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Devils Quoits - Oxfordshire, England
Henge and Stone Circle
National Grid Reference: SP 411 048

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How To Get There

This site is located to the south of the village of Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire. It stands on privately owned land and is at present not easily visited. Permission must be gained from the land owners (All Souls College, Oxford) and the current managers of the site (Hanson Waste).

For the sakes of safety please DO NOT visit this site without obtaining the required permissions. We all had to wear hard hats and fluorescent jackets, for very good reasons!

On Saturday 22nd July 2000 I was part of a small group of people invited to view the site by journalist Celia Haddon. "The Devils Quoits" stands in a former gravel pit now being used as a landfill site under the management of Hanson Waste.

The site was excavated in 1940 prior to part of it being built over by an air force runway and again in the 1970's as the quarry closed in. Prior to the destruction of the area by gravel extraction this was a rich archaeological landscape. Aerial photography had revealed a substantial number of interesting crop marks including what appeared to be many ring ditches. Much of this landscape is now destroyed, the gravel quarried and the subsequent large hole filled with water.

Before the 1940 excavations the site was known as the location of "The Devil's Quoits", three large standing stones of the local gravel conglomerate. The henge site described here seems to have adopted the same name. John Aubrey mentions the Devils Quoits in his "Monumenta Britannica" :-

"In Stanton Harcourt field in Com. Oxford southward from the Towne stand two great stones, called the Devill's Coytes : sixty-five paces distant from one another. The east stone is nine foot high, and as much broad : halfe a yard thick. The west stone is eight foot high and about six foot broad, 1/2 yard thick. Two or three Bowshotts from hence is a great Barrow." and also "One of these stones was taken down by a farmer about the year 1680 to make a bridge of."

Excavations here have revealed a large henge, around 160 meters in diameter. The bank has been nearly entirely eroded and the ditch filled in. The trenches visible in the photograph at the top of the page were cut in to the ditch in the 1970's. They were left open after the excavation and seem to have been over run by rabbits which have burrowed extensively. We were assured by archaeologists at the site that the rest of the ditch remains archaeologically intact and could prove to be a rich source of information when further work is carried out here.

Excavations have also revealed stones and stone sockets within the henge. Only one megalith remains partially buried near its stone hole. There are other stones piled up at the edge of the site. At least some of these stones do appear to be the missing megaliths from within the henge. The stone holes are set out in a ring roughly 80 meters in diameter within the henge and it is thought that there could have been as many as 24 in the circle. At the centre of the henge a series of post holes have been found which appear to form a loose spiral pattern.

The photograph above shows some of the party examining a collection of megaliths and comparing their shapes and features to those shown from the excavations. The large stone around which everybody is standing proved to be of particular interest. We had remembered Aubrey's note regarding one of the stones being removed from the site in 1680 and used as a bridge. This particular stone had signs of quite convincing wheel ruts as shown in the photograph below. I have shaded the area of the possible wheel rut.

The really good news for this site is that there are plans to reconstruct it. Given the present condition of the site preservation alone would be too little, far too late. The plan seems to be to excavate the ditch, reconstruct the bank, remove around a meter of earth from the centre of the site (returning it to the original level) and re-erect as many megaliths as possible. During this process I'm sure we'll learn much more about the site than we ever could do leaving it in its current state. I am therefore completely in support of the current plans and eagerly awaiting developments. The archaeologists seem keen, Hanson Waste seem keen and I certainly am. I would imagine that funding such a project might be the only obstacle - well if they need some free labour then I'll be quite happy to pitch in!

I would like to express my thanks to Hanson Waste for allowing our group to visit the site (and for protecting what remains of it), to Celia Haddon for organizing the event and to everyone else in the group that day for making it such an enjoyable and interesting visit.

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This prehistoric site has been rescued for historical reasons by History X's archive