Where do flints come from?

Published: 16/04/2011

Flints are formed in chalk and some flints remain within the chalk beds today and can be sourced directly from quarries.

Other flints have been released from the chalk cliffs by the action of the sea and then rounded to form cobbles. Another source of flints are those that may have been worked out of the ground through agricultural activities and that lie scattered on the surface of fields.

Picking flint from the surface
Picking flint from the surface

These are known as field flints and are the most abundant and close to hand of all flints. Laid in lime mortar field flints will be found in vernacular buildings and boundary walls in gardens and fields all over Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire to name a few counties rich in flint.

As the action of the plough brings flints to the surface the best place to gather flints is on agricultural land and as such flint wallers will associate themselves with a farmer who will grant permission to pick from their land. However after ploughing, the seeds are then sown and the fields rolled to sink the flints below the bar level on the combine harvester, the flint waller therefore has a limited time in which to pick and stock up for the flint laying season.

The colour of the flints varies from field to field and as such we need to pick from a variety of places to ensure we have flints that will match the colour of the flints on existing walls. This is as crucial as the colour and composition of the lime mortar when it comes to blending new work to old when repairing or rebuilding flint walls.

Flint colour variationse
Flint colour variations

This year we have picked flints from Housedean, Ditchling beacon, Piddinghoe and Firle Beacon. We have stock piled flints and possess a broad spectrum of colours that range from a chalky matt white to a warm honey colour. Some of the flints have had their black core exposed and over time this has weathered back to form a milky blue patination. This selection will be ideal for a project in Edburton, Sussex where we will be cladding a house and also for a new flint wall in a garden in Lewes, Sussex.

Flint knowledge, geology

Back to all blog posts