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The Rollright Stones - Oxfordshire, England
Stone Circle
National Grid Reference: SP 296 309

panorama - 424KB downloadshow a map

How To Get There

Follow the A3400 north out of Chipping Norton heading for Long Compton. When you are less than a mile from Long Compton there will be a left turn to Little Compton. There is a small lay-by a few hundred yards along this road on the left. Park here and you have found the site. The site is now owned by the Rollright Trust and a small charge is made (currently 50 pence for adults, 25 pence for children). The money raised is used by the trust "to promote and aid the care, conservation, integrity and environment of the Rollright Stones and other Ancient Sites".

If you are planning a visit to Rollright, and you have some form of portable MP3 player then I can recommend visiting the Rollright Stones web site and downloading their MP3 audio guides before your trip!

The Rollright Stones are amongst the more famous of the stone circles to be found on these pages. The site comprises of a stone circle known as "The Kings Men", a prominent outlier known as "The King Stone" and the remains of a megalithic tomb known evocatively as "The Whispering Knights" (they really do look like a group of people leaning together and whispering to each other).

If you follow the directions for finding the site above then you will have found The Kings Men, a large circle of about 70 stones with a diameter of around 100 feet. The stones look incredibly weathered and ancient which adds to the appeal of the site.

Since my last visit The Rollright Trust appears to have purchased more of the ground surrounding the circle. The King's Men don't feel quite so hemmed in now that the fence has been moved well back into the field behind the site. The new land has also provided a safer journey down to The Whispering Knights (it used to be a matter of dodging the cars on the road as you walked down there). Wheelchair access to all of the stones is now far easier than it used to be. The new paths are reinforced with meshing that should both help to prevent erosion and aid the passage of wheels. The Rollright Trust should be applauded for their efforts.

The King Stone is just the other side of the road from the circle, surrounded with railings. The Whispering Knights can be spotted from the stone circle if you look over the fields to the southeast.

The Rollright stones has to be one of the most "Folklore Rich" sites in the country. There is a well known legend relating to the stones here that has a lot in common with many other stone circles, that being that the stones were once living people. There is a short rhyme that tells the story of a king who was marching over the Oxfordshire hills with his army when he met a witch who greeted him with the words:-


"Seven long strides shalt thou take,
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be."

To which the King replied:-

"Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I shall be known."

But when the King had taken his seven strides his view of Long Compton was blocked by the mound on top of the hill known as The Archdruids Barrow. The witch shouted out the doom of the King and his men:-

"As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be,
Rise up stick and stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be
And myself an eldern tree"

Whereupon the King, his men and his knights were all turned into stone and stand there still to this day. And the witch in a somewhat Pythonesque turn of events transformed herself into an elder tree!

That's just the best known story relating to the site. Another common feature with folklore concerning other sites is that the stones are supposed to be impossible to count. It is said that a clever baker once tried by placing a loaf of bread on top of each stone, but alas he ran out of loaves before he had finished! If you visit the site today you will see that it's no easy task to count the stones, you're never quite sure where one stone finishes and another starts. It is also said that a man once decided to take the King Stone away to use as either a bridge over a stream or a doorstep or some such thing. It apparently took 24 horses to drag the huge stone down the hill. He was haunted by strange noises and suffered such terrible luck after doing so that he thought it as well to take the stone back to its rightful home. Only two horses made light work of dragging the stone back up the hill.

People used to gather around the King Stone on Midsummer's Eve, when the elder tree (the witch) was cut, the sap (or the witches blood) used to run out and the head of the King Stone was said to move. The King Stone is also supposed to walk to a nearby spring at midnight for a drink.

People used to chip pieces off him as good luck charms, the King Stone is therefore somewhat less grand than he used to be. I know I shouldn't have to stress this to my readers but please, please never deface or damage any ancient sites. I want them to be around for my children and my grandchildren, and all their friends, and their children etc...

In April 2004 the stones suffered a very sad attack from a vandal who splashed yellow paint over many of The King's Men. Much of the paint is still evident at the time of writing this update (November 2005) covering both the stones and the ancient lichens that grow upon them.

If you are at all interested in this site then it will be worth your time to visit the official web pages of The Rollright Stones. And you may want to check out details of the meet that the Stones Mailing List held at the site back in March 1998. Andy Burnham has George Lambrick's talk from the meet on-line. See his Megalithic Mysteries site...

For a great guide to stones in the area around the Rollright Stones I recommend a read of "The Old Stones of Rollright and District" by P. Bennett and T. Wilson. This should be available to purchase from the custodian's hut here at the Rollright Stones.

Nearby Sites

Related Sites

Notes

Outlier :-

A standing stone set apart from the main formation of a stone circle, sometimes in an astronomically significant direction (for example midsummer's sunrise). Sometimes they mark the "entrance" to a stone circle. Examples are the Heel Stone at Stonehenge and the King Stone at the Rollright Stones.

pythonesque :-

In the mode of "Monty Python", the infamous British (...well mostly) comedy team of the 1970's comprising John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam. Nothing whatsoever to do with prehistoric remains - oh, I dunno though...

 

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