Concretions cemented mainly by siderite, Mg-calcite and iron monosulphide are common in late Holocene marsh and sandflat sediments on parts of the north Norfolk coast. Field experiments have shown that the concretions are actively forming in reduced sediments in which sulphate-reducing bacteria are active. δ13C values ranging from −3 to −11·8% (mean −5·9%0) suggest that the carbonate in the concretions is derived partly from marine sources and partly from microbial degradation of organic matter. δ18O values ranged from −6·4% to + 0·8% (mean −1·0%) suggesting that carbonate precipitated in porewaters ranging from pure sea water to-sea water diluted with meteoric water. Chemical analysis of porewaters showed no evidence of significant sulphate depletion at the depth of concretion formation. Some concretions have formed around fragments of wood or metal, but others contain no apparent nucleus. In field experiments siderite, FeS and Mg-calcite were precipitated around several different nuclei within a period of six months. We suggest that siderite may form wherever the rate of iron reduction exceeds the rate of sulphate reduction, such that insufficient dissolved sulphide is available to precipitate all the available dissolved ferrous iron.