50 Million Year Old Puddingstone Gets it Own Special Plaque

Ever wondered what looks like a large lump of concrete on the seating area on Gravel Hill is?  Well it is a puddingstone that is thought to be more than 50 million years old.

Puddingstones, named after the traditional plum pudding in the 18th century, are thought to have been formed when the environment is hot and dry and formed after heavy rainfall washes sand and flint pebbles into wide river channels depositing sediment, which is then dried by hot quartz-dusted winds.

This information and folklore around puddingstones that are thought to warn off evils and the siting of them on town boundaries is all included on the new historical plaque that was unveiled yesterday.

This is sixth historical plaque that has been installed around the town.  The idea for the plaques was Councillor David Eggleton and the first one was installed at the entrance to Gainsborough estate about Humphrey Gainsborough in 2015.  The others can be found at Mill Meadows about the Obelisk, on the towpath at the entrance to Mill Meadows about a famous 17th century Henley painting, on Singers Park about Henley bridge and one about the Chantry House behind St Mary’s Church next to the Grade 1 listed building.  The information and pictures for the plaque are researched by Viv Greenwood, a member of the Henley Archaeological & Historical Society.

David unveiled the plaque and said, “This puddingstone, I didn’t realise was a puddingstone until Park Services were revamping this area I said can you remove that piece of concrete and then Viv told me what it was.  I should know about this as I like to research history. I’d like to thank Viv for all her hard work and research that she’s done to do another plaque for the people of Henley now and in the future to know what this stone is.  I did discover another one of these when I was clearing a house in someone’s garden.  If anyone else knows of any other puddingstones in the area, we’re sure people would be interested in them.”

Viv, “The research on all the plaques is always incredibly difficult and you start with one thing and then you finish up with something else.  What I didn’t know was just how important in the 15th century puddingstones were because if you wanted to accuse someone of witchcraft (a bit like social media today) you took a chunk of the puddingstone and put it on their doorstep as it was thought it kept witches in.  They also thought back then that if you had a piece of puddingstone with a hole in it, it would protect you from witches.  What the Anglo Saxons thought too was that when you came into town and you saw the puddingstone and touched it you were safe because you were in boundary.”

Chair of Recreations & Amenities Committee, Councillor Donna Crook said, “I’d like to thank Viv for this plaque as it will help keep the history of Henley alive so people can see and understand what the puddingstone is otherwise they would probably just walk by not really realising what it is.  Thanks also to Park Services for the keeping this area nice and tidy.”