fell into chalk or sand. This was then compressed when silica in groundwater cemented it together into rock. Blocks and stones were then carried away from their place of origin by melting glaciers. The classic ones consist of pebbles of a similar colour, typically blue, brown, or white and occasionally red. They vary in size from a few inches across to large ones weighing many tons.

Where they are found?

When Victorian geologists first started studying them it was in Hertfordshire, especially around St Albans, that they documented them. As a result they became known as “Hertfordshire Puddingstones”. This is a bit of a misnomer. Actually, they are found in a geological line from Essex through Hertfordshire and into the Chilterns across south Buckinghamshire.

They are most common in an area roughly between St Albans and Chesham Bois, but there are also fine examples at Princes Risborough, Bradenham and Nettlebed in Oxfordshire. Locally puddingstones have been typically found in fields after ploughing, in gardens, when digging foundations, or when digging clay for bricks. A local newspaper report from 1889 explains that “The blocks of conglomerates found in various parts of the Chiltern district have received the name of Puddingstones, from a fancied resemblance between pebbles embedded in the gravel and fruit in a plum pudding. In Chesham I have heard them called ‘everlasting stones’.”

They have become part of local folklore. At Wilstone near Tring there is a now a gin distillery which took the name of Puddingstone Distillery because of the local puddingstone connection.


Locally they have been used as building materials since Roman times. Large puddingstones were sometimes used as corners on buildings to stop wheels from damaging them. Examples of this can be seen in Lewin’s Yard by 9, Market Square in Chesham, and on the corner of Back Street in Wendover.

Locally in villages around Chesham I have seen them placed on verges by the roadside to stop people parking, and by gateposts and corners of farm entrances. I have also seen them underfoot embedded in footpaths and farmyards, sitting in hedges, used as stepping stones in large muddy puddles, embedded in or on walls. I even saw one used for keeping a church gate open.

Local people sometimes pick up small ones and they appear in many people’s rockeries in the Chesham area. Large puddingstones are sometimes used as local landmarks and features. Local examples are in Chesham, the Lee, Cholesbury, Ashley Green, Latimer and Sarratt.

St Mary’s Church, Chesham

The best example of a church anywhere with puddingstones is St Mary’s Church, the parish church in Chesham. St Mary’s church buttresses and the south porch rest on puddingstone. Some people have conjectured that the church in Chesham, was built on a stone circle of puddingstones. It is a nice idea but that this probably all it is. The reality is that many old church buildings in Bucks and Herts have puddingstones in them. Large puddingstones are hard and very suitable for use as foundation stones. A local newspaper article from 1905 explained that the old builders had the Bible text in mind from Matthew 16:18 which reads, depending on the translation, “upon this rock I will build my church”.

Chesham Park

Locally there are 2 large puddingstones in Chesham Lowndes Park. One is seven feet long and the other five feet long and they weigh about one and a half tons each. These were originally dug up in East Street, Chesham in 1978 when the Douglas McMinn Centre was being built, and then moved to a builder’s yard. It was decided that they were perfect vandal-proof seats for Chesham Park, and one was placed by the children’s playground and one at the top of the park.

The Lee

The largest local examples of puddingstones are on the triangular green at the Lee. These can be seen opposite the Cock and Rabbit pub.

Cholesbury Common

Cholesbury Common has three large puddingstones on it as a feature. Two of the three puddingstones once marked the entrance to the church in the hillfort. It is thought that they were moved from there in the early 1900s, and then they sat near to the cricket pavilion. Then these stones and one from Bellingdon, were placed together at the site of a beacon which was lit on Cholesbury Common on 4th June 2012, to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This is explained on a plaque on one of the stones. The third stone was dug out of a clay pit at the Matthews brickworks in Bellingdon.

Ashley Green

Ashley Green has a large puddingstone which is on the village green. It was said to be at the site of the church when that was built. It was moved to the vicarage garden where it sat in a shubbery. In 1968 it was restored to the green, where it now sits largely unnoticed.


Two memorials on the triangular green at Latimer are built from puddingstones. In 1903 a cairn of local puddingstones was built with a granite obelisk atop it. It is a Boer War memorial commemorating local men who fought in South Africa. In 1912 another cairn of puddingstones was used as memorial put up in memory of Lord Chesham’s beloved horse “Villebois” who died in 1911.


Holy Cross parish church at Sarratt, like the one at Chesham, has a puddingstone foundation stone. The war memorial on the village green has a large puddingstone on it which was found on a local farm in the 1950s. There is another large puddingstone by the village hall.


If you know of any local puddingstone stories please contact Neil on 01494 258328 or nwrees@gmail.com