Writing in The Art Newspaper today Emily Sharpe reports that -
"The cleaning of an Elizabethan tapestry map has revealed what may be the earliest depiction of the Rollright Stones, a series of Neolithic and Bronze Age megaliths in the English Midlands, says Maggie Wood, the keeper of social history at Warwickshire Museum... continues...
Wiltshire Heritage Museum will be organising an outing to the Rollright Stone Circle on Saturday, 7 August 2010. The outing will be led by David Dawson, Director of the Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society.
The visitor hut at a prehistoric stone circle has been burnt to the ground in what police say was an arson attack.
The hut, at the Rollright Stones on the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, was completely destroyed in the blaze on Sunday.
It had been used to store visitor guides and merchandise... continues...
Druids tried to spiritually clean them but now it is a vet's turn to see if he can physically restore them to health.
The ancient Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border have been off-colour ever since vandals daubed them in bright yellow paint... continues...
I visited this site for the first time last weekend, driving back from Cheshire I decided to make a detour as I've wanted to visit the Rollrights for years and this time the time was right.
I found this to be a truly amazing place, walking around the circle, spending time looking out across the landscape. I love the perspective over to The Whispering Knights and while at their looking back to The Rollright Stones, if it wasn't for the hedges the view across to The King Stone would have made the sites seem completely connected, which of course they are.
For me the proximity of the road didn't matter, maybe it's down to so many visits to The nine stones of Winterborne Abbas with the heavy passing traffic, but the traffic here at the Rollright Stones wasn't so distracting. The lay by does make it very early for folk to stop off for a visit though, including napping truck drivers, perhaps re-charging their weary batteries in more ways than they are aware. I usually enjoy a bit of a track to a site, a welcome opportunity to detach from the trappings of the everyday modern life into an ancient landscape, however on this occasion my excitement at being there took over and I took a good long walk around and about the whole area making up for the pilgrimage of finding the place by foot that I would have enjoyed..
I recommend making some time to visit this pace, spend a while there, allow yourself to slow down and let the place unfold.
I first visited the Rollrights at midsummer about five years ago; there had been a low-key Druid summer solstice ceremony taking place and anyone who wished to was invited to participate. It was a memorable occasion indeed so when offered the opportunity to revisit today, needless to say I did not hesitate. The friend I went with wanted to visit Wychwood, a remnant of an ancient forest in West Oxfordshire and was willing to make a detour (yes please, I said).
My summer sabbatical around the woody byways of the Cotswolds was about to reach its climax.
The Rollrights are on the Oxforshire/Warwickshire border and are true holey stones; nodular, oolitic, limestone they are quite unlike the sarsen, granite, and sandstone stone circles of my previous experience. There is a information notice by the entrance which states admission £1.00 but as nowhere to leave this money, we didn't; the hut that was by the entrance when I visited five years ago no longer exists - I believe burnt down.
Before wandering down to the Whispering Knights dolmen we spent some time walking around the Kings Men circle, marvelling at the shapes and erosions in the stones. What a impressive setting for both circle and dolmen looking out over the Oxfordshire countryside. Back across the road to visit the solitary King Stone, we noticed there is a small cluster of half buried stones a couple of metres uphill from the King Stone – there had been a recent campfire lit inside the cluster with the usual associated rubbish which we collected up (a Homebase catalogue included would you believe).
After my visit I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the Rollrights; usually visiting a stone circle makes me think about 'permanence' in an ever changing world. These stones, permeated as they are with small cavities and holes made me think the opposite ... that all things eventually pass away. Including an ancient stone circle if it happens to be built from limestone.
I will probably get a bit of stick for this but I was a little disappointed when I visited. I had read so much about the stones over the years and was really looking forward to my visit. Don't get me wrong, it is a cracking place to visit and well worth it but I just think I was expecting the 'wow' factor - something I never got. Probably me. Will visit again when I get a chance. I bought Burl's book on the site in the garden centre just down the road - a good little read.
I had a lot better 'feel' for the stones this time. It is funny how different visits to the same sites can leave you with different impressions. The weather was good when myself and Dafydd arrived but it started to rain before too long - sending the several people present scurrying back to their cars. Myself and Dafydd sheltered under the trees and spent a few minutes observing the stones in 'splendid isolation'. We saw a lovely red/orange butterfly on one of the stones and I found a rolled up message had been left in one of the holes. Dafydd found a small pretty orange polished stone in a hole on a different stone.
First visit to my nearest stone circle today (24.1.2010). A chilly but mostly sunny winter's day, visited with some friends at the end of a walk around Long Compton. There were a fair number of people around, but most only stayed a few minutes and after a while we had the circle to ourselves for a short while, which was a relief after the women droning on loudly about solicitors and divorces left.
I've seen the pictures of the old hut, the signs, etc. They're all gone now and to be honest I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing. There is a collection box on the gate (£1 per adult, 50p per child) which is raising money to replace the info boards. There are no signs by the King's Stone or the Whispering Knights either.
The biggest surprise was the openness of the site, I hadn't realised that the fence is now some way away from the stones - the cover of my OS map shows it right alongside the southern arc, so that's definitely an improvement. It's a shame that the King's Stone is obscured by trees and hedges, so you don't get the full picture of how they relate (although I believe the single stone may have been a much later addition anyway). The stones themselves are fantastic, knarled and pitted, like decayed teeth. I would like to come and spend more time here - today the busy traffic and the short visits of not-entirely-interested people detracted from the atmosphere. A very special circle though.
I went to visit this today. I was quite disappointed the see the warden's hut had gone. There was actually a small fire burning where it used to be, which was ironic. I did notice one of the stones seemed quite badly blackened which must be fire damage.
Visited the stones on 23rd December and saw the fire damage then. The vandalism seemed especially incongruous as it was a lovely sunny morning. A mouse scurried to shelter by one of the stones as we walked past and chaffinches and a robin were flitting from stone to stone. This was the third year that we'd made a Yuletide visit to the Rollrights and, despite the vandalism, the atmosphere seemed very different to our previous 2 visits. This time the stones seemed mellow, almost cheerful, whereas other times when I've been to visit they've had a despondent, vulnerable air. I wasn't dowsing but there was a definite feeling that I shouldn't enter the circle at one point – it wasn't an emotion, more like feeling a physical resistance.
Possibly I'm just projecting my own feelings on to them as the last groups of stones I visited, the high and low Bridestones, didn't provoke such feelings – tho being on the Yorkshire moors on a freezing day in heavy rain kind of focuses the mind in other directions. I'm also aware I may have been "primed" to expect something at the Rollrights as years ago I read Tom Graves' Needles of Stone – a book which had a major influence on me at the time. Writing about the Rollrights, Graves felt they had an unpleasantly weird atmosphere when he went there. He wondered if he was picking up the "aura" left by a ceremony held there a few years prior to his visit in which a young puppy had been sacrificed (Needles of Stone, Granada, 1978, p. 152).
I went with some friends up to the Rollrights today.
I'm sad to report that following the recent fire damage there, some follow-up damage and a further attack have occurred.
1. The King Stone notice, where previously cracked, has now been broken off completely.
2. The King's Men stone which was previously burnt by the tire attack has been significantly chipped on the top.
3. The warden's hut has again been attacked. Cavity Wall foam was sprayed into the collection box, and also into the locks. This subsequently solidified, breaking the locks and rendering the collection box unusable. An oil fire used by the wardens was lit and placed next to a wooden cabinet and a gas cylinder within the hut, with the obvious intention of causing an explosion. In dousing the fire, the fire service had to substantuially damage the floor of the hut, which is currently unusable by the wardens for overnight stays (and which stank of smoke). These attacks apparently occured on the 9th December according to the warden on duty.
The police are now apparently willing up increase the charge from one of Arson, to Arson with Intent. However, they have no real leads. The only solution may be to install CCTV cameras at the site, which no one really wants to do.
I'd heard of the recent fire attack at the stones, so decided to pop up and take a look at the damage for myself.
I'd arrived early, so as to avoid the tourists, and had the circle to myself for all of 5 minutes. I nearly cried when I saw the aftermath of the damage, both in the circle and to the King Stone sign.
At least 4 inches of wood ash surrounded the base of the stone at the right of the entrance to the circle, and the entire top was blackened, presumably where the tyre was hung and filled with wood. Looking at the ashes, it was plain that the wood used had been brought deliberately for the attack, rather than just using saplings etc from the adjoining brush, as the wood that hadn't been fully burnt was worked, like short strips of 10mmx2mm. This wasn't a spur of the moment thing, but had obviously been carefully planned.
Across the way, the cast iron sign by the King Stone had also been attacked, looking like it had been set to with a gemmy bar, as the iron was split and buckled.
Luckily, it looks as if the Whispering Knights were left alone.
I've tried to understand the mindset of people who would do such a pointless thing. I've failed. Maybe it was because there was only £7 in the collection box that they also raided?
Apparently the police aren't particularly interested in following this one through, presumably because there's so little to go on. Which means the perps may be encouraged to come back and have another go? I sincerely hope not. Very sad.
Upon arriving, the first noticeable change was the structured lay-by with a now dedicated wheel-chair friendly footpath leading to the entrance of the stones. Neither did it appear necessary to scramble over a rickety stile to get to the King Stone – there seems to be proper access via a small gate. I was keen to see what the circle would be like now its exterior was expanded by the purchase of land to the south.
No disappointments on this score. Moving away from the visitor's hut, the circle opened up before me, more able to breathe within its landscape than for many years previously. It looks fantastic. What made it look even more fantastic was the sunshine spilling over the weathered, twisted, pitted stones, singing out the colours of honey-coloured oolitic limestone, egg-yolk yellow lichens, and olivaceous-green mosses. To the south, a wide, rustling field of sun-baked golden wheat rippled and shimmered in the warm breeze. Fluffy white cumulus clouds sailed in stately fashion across a sky of rich, uplifting blueness. Wild flowers poked up through the grass, and clumps of coltsfoot sat the base of some of the stone, their dark glossy leaves contrasting with the rock. Perfection in Oxfordshire.
Stopped off here on the way home from Brum. Absolutely stunned to have the place to myself on a Saturday afternoon! Panos will follow if I can stitch them correctly...
Apparently today is the day when the police decide whether to charge the person arrested for damaging the stones. As for correcting the damage, the decision has been taken to follow the 'dental pick' route. Tenders have been issued for conducting this work.
Popped up to Oxfordshire on a whim at the weekend, my first visit for a while, and the first since the damage.
The photos I'd seen really don't put across the sheer mindlessness of the damage. It looks as though some progress may be made, as tests were being undertaken for removing the paint - see the picture of the info sheet, and test area.
A tourist coach arrived while I was there. They'd spent about 5 minutes at the King Stone, and were being rapidly shown around the stones. I don't spend a great deal of time at sites (so many sites, so little time), but even I'm not that quick, and I've not paid for the privilege of a guide!
Since there always seems to be news and discussion about this site how could I miss it on a trip south to see Avebury and Stonhenge? It is a popular spot and no mistake! I counted forty people at one point all milling around (some with dowsing rods kindly supplied by the lady in the hut). The stones themselves had been vandalised the previous week with yellow paint which was another reason I wanted to see the stones.
The form of the vandalism itself is (to me anyway) pretty strange. Someone has taken the time to go round every single stone with a small brush and paint small strips of yellow on each. Now, this must have taken some time and is not what you would call a purposeless attack by your average tanked up idiot with a grudge. It looks to me like the work of a seriously obsessed individual with a fixation for this colour!
The stones themselves are very strange. Gnarled and worn the space they make draw you into the the centre where you can find a spot to sit and enjoy the good vibes. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
3 April 2004:Every stone has been defaced with Jackson Pollock-type splatters of primrose yellow gloss paint, applied with a small 1" house painters brush, I would guess, as the splatters are small and streaky. A larger brush would carry far more paint. Every stone, large and small has been attacked both front and back. The grass is splattered, the earth is splattered and I feel personally violated by this mindless vandalism.
I wept with horror at the stupidity of it: the maliciousness defacing of this most beautiful of ancient places, which also happens to be at the geographical The Epicentre of My World. Someone, somewhere, probably a local, deliberately planned it, deliberately set out to strike at every stone from every angle.
The King's Men (The Rollright Stones) - 25.10.2003
I finally got to visit this enigmatic limestone circle that "looks like huge rotted teeth" (Janet & Colin Bord - "A Guide to Ancient Sites in Britain",1979, Paladin Books). And I'm so glad I have been there, although I'd like to spend to a bit more time in the area next time.
The importance is really in the whole of the surrounding area rather than just the circle, although it's obvious that many people stop to have a quick look at the circle without visiting the Whispering Knights, or finding out a little more about the whole area. The folklore, accessibility, location (without other circles for many miles), multi-period use of the area, and rare choice of limestone, makes the circle itself more 'important' that it looks.
We had the circle to ourselves for most of the time, which surprised me, because cars were moving in and out of the lay-by very regularly. The guy in the shed (where you pay and they have publications) seemed utterly uninterested.
I visited the stones in 1985 when I was 8. In ten days will be going back for the first time since then and am anticipating what it will feel like. The legends and ambience of the area back then fed my imagination, I am curious though as to what my reaction will be now, being all grown up 'n all!
It seems ridiculous in some respects that we can feel emotion simply by being near some stone that was positioned by people over 4000 years ago when we are surrounded by rock that was positioned by nature itself. I suspect we sometimes need a key to unlock ourselves though.
Anyways...regards to other readers of this site.
We were blessed with a stunning spring day for this visit to the Rollrights. The mood was admirably set whilst driving through the fabulous north Oxfordshire countryside in Cloudhigh’s sexy motor, listening to the 2nd Mvt of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5. Mmmm . . .
Meeting up with the delightful Jane, we didn’t have to wait long at the circle before we were joined by Lissy, who looked as radiant as the day itself. The Rollrights were pretty sexy too, and I was relishing the opportunity of some serious photography, so as the others sat and chatted whilst Jane painted, I crawled about in the horse-hair matting taking loads of intriguingly angled pics of the oolitic limestone. The strong lunchtime sunshine picked out the cavities and fissures on the rocks brilliantly, and their magic gently pulsed under the blue sky and skylarks’ cadenzas. Excavation work to repair the edge of the circle revealed several hidden/fallen/buried stones, so the legend is true – it’s impossible to count them all in one go!
After an hour spent enjoying the vibe, chatting, and people watching, we wrenched ourselves away to show the charming Cloudhigh the King Stone and the Whispering Knights.
25 July 2003
Regulars will know that I voiced strong reservations about Kapoor's piece of art. Not from an artistic, aesthetic or conceptual point of view, but from the point of view of someone seeing the Rollrights for the first or only time – visiting from abroad perhaps.
My thinking was that if I'd arrived at say 'La Table des Marchants' for my only visit (probably) ever, and found a big chrome blob in the middle of it, I'd have been irritated, annoyed or even upset.
So was I right? Or were the more artistically minded folk around these parts right?
Well. Ahem. Let's just say I stayed for an hour and took a few photos. Just the 19….
The 'sculpture', if that's really the right word, is somehow unobtrusive, despite being quite big and finished with brightly polished chrome! I guess it's because the Rollrights is a pretty large circle.
Yet it draws you in. And you find yourself playing games – looking at the reflected stones, trees and countryside. Watching the clouds. Watching the light change. Looking at your own reflection. Standing up. Squatting down. Walking away. Walking back up to it. And great fun to try to capture all this on film!!!
The weather for my visit also made the experience particularly interesting. The sky was dull as I arrived and the chrome looked almost dirty. I quickly realised though that it was actually just refraction of the dull sky from the tiny water droplets left on the highly polished surface by the rain.
As the sun emerged, the whole character of not only the circle, but the sculpture too, changed in unity. The previously dull metallic 'blob' was now dazzling with intense reflected sunlight, still refracted by the tiny rain droplets. Stunning.
Count me as a convert. But there wasn't a quintessential dichotomy in sight. Unless it was behind one of the stones.
I believe it's still there for a few more days. GO!!!
I was at the rollrights last weekend-- surprised to find the khapour (SP?) sculpture- quite brilliant--- but the point of this note- the entrance to the stones in prehistory (so scholarship suggests) was not where it is now- but to your left as you come in from the present entrance---so-- presumably, because of the rising of the land, the stones would appear slightly above you as you approached. Would there have been a track along the route of the present road at that time (i know that the period i am imagining is probably hundreds of years)-- what i find myself thinking about is how the landscape would have appeared when the stones were first sited- or indeed, in the first couple of hundred years after they were sited. Presumably fairly wooded-- the ground in fairly high around the stones- so where was the tree line? If you imagine coming through woods, to cleared ground, with the stones ahead of you-- reminds me of cope talking about the 'silbury game'--- perhaps what is as important as the stones is the way the sit in the landscape---- and also their arrangement to what must have been (?) burial mounds-- more ancient than the stones? land already consecrated? Land of the dead? West kennet long barrow was out of use around the time of the construction of Silbury (holy be her name) hill--- might the barrows here only been the memory of what was sacred? Is this our link today to this place?
Passed by this way yesterday, totally unplanned so no camera etc.
I was struck by how different the site looked with the undergrowth at it's lowest point. Last time I was here, the trees and hedges were in full bloom, and the stones couldn't be seen from the road at all. Yesterday, the circle could be seen 'properly' in its setting. A much more pleasurable experience.
Heard about the Rollrights sometime ago & always wanted to pay a visit. Finally got the chance following a weekend away in Bourton-on-the-Water last weekend arriving 15/11/02. Got to see them on Sunday and was suitably impressed, although the stones were a lot smaller than I expected having been used to visiting Avebury many times.
Had the circle to ourselves (myself, fiancee & 2 friends) apart from a lone photographer getting an atmospheric shot thru a hole in one of the stones! It was a damp bright morning with a touch of mist over the surrounding fields which gave an eerie interesting feel to the circle.
Would like to visit again & do one of the walks in the area.
I would recommend a visit to anyone touring the Cotswolds.
Quick update re recent works at the circle itself. The Rollright Trust is pleased to announce that the entrance to the circle is now fully wheelchair accessible. New wheelchair accessible kissing gates have just been installed as well as dropped kerb and new limestone chipping path to the point where the circle enters the trees. It is possible to get a wheelchair into the western part of the circle and a little way along both sides. This is due to a reinforced plastic mesh tha allows a smooth ride for chairs (and protected from grass loss as a bonus ;-)
Also tickets for the Terry Pratchett play Lords and Ladies are gaining lots of interest if anyone wants to come along mail me soon to reserve a place! Full details on the website http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk
Have a great time watching the only TP play set in a stone circle performed in a stone circle and help the Trust to raise funds to further improve safety and access for disabled visitors and children.
Wow! What an amazing, atmoshpheric place to be! After a long drive from Newbury with some friends of ours and two lolling dogs in the back with us! We eventually wound our way up to the Kings Men. It was a high climb to the site which was obscured from the roadside by trees. There was excitement as we parked the car on the grass verge and ventured through the gap in the trees and down a little path. To our left was a little hut where you pay a small fee to enter. This, we did not mind as it all goes to the upkeep and care of the site. Once past the hut and to our right was the path leading towards the stones. There were a few visitors but not many. I was suprised on how small the circle was. I was expecting some vast stones equal to Avebury but instead, found a beautiful circle of small stones and the King Stone which was a foot larger than myself. (I am only just touching 5 foot so I was suprised!) I felt so much energy emanating from the circle and walked slowly up the path taking in every sensation as I trod. The air was clean and crisp and the sun was shining. I could feel the build up of energy as I walked closer and the hairs on my body stood on end! I reached the circle in awe but before I entered, I walked around the perimeter clockwise first, touching each and every stone, almost sussing out the place before making the final leap into something unknown to me. Eventually reaching the entrance, I asked permission to enter. I was granted entrance and tentatively took my first step into the circle. Words cannot describe how I felt and past this, I will tell no more as my feelings past this point are sacred to me. So, if you want to make the long trek to the stones I would highly recommend it! Just be prepared not to be there alone as it is a rather popular site. And if you are lucky to get the chance to be alone.....ENJOY! For a small circle, the energy there is intense and will blow your socks off!!! Blessed Be the Rollright Stones
On the way from Lancashire down to London, we decided to break up the journey by paying a visit to the Rollrights. Although the sun beamed down and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the air was freezing. The limestone circle is oddly reminscent of the stones at Arbor Low, so gnarled and worn. The site is set, with portal stones, in a similar alignment to the big Cumbrian circles of Sunkenkirk & Castlerigg.
there will be an interesting event there at summer solstice and for a few days afterwards: Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies will be performed in the stones. It will be nice to have a play there since last year's production of Cymbeline with Mark Rylance (ooh la la) was cancelled due to foot and mouth and other problems...
I have not been to the Rollrights (or England) since Samhain 2000 and am looking forward to coming this summer for the ASLaN conference and other events...
Great thing about Rollright is the way you never get the same vibe twice. Spent 40 minutes driving from motor city, walked in and walked out.
Next week total beauty with shoeless earthkidz sunshiney-love thing.
Bit of a tip - do check out the Samhain celebrations.....and stay till the end.
Lovely place for some birthday respite. Five hours of driving on a lovely day. Hi to the pilgrim we interrupted.
lovely gnarled stones. They must have had a great old time selecting them. my kind of stones. The breeze in the trees hinting at something and not quite understood. The Kingstone leaning to catch the whispering breeze.Oh what a place. The vibe was Northern. I will return. Stones with holes, you can't beat 'em. A hole in a stone is a window, someone knew this, we know it too.
I chose the Rollrights as my place to be for the turning of the century (1999/2000). Earlier in the evening (8pm) in the King stone's field a massive fire beacon was lit by the villagers, as one of a line of beacons from Cornwall to somewhere North. It was too foggy to see the previous and next beacon to ours though.
Come midnight around 30 people gathered in and around the Rollright Stones. I'd met a girl hitching to the stones with her Japanese boyfriend earlier, and so I stood with them, not beleiving the year 2000 was really so close.
On the horizon we could see far off firework displays in the towns all around, and at the stroke of midnight (someone else had brought a radio to listen to Big Ben's chimes) fireworks were let off from the circle.
It felt good being away from the tawdry celebrations in the towns, as did being alone with 30 strangers. I can't think of a better place to be at such a time.
(22/08: 3:15pm) My second time at the Rollrights, and this time I choose to spend my time with the King Stone. The perfect way to de-stress after a three hour journey from South Wales. There are dozens of people crowded into the circle, and only me here.
A quick walk down to the Whispering Knights, then I'll say my farewells again. Until next time.
According to Henry W. Taunt in his The Rollright Stones: The Stonehenge of Oxfordshire (published by the author sometime around 1906) The midsummer solstice rises over the Kingstone, but I would not put him up against Thom. He also claims that the size of Rollright is the same as the stones at Stonehenge, also that there were four mounds in the circle and that the midwinter solstice shines through a hole in one of the stones! He also reproduces a carving that looks like a Japanese cuneiform figure. Mind you he also spent an evening waiting for the fairies to appear at the stonesƒ..
re camping at Rollright ... no-one actually took a potshot at us, or any such, but we did get a few people parping their horns as we went past ...
... this can go either way ... I didn't pay that much attention at first, but as we were getting in the van for a kip, it suddenly struck me that we were Slough-Gibbons, alone and deep in the heart of BumpkinLand ...
... what if the parpers were malicious types, trying to wake us up, and soon to return with pitchforks and shotguns and banjos and extra chromasones? Neither of us look particular "hippy" (Gibbon Jnr is only 12 - today as it happens :-), but the van is a total giveaway, and easily susceptible ...
seemed to be OK this time though ... it's a fairly densely populated part of the world around there ... Jeremy Clarkson lives just around the corner! :-O = Run Away!
Ahh Rollrightƒ I was a regular visitor in the 1980s, there was even a free festival there that I attended once, we all had to take tree to be planted, some of us actually bought expensive trees but they had all been removed (presumably by the land owner) when we next travelled back. How things have changed with weddings and people welcome to the stones. In the bad old Thatcheruined 80s anyone who looked different and hippyish and enjoyed camping near ancient sites or attending festivals was an enemy of the state, ñMedieval brigandsî as Hestletine described us as the coppers confiscated my tent and possessions at Molesworth peace camp circa 1984. Subsequently the travelling eco-new age gypsies were hounded, criminalised, arrested, children taken off them, property confiscated and destroyed. I was caught up in a backwash of the Tory/media moral panic over alternate philosophies when one peaceful night in 1986 camping below the Kingstone with my partner on our way to Glastonbury and then Cornwall. In the middle of the night I was awoken by what I thought was a car backfiring. I got out the tent and was confronted by the local land owner and about four of his cronies, obviously worse the ware for drink, pointing spotlights from a land rover at me. Then I realised that the backfiring car was actually the sound of a double barrelled shotgun. Well, visions of my imminent death flashed before me but we were unceremoniously removed. Bit over the top for camping for a night without permission. We have never returned although we have visited many other places over the years. It is good to see the times they are a changing.
I had read about the Rollrights in a book about prehistoric Britain and they interested me a lot. I didnt know exactly where they were and so i got pretty excited when i was visiting England last year and the friend i was staying with said they were real near his house.
I was not disappointed, the stones are fascinating and life-like. There was such strong energy around the Whispering Knights and the king stone too. I was inspired by my visit there.
woah! Me and one of the Gibbonettes headed up here in our Camper on Saturday night (1/7/00) on the spur of the moment.
When we got there, it was full of a wedding party ... apparently you can hire the place out for weddings, rituals and so on .... twenty quid deposit and a pound a head, and you get the place to yourself for a while and carparking
a fire brazier thing. As it got dark, all but one of the wedding party shot off, and so the 3 of us created our own little "Fire Temple" (as The Boy put) with those little nightlight candles (3 quid for 100 from Ikea :-)
We had the big fire in the middle, an inner circle of lights, lights around the stones (no candles on the stones though ... damages the lichens and all that), and a path of lights from the centre out to the exit.
We fell asleep around the fire, and woke up in the middle of the night - pitch black, all the stars out, and all the candles still burning ... cor, did my head totally .. the stones were just *glowing*
fantastic. The warden turned up in the morning after we had tidied up, and he was totally sound
they have quite a few events there as well ... next one is Halloween.
An excellent place - I used to try and engineer all my routes when I was a delivery driver to stop off here, but the best time was after going to a really dingy club in Brixton ... the experience of guns and general hassle was so traumatising we headed out of Brixton to Rollright for sunrise.
It got to be a bit of a panic, especially as I got lost about 2 miles away as it was getting light, but we just about made it - it was all misty and everything. Smashing ...
I performed in a school play here once when I was 12. I was supposed to be the Nordic King who was pretty revved about his own situation somewhere in Scandanavia : "This land is too small for a king such as I, tell me what can i do?" is about the only line I can remember. So, he figures he should go and invade England and ends up in Derbyshire (?). Anyway, in front of the entire school I had to sing and stomp around in my home-made cape and helmet, until a witch (played by a girl called Kate) turned me and my mates into stones, which you can see here.
Beneath [the abbey at 'Einsham'], Evenlode a little river, arising likewise out of Cotteswald speedeth him into Isis; which riveret in the very border of the Shire passeth by an ancient monument standing not far from his banke, to wit, certaine huge stones placed in a round circle (the common people usually call them Rolle-rich stones, and dreameth that they were sometimes men, by a wonderfull Metamorphosis turned into hard stones). The draught of them, such as it is, portraited long since, heere I represent unto your view. For, without all forme and shape they be, unaequal, and by long continuance of time much impaired. The highest of them all, which without the circle looketh into the earth, they use to call The King, because he should have beene King of England (forsooth) if he had once seene Long Compton, a little towne so called lying beneath, and which a man, if he go some few paces forward, may see: other five standing at the other side, touching as it were, one another, they imagine to have beene Knights mounted on horsebacke; and the rest the army. But lo the foresaid Portraiture.
[The picture is inserted here.]
These would I verily thinke to have beene the monument of some victorie and haply, erected by Rollo the Dane, who afterwards conquered Normandie. [...]
From Camden's 'Britain' (p374 in this 1610 edition).
Regarding the location of the witch or eldern tree, there is a stone figure in the porch of the church at nearby Long Compton which local tradition asserts is the figure of a witch. The figure is actually heavily eroded and almost looks like one of the rollright stones.
"In his 1968 book, Murder by Witchcraft, Donald McCormick describes how the female figure has 'an eerie and malevolent stare on her face that fixed one wherever one stood'. The author goes on to say that, even when moving back 20 paces from the figure, 'the stare was still directly confronting me'...". Mark Turner, Curious Cotswolds
"The feet of the stone figure appear to be resting on an animal, perhaps a cat or fox.It may this that has led to suggestions that the figure is that of a witch who was turned to stone, her familiar resting at her feet. In his book Murder by Witchcraft Donald McCormick suggests this figure has a malevolent stare, and his implication that it fixes any onlooker has helped to cement the folklore".
"...in a field near the church can be seen some ancient earthworks. The field is called The Close. An old tradition is attached to it...It said a young man sold his soul to the devil there." Mark Turner, Folklore & mysteries of the Cotswolds.
"Belief in witchcraft and the power of witches features prominently in Long Compton's folklore.Rarely in fact does one find a village with such strong witchcraft associations." mark Turner.Folklore & Mysteries of the Cotwolds.
"There are enough witches in Long Compton to draw a wagon load of hay up long compton hill " - Old saying.
When living in that neighbourhood, this was my favourite resort. I have been there at all hours, in sombre moonless night, and in the brilliance of a full moon - at the hours of sunrise, noon, and sunset, enjoying the lovely prospect of a fertile valley winding below me in a tortuous course towards the range of the Cotswold hills.
..I may add that the surrounding fields abound in pieces of crystallized spar (though the Druidical stones are not at all of this nature) and I am told that the numerous rills of clear water which trickle down the hill possess a petrifying quality. This seems probable.
On my last visit to this hill I was rambling about the fields in my descent, when, about half way down, I found almost concealed, a large collection of rough stones, all of which had been broken down; and a beautifully pure spring issuing from among them.
I was carrying away a piece of the crystallized spar in my hand, and hurrying homewards, for it was becoming late in the evening, when a person came from his door, in Long Compton, and following me for some distance, begged me, if I valued my night's rest, not to steal any of the whispering stones. Having thanked him for his kind advice, I proceeded onwards, with about a dozen boys at my heels through the town.
"Egomet" clearly thought the man was bonkers. But why mention it, if he didn't have an uncomfortable suspicion that it related to the stone in his hand, not the whispering knights? or am I reading too, too much into it. Perhaps the man just thought he looked the type to go meddling with things.
From p476 of 'The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction' v16, 1830 (which may be seen on Google Books).
The Witch-Elder still watches over the victims of her magic. As to the exact position of the tree, however, the tradition is shifting. According to some accounts it used to stand in the field not far from the dolmen called the "Whispering Knights." Some say it was near the circle, but was blown down not many years ago. Others say that it is to be found in the hedge by the road not far from the King-stone, or further in the field beyond the mound where an elder-bush that stood by a large stone was some years since pointed out to a friend as "the Witch."
The proof that the elder is a witch is that it bleeds when it is cut. And with regard to this I came upon a remarkable tradition, which an old woman, the wife of a man of eighty, told me she had heard many years ago from her husband's mother.
On Midsummer Eve, when the "eldern-tree" was in blossom, it was a custom for people to come up to the King-stone and stand in a circle. Then the "eldern" was cut, and as it bled "the King moved his head."
It is to be observed that this breaking of the spell by blood-letting itself fits on to a very widespread superstition regarding witches, of which I found many surviving expressions in the neighbouring village of Long Compton. They say there that if you only draw her blood, "be it but a pin's prick," the witch loses all power for the time.
For the "eldern-tree" to bleed it must be in blossom. The more sceptical spirits amongst the country people explain the matter by the catch, "If you cut the elder with your hand on it it will bleed," but among the children at least the more literal belief in the bleeding elder has not died out.
An old man of Little Rollright told me that some years ago he was up by the stones and a ploughboy asked him whether it was really true that the elder-tree bled if it was cut. "Lend me your knife," said the old man, and forthwith stuck it into the bark. "Won't you pull it out?" siad the boy. "Pull it out yourself!" was the reply, but the boy was too scared to do so. It was only at last, as they were about to go home for the night, that the boy, fearful that he would lose his knife altogether, approached the tree "tottering with fright and all of a tremble," and, snatching it out, rushed away without waiting to see whether the tree bled or not.
From p20/21 in
The Rollright Stones and Their Folk-Lore
Arthur J. Evans
Folklore, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Mar., 1895), pp. 6-53.
In Christine Bloxham's book 'Folklore of Oxfordshire' (published by Tempus 2005), There is another version of the witche's rhyme, associated with the Rollright stones involving a Danish General and goes thus:
Said the Danish General
If Long Compton I cou'd see
Then King of England I shou'd be
But replied the British General,
Then rise up hill and stand fast Stone
for Kind of England thou'lt be none
Bloxham's book also tells that the stones can never be counted. A victorian baker, determined to count them accurately, brought a basket containing a pre counted number of loaves and put down one in front of each stone. But he either had not included enough loaves or they mysteriously vanished because he failed in his task.
Another legend says that if anyone can count the same amount of stones three times in a row, they shall have any wish granted.
The witch is said to have changed herself into an Elder tree. A festival of cakes and ale used to be held on Midsummer's Eve, when the Elder was in bloom. People stood in a circle around the tree and as they cut the trunk it would weep red sap, resembling the witch's blood, (blooding a witch is said to rid her of her magical powers) and the King Stone would move his head and watch the spectacle.
The last tale retold in Bloxham's book tells of the Dowser Enid Smithett, who when dowsing at the site of the Rollrights, felt faint and dropped her pendulum in the long grass. Instead of flopping to the ground, it stood rigidly, for some time....
A Farrier from Hook Norton tells of how the King Stone got its unusual shape by saying an immoral king tricked Wayland Smithy into making enchanted armour for him, but upon wearing it he was twisted and deformed and turned to stone, for only the faeries could don that armour without risk of harm.
In the book 'Ghosts and Witches of the Cotswolds' J A Brooks tells how the Stones are supposed to go down to the stream to drink on New Year's Eve. There was no evidence of this the next day when I visited (01/01/2005ce) but an offering of Holly, Ivy and Misletoe had been made to one of the Stones.
J Harvey Bloom's book Folk Lore, Old Customs and Superstitions in Shakespeare's Land recalls how a farmer would shut his gates around the stones and would find them open the next day, even if fastened by padlocks and chains. He also tells of how a farmer tried to move a stone down the hill and how his team of horses became terrified and could only move it a few yards. It only took one horse, however, to pull the stone back up the hill.
In her article called Where Witches Used to Meet, (I can't find where this was published) Mollie Mordle-Barnes wrote:
The Rollright stones have been a favourite meeting place for witches for centuries. In Tudor times detailed reports of witches' sabbaths were compiled by a witch hunting commission in Oxford. In the reign of Charles I one of these witches was hanged for attempting to murder her sister's child by means of witchcraft. She was said to have attended numerous sabbaths at the stones and others held on Boar's Hill, just outside Oxford.
The same article alludes to a notorious witches sabbath held at the stones on May 12th (Walpurgis night) 1949.
'Ancient Places' by Prof Glyn Daniel and Dr Paul Bahn (1987, Constable and Company) mentions a folklore tale that says infertile women can be cured by touching the stones with their bare breasts. In the Eighteenth Century the local young people used to meet near the King Stone on Midsummer's Eve for dancing and feasting.
By the way you'd better believe the folklore: Stukeley said "this story the country people for some miles round are very fond of, and take it very ill if anyone doubts of it: nay, they are in danger of being stoned for their unbelief."
I suspect quite a few people have got stoned at the Rollrights, but that's another story.
Clearly the atmosphere of the Rollrights is not to everyone's taste:
"By right of proximity, Little Rollright claims the Rollright Stones, probably of the Bronze Age, older than Stone Henge but without its majesty. The stones stand on or about the windswept ridge which is the county boundary: the situation is impressive but the stones are small and weather-beaten, miserable relics, as indeed is Stonehenge, compared with the remains at Carnac. Shabby fir and stunted elder add to an atmosphere of shrivelled evil, malevolently impotent, utterly outmatched by the good and the simple that drifted into these quiet hills and found a home there from distant Galilee."
Joanna Cannan, writing during the Second World War without the benefit of carbon dating in "The County Books - Oxfordshire" (no date, Robert Hale Limited).
Reading 'The Ancient Burial Mounds of England' by Grinsell (1936) I came across his account of quite a few sites in the vicinity of the Rollrights. Sometimes he is a bit keen to attribute any large stone to megalithic origin, but I thought it would be interesting to copy his directions here in case anyone local has the time and inclination to check them out if anything is still there, or knows anything more:
"North of the White House (400yds west of the King's Men) is a track,.. if this trackis followed for about 500yds until a hedgerow running eastwards is reach, and if this hedgerow is followed eastwards for a few yards, a number of sarsen-stones will be found north of the hedge and overlooking a spring flowing towards Long Compton. These stones may be the remains of a barrow.. which was mentioned by Stukeley"
"If the ancient road on the county boundary by the Rollright Stones be followed South-westwards, past the Cross Hands Inn, a small group of sites may be seen to the west of the road and near some old quarries. Among the sites is alarge prostrate stone in the field south of the quarry west of the Cross Hands Inn; the possible remains of a long barrow in the field west of this; and a small round barrow about 9 yards in diameter and 2 feet high, at the corner of the wood to the south. South of this wood, beneath a clump of trees, is the remains of a round barrow which appears to have been edged round with a retaining circle of large stones. Southwest of this is a camp called Chastleton Burrow... To the east of Chastleton Burrow is a road leading to Cornwell and across a stream towards Boulter's Barn, near where the road meets the main road to Chipping Norton. On the north of this road and a few yards east of the corner is a large stone which may be the remains of a megalithic monument. Half a mile south of this stone, on the south side of a trackway leading to Churchill is a large round barrow..."
really it would have been simpler to have given the OS references?!
A webpage devoted to that shamen of British teatime telly, Doctor Who. This episode was filmed around Chipping Norton using the Rollrights as a location. The episode also features druids and the Cailleach.
Professor Rumford: 'Are you from outer space?'
Doctor: 'No. I'm more from what you'd call inner time.'