From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
Rollright Stones
Statistics
Category
County
Coordinates
Grid
Condition
Age
Cost
Stone Circle
Oxfordshire
51° 58' 31.9" N 1° 34' 15.0" W
SP296308 
Good
3800 - 1500BC
£1
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The Rollright Stones are a complex of different monuments consisting of the King Stone, the Kings Men stone circle, the Whispering Knights burial chamber, Bronze age round barrow and cairn, Iron age settlement, Roman settlement and a saxon cemetery.

The oldest monument are the Whispering Knights which is the remains of a Portal Dolmen burial chamber, built around 3800 - 3000 BC. The Kings Men stone circle are a ceremonial monument built around 2500 - 2000 BC. Early in the 17th century only 26 stones were standing, but in 1882 there was a major re-erection of the remaining stones. Most of them are under 1.2m (4ft) high and they look like huge rotten teeth.

The King Stone is a large single standing stone most likely to have been erected to mark a bronze age cemetery which was in use around 1800 - 1500 BC. The King Stone may originally have been somewhat bigger than it is now as people used to chip pieces off the stone for a good luck charm. These included soldiers who took the chips into battle, and Welsh drovers who came by with their herds of cattle. There are many other legends attached to the King Stone.

Notes

The legend says that all the stones in this area were once human beings: a king and his army. They were met by a witch who owned the land over which the ambitious conqueror marched. She said to the king

'Seven long strides shalt thou take, If Long Compton thou can see King of England thou shalt be'

And the king shouted: 'Stick, stock, stone, As King of England I shall be known.

But when he had taken the seven strides, all he could see was the Archdruids Barrow, which blocked his view of the village in the valley below. The witch cried:

'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.'

So the King became the solitary King Stone, his men the Rollright Stones circle, and his knights the Whispering Knights burial chamber.

It is said that dreadful noises were heard when a man, using 24 horses, removed the stone to his house; when he took it back only two horses were needed for the return journey.

Another story tells how the King Stone goes down to a spring in Little Rollright spinney to drink, but only when he hears Long Compton church clock strike midnight.

According to the 18th century antiquarian William Stukeley, near the King Stone was a flat area of turf where young people meet 'at a special time and make merry with cakes and ale.' People also used to gather there on Midsummer Eve. In 1895 A.J. Evans reported that they stood in a circle round the King Stone, and when the elder tree was cut and bled, the stone was said to move his head.

Another one is that the King's Men are uncountable. A baker who tried to ascertain their number by placing a loaf on top of every stone was not successful, because he did not have enough loaves.

Another story tells that at midnight on New Year's Day the stones go downhill to drink at a spring in Little Rollright spinney.