cotswolds travel guide Rollright Stones, Chipping Norton
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Antiquarians date this monolithic mystery as pre Stonehenge, locked in local legend the stones are said to be a petrified army from long ago. Some people refer to it as the Cotswolds Stonehenge, the circle of stones measures 100ft across and consists of 77 Stones. A little way off there is another small groups known as the ‘Whispering Knights’ and a further stone on the other side of the road known as the Kings Stone.
Legend has it that Roland the Brave, set out to conquer all of England, when they arrived on this windswept hill on the North East Cotswolds a Witch suddenly appeared and promised the would-be Conqueror
‘If long Compton thou can see, then King of all England thou shall be. Roland said ‘stick stock stone, as king of England I shall be known’
Roland wishing to be king took 7 strides forward and suddenly a great ridge rose up in front of him, blocking the view of Long Compton, the old witch cackled, and said, ‘as long Compton thou cant thou see king of all England thou shalt not be, thou and thy men, hoar stones shalt be, and I shall be an elder tree’ This rhyme was printed in 1586 and the Witch was known as Mother Shipton.
It is believed the 5 whispering knights, as though they are huddling together is thought to have been used to construct a burial chamber.
The kings stone standing at 2.4m high, is believed to have been erected in 1800 to 1500 BC to mark a Bronze Age cemetery, the stone circle known as the kings men is believed to have been used for communal ceremonies.
It is worth noting that Long Compton has long been associated with witches right up until a coven in the 1960’s and was reputed to have the largest coven of witches in the Cotswolds.
In the present day, the stone circle is still thought of by some to hold healing powers and gifts are left on the stones.
Located along the hill of Rollright is one of England’s oldest tracks known as the Jurassic way, which extends 88 miles from Lincolnshire to Salisbury Plain.
Midsummers Eve; people gather at the elder tree which lies in the hedge row between the kings men and the kings stone, the tree is in blossom and they cut one of the branches to see if it bleeds, then checking the Kings stone to see if he turns his head to look.
The Kings stone is also thought to have powers to increase fertility, in the 19thC it was common for young ladies to put their ears to the Whispering Knights stones to hear their future.
For many years it was a widespread belief that chipping of parts of the Kings stone would act as an amulet to ward of the devil and to give courage in battle. A large hollow on the east side of the king’s stone is testament to this.
One folklore story connected to the Rollright Stones is that if anyone should remove a stone from the site they would suffer the consequences, well-illustrated by the tale of the farmer who took away the capstone of the Whispering Knights to act as a bridge across the brook at Little Rollright. After an exhausting ordeal using ‘a score of horses’ to drag the stone down to the brook, the farmer and his helpers laid it across to form the bridge. But every morning the stone was found lying in the grass having somehow turned over in the night. Deciding that the stone was more trouble than it was worth the farmer managed to return it using only a single horse to pull it up the hill.
The Stones are open to the public daily all the year round including being available to night-time stargazers