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BLOG ARTICLES BY RALPH GREEN FORMER ASSISTANT AT THE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE STOW-ON-THE-WOLD

Morris Dancers

Stow on the Wold

Deserted Cotswold Villages

Cotswold Place Names

The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold 1646

Tracks and Roads across the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Lion

An Early Cotswold Visit

The History of Bourton-on-the-Water

Cotswold Roofs

Cotswold Dry Stone Walls

Cotswold Ridge and Furrows

The Rollright Stones

The Gypsy Horse Fair at Stow-on-the-Wold

The Cotswolds - In the Beginning

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Ralph Green

Ralph Green lives in Bourton-on-the-Water and used to work for many years at the Stow-on-the-Wold Visitor Information Centre.

For more Cotswold Articles:-

The Rollright Stones

Seven miles from Stow-on-the-Wold in a north-easterly direction, on the road to Long Compton, and near the village of Little Rollright, is a circle of standing stones, the most easterly in England. Other stones stand close by.

The road that passes the site follows the line of an ancient trackway along a high ridge, the only way early people could move with relative ease. Today we call it the Jurassic Way, just a country lane, but a very important route in prehistoric times.

If you are travelling from Stow-on-the-Wold the circle is on your right, but because of a thick hedge it could easily be missed. And that’s one of the charms of the place, no big signs or tasteless visitor centre and no acres of tarmac for car parking, just a couple of lay-bys with a path through the hedge past a small hut.

The Rollright Stone Circle

 

Follow the path which leads out into a small field and there you are confronted by 77 unhewn stones varying from ground level to about 7 feet in height and arranged in a perfect circle of 100 feet diameter. They were built between 4000 and 4500 years ago by late Stone Age people, but for what purpose? Perhaps it had a religious significance or perhaps a connection between astronomy and the changing seasons. Perhaps it was a place to trade or exchange goods, to seal tribal agreements and to perform marriages. The stones appear to be natural boulders and it is thought that they came from no more than a mile away. It is also possible that there were more stones forming a continuous wall, apart from one small entrance.

A short distance to the north-east and on the other side of the road, is a single large stone, called the King Stone, which was possibly erected about 3500 years ago to mark a Bronze Age cemetery. Close by are round barrows or burial mounds and a stone cairn lies next to the King Stone. The stone is now protected by railings because people kept chipping bits off, which accounts for the large notch on one side which gives it an odd shape.

A quarter of a mile to the southeast of the stone circle are five large stones standing together. These were built over 5000 years ago, long before the circle, and are called the Whispering Knights. It is all that is left of a communal burial chamber and the stones would have marked the entrance. The fallen stone called a capstone, originally sat on top of the uprights, a striking and imposing way to mark the resting-place of your ancestors. Other standing stones would have marked the sides of the chamber but along with the earth mound, these have long disappeared.

The Whispering Knights Stones

As you might expect, there are several local legends associated with the standing stones. One says that the stones in the circle cannot be counted, every time you try, you get a different number, and I can vouch for that. Local folklore also includes stories of misfortune falling on anybody who tries to move the stones, I cannot vouch for that and don’t intend to find out.

Another story says that if a gate is built on the way to the stones it will never stay shut. Then there is the farmer who used seven huge horses to drag the Kings Stone off the hill. He never got it down to his farmyard because the traces kept breaking and his horses were becoming exhausted. So he decided it was safer to take it back. It only required one horse to drag it back up the hill, and the trace remained intact. If you are a young village girl who wishes to see the image of the man you will marry then you must run naked round the stones at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve. It is also said that if a young woman fails to conceive she has only to visit the stones at midnight and give any one of the circle a hug. It has never been known to fail. One story concerns an ambitious king marching northwards with his army. At Rollright he met a witch who addressed him:

‘Seven long strides thou shalt take, and

If Long Compton thou canst see

King of England shalt thou be’

The king strode forward confidently, but on his seventh stride the ground rose up in a mound hiding his view of the village below. The witch then went on:

‘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 I myself an eldern tree.’

And so the petrified king stands rooted to the windswept hilltop with his circle of soldiers and the five knights, plotting treason, behind him.

As well as the Stone Age and Bronze Age standing stones, around 2300 years ago there was an Iron Age farming settlement situated just to the north of the King Stone. There is evidence of a boundary ditch, house and storage pits for holding grain. There was also a Roman settlement in the fields to the west of the King Stone. To the east of the King Stone, a Saxon cemetery, in use around 1400 years ago, has been found.

Therefore, this place was not just another Cotswold hilltop, but something special that drew people to it over many thousands of years. It is a truly magical place to visit at any season and in any weather. 

Blog Articles about the Cotswolds by Ralph Green