Location

Near Little Rollright, 1 mile south of Long Compton, Oxfordshire.

 

Overview

The Rollright Stones are not a single entity, rather it is a generic name applied to a small archeological landscape that encompasses a very diverse group of pre-historic monuments, broadly constructed over some three and a half millennia, yet all situated within an area of approximately 500 square metres. The three stone monuments that comprise the Rollright Stones may have been created in different times and for unrelated purposes, yet they share a common material, and all the boulders may have been sourced from within as little as 500 metres of the site.

 

Refer to the aerial photograph to better understand the location of the following monuments. The first to be constructed was the Whispering Knights Burial Chamber, 3800 to 3000 B.C., the remnants of which consist of three upright pillars, various smaller stones, and a collapsed slab that would have formed the roof. Several hundred metres to the west is the King's Men Stone Circle, a circular array of about 50 stones, erected between 2500 and 3000 B.C.

 

100 metres to the north-east of this is a Bronze Age Burial Cairn, 2000-1600 B.C., with possible round barrows of the same date alongside, and a further two of these, 2000-1500 B.C. to the south of the Stone Circle. A single standing stone, known as the King's Stone, likely a marker for what is clearly a Bronze Age graveyard, was placed on the Cairn 1800-1500 B.C. A Bronze Age Round Barrow, 1900-1400 B.C., is located to the front of the Cairn, and about 100 metres to the west of it is a possible, undated, Neolithic Burial Chamber which has been flattened and is barely visible on the ground as anything more than a slight rise.

 

Moving towards the Iron Age, a trackway and field boundary, 700-400 B.C., has been discovered running north-west, from just north of the Whispering Knights, in the general direction of the Cairn. Where this runs to is unclear, but it may well have come from the Iron Age settlement, now invisible at ground level, built 300-100 B.C. immediately to the east of the Cairn. Containing a house and pits used for grain storage, this may have been enclosed by a dry stone wall, cut from a 1.8 metre deep trench.

 

Of a different age, a Romano-British settlement, 100-300 A.D., has been found in the fields to the west of the Cairn, and a Saxon cemetery, circa 600 A.D., about 100 metres north of the Whispering Knights.

 

You may be wondering where the noble names of the visible stone monuments originated. The delightful legend that gave rise to them states that a King and his men were marching through the Cotswolds when they encountered a witch, who said to the King:

 

Seven long strides thou shalt take, and

If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England shalt thou be.

 

Naturally, the King took up the challenge and began to make his way towards the edge of the hill in the hope of seeing the village of Long Compton below him, but as he was about to make his final stride, the witch cheated him by throwing up a mound of earth to block his view; this is burial cairn. His task a failure, the King and all his men were turned to stone where they stood; hence the King's Stone on the burial cairn, the King's Men Stone Circle, and, leaning conspiratorially together and speaking treachery at some distance from the rest, the Whispering Knights Burial Chamber.

 

There is a small charge for entry to the monuments, presumably used for the maintenance of the onsite lawnmower that is used to keep the foliage to a minimum. There is no manned presence to extract this fee, instead there is a box and a wealth of confidence that visitors will pay; many probably do not, which, frankly, I can understand if the state of the grass-cutting is anything to go by. While an excellent job has been made of clearing the paths and the land around the monuments, the stones themselves are quite overgrown and so it is difficult to appreciate them in all their glory. There may well be a very good reason for this; the stones are delicate and, although this should not be an issue for any competent professional with a pair of shears and a pride in their work, it may not be politic to have someone regularly hacking around the base of the stones too much. They are not so delicate, however, as to prevent a tractor mower from being ridden in between an opening in the King's Men Stone Circle to chew up the interior. In summary, a visit during the winter months, when the grass and weeds are low of their own accord, is probably advisable for maximum appreciation.

 

Photographs

The Rollright Stones

The Rollright Stones

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