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Rollright Stones

Oxfordshire

Comprising three features, a stone circle and two stone features including several large stones, thought to be the remains of eroded burial chambers.

  • The King's Men, approximately 70 closely-spaced stones that form a stone circle of diameter 33 metres. The stones are set on top of a circular bank with an entrance to the southeast marked by two portal stones. The site is unexcavated and so can only be loosely dated to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. It was restored in 1882.
  • The King Stone, a single, weathered monolith, 2.4 metres high by 1.5 metres wide, standing 76 metres east of the King's Men. Some archaeoastronomers claimed ancient knowledge of an alignment between the King Stone, the centre of the King's Men circle and the star Capella as it rose in the sky. However, carbon dating of material found beneath the stone during an excavation in 1982 put the mean date of its erection at 1792BC, much later than the other sites. The King Stone is more likely to have been a marker stone serving a now-destroyed cairn burial site.
  • The Whispering Knights, the remains of the burial chamber of an early or middle Neolithic portal dolmen lying 400 metres east of the King's Men. Four standing stones survive, forming a chamber about 2 square metres in area around a fifth recumbent stone, probably the collapsed roof. In 1764, William Stukeley visited the site and saw the remains of a round barrow.

A perfect circle 104ft (31.7m) across, starting out as 80 pillars of stone, lined up so they touched or nearly did except for a south east entrance. Made from local limestone that has been very weathered and eaten away over time. There is no way now to tell how high they were to start, they now vary considerably in height up to 9 feet tall.  Some suggest this site dates from 500 years before Avebury and longer before Stonehenge. Although they appear eaten away and fragile and so we might question if this material would last for 5,000 years, they have been in this state since the 1600's. Carbon dating of material under one of the stones dated it as later 1792BC, still a long time ago but later than Stonehenge and Avebury by some considerable time.

So how many stones are there today, some say 28, some 70, some 77, the problem is what you count as a stone with the weathering. Some parts are said by some to be pieces that have fallen off others. In the 18th century, the antiquarian William Stukeley described this circle as "The greatest Antiquity we have yet seen... corroded like wormeaten wood by the harsh Jaws of Time". Early in the 17th century only 26 stones were standing, in 1882 there was a major re-erection of the remaining stones. Its also now said that its impossible to count the number of stones in the ring.

Perhaps the stones are not eaten away as much as it first appears, they have after all been the same since the 1600's, take a look at them, photograph them, and remember that some have been put in or re-erected. Now what do you see!

There is quite a lot of hype about this ring, some claiming it is widely visited when its total parking is a few spaces in a lay-by, and this appears sufficient. I have visited a number of times and many times we have been the only people there. It is worth visiting, in part because it is different to others.

Spirals of energy. Along with other stone circles and some other features you find many references to energy being able to be detected by dowsing and with pendulums.  We have a set of dowsing rods and have taken them to a number of stone circles and you do get reactions, even those who you meet, who don't know what is going to happen, when asked to hold the rods and go to particular places get the same reactions. I have never been as convinced about pendulums, they are too easily influenced by what the person is expecting to happen.

Legends and the names of groups of stones

There are interesting legends and writings associated with this ring of stones. Although many stone circles and the like have stories about people being turned to stone, often for having a good time on a Sunday, and in particular dancing, the fear of God was a common feature of Christian teaching after all. Other parts of legends that put people in major danger if they see something going on or others was often to keep people away at set times.

One of the reasons this story is different is that it appeared very early on, first printed in 1585 and referring to a king ruling from 1488-1551, they also include people who existed, including Mother Shipton of  Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire  (c.1488-1551).  There are other stories relating to a  Mother Shipton who made many prophesies is involved, and there are many legends about her, usually they are connected with Knaresborough, North Yorkshire see  http://www.mothershiptonscave.com/main.htm where she was said to have been born near the petrifying well in 1488, the well and cave turns anything left at it to stone, and does so today, but by deposits not magic.

There would appear to be several versions of the legends, see the versions at http://www.britainexpress.com/articles/Ancient_Britain/rollright-stones.htm and at http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk

There would appear to have been a long history of the craft, that is traditional witchcraft as opposed to the New Age 'Wican' variety created more recently, in this area. Today you are likely to come across the various New Age groups while visiting this and some other sites. Traditional craft people are far more secretive.

This ring is widely used today by those who practice New Age Pagan belief systems, but don't let the idea of meeting witches and others put you off they are the easiest going of all and their belief system does not include converting others. So what may you come across, a Pagan wedding (handfasting), healing, meditation or similar. Perhaps on the special days of the year to these groups, you may have celebrations, and often several different groups or beliefs will be sharing the event, getting along just fine together. If you come across anyone dancing nude around the stones its likely to be a group of students undertaking a dare. 

It has suffered from vandalism over the years, and this in part maybe because its easily approached from urban areas, for this reason it may be wise to see earlier than later, while it still exists and is open.

See also

Our section on stone circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles


Planning Grid

Location:

Rollright Stones, Nr Little Rollright, Oxfordshire

Grid Reference

SP296309

Map Link:

Multimap

Google Aerial picture/map

Getting there:

On side of unclassified road (the Jurassic Way) by lay-by between Little Rollright and Great Rollright. Road between A44 and A3400

North of Chipping Norton Oxfordshire

Access:

The Rollright Stone Circle also known as the Kings Men Stone Circle is a few strides from the main lay-by.

The King Stone is over a wobbly wooden fence across an open privately owned field to which the owner permits access.

The Whispering Knights are about five minutes walk from the main lay-by heading east. After about 100 yards go through a green farm gate and follow the edge of the field down to the Knights. The field is privately owned but access to the Knights is permitted.

Parking:

Free in lay-by on side of road

Facilities:

No facilities at the site

The nearest WC and food can be found at Wyatts Farm Shop about 1 mile east of the Stones. Wyatt's have a cafe, toilets and a farm shop. Alternatively The Cross Hands Inn, which is about 2 miles west of the Rollright Stones, serves meals/snacks along with all the usual pub refreshments.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Stone circle.

Two other stone features within a few minutes walk nearby.

What to take:

Widest angle lens you have, plus other lenses. Panorama kit.

You will be walking on fields, boots or Wellingtons in winter is recommended, although the main circle is not usually very muddy.

There are no facilities here, so take anything you might need, for example warm drink in winter.

Nature highlights:

Country location, you may see some wildlife particularly when out of season and being quiet. You are likely to see pheasants on or near local roads.

Best Times to Visit:

Any time, but when other people are not about is best, particularly interesting in misty weather and frosty winter days, when you are likely to be on your own.

Address:

 

Postcode:

 

Telephone:

 

E-mail:

 

Website:

http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk

Opening times:

Open all the time.

Charges:

Honesty box out of busy times.

Adults 1.00
Children 9-16 50p
Children under 9 are free

Photo Restrictions:

None

Other Restrictions: None but be careful not to cause damage -  please don't climb on these stones they are weathered and not up to people climbing on them.
Special Needs Access: It is accessible by wheel chair although some assistance might be needed to get up the kerb.
Special Needs Facilities: There are no facilities.
Children Facilities: Site is great for children but care is needed near the road, which although a minor road can at times be busy. The circle is on the same side as the lay-by.
Dogs Allowed: Dogs are not allowed in the circle, as it is sometimes used for rituals, pagan weddings etc. When a warden is present dogs can be left with them at other times tied to a tree in sight of you. They should not be of a lead at any point.

Other useful websites:

http://www.megalithia.com/sites/sp296309.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollright_Stones

CIN Page Ref:

rollright_stones

Date Updated:02/08

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