On ancient ground at the border of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, the Rollright Stones are a combination of three different megalithic monuments, the earliest of which dates back to Neolithic times.
Constructed of the oolitic limestone common to the area, the three individual monuments now known as The King Stone, The Whispering Knights, and The King’s Men date from the 4th to 2nd millennium BC. It is thought that it was part of a tradition with respect to the sacred ground upon which the stones lie.
By the 15th century AD, folklore had surrounded the stones and told a story of how they were once a king and his knights, turned to stone by a malevolent witch. Such stories were told late into the 19th century, when archaeologists and historians became intrigued by the site leading to investigations and excavations in the early 20th century.
THE KING’S MEN
This stone circle is dated back to between 2500BC and 2000BC, has a diameter of 33 metres, and contains 77 separate stones. It is theorized that the circle, upon being originally constructed, would have been a near-perfect circle. It is also thought that the architects knowingly positioned the smooth, flat surfaces of the stones facing inwards. Archaeologists estimate that it would have taken just over 4000 man-hours to complete the monument, taking a team of twenty three weeks of constant work. The current monument is partly reconstructed due to recent vandalism and the re-erection of fallen stones, slightly moving them out of position.
THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS
The oldest of the three monuments, the Whispering Knights were concluded to be the remnants of a Neolithic burial chamber. Four stones still stand, forming the rough outline of a square chamber, while a fifth lies in the centre and is thought to be the collapsed roof. When under investigation in the 1980s, Neolithic pottery was found around the site and it was revealed that the chamber itself was a stand-alone, having never been attached to a larger structure. It was hypothesized that the builders used wooden sledges and ramps in order to transport the stones and erect them in place, with the capstone roof being rolled up a ramp made from collected stones using some form of a pulley system.
THE KING STONE
A single monolith, the well-worn King Stone stands almost 2.5 metres high just over 70 metres north of the King’s Men. Unlike the other megaliths in the area, the original date and reason of construction remain a mystery, with dozens of different theories emerging over the millennia. The most prominent and accepted theory is that it is simply a grave marker, and it has been estimated that the original stone weighed almost 2.5 tonnes, although it has been considerably worn down over time.
A POPULAR PLACE
The stones have featured in many TV shows over the years, as well as being included in the lyrics of some English folk songs. Most notably, the stones were used as a fictional group of standing stones called the “Nine Travellers” for the 1978 Doctor Who story The Stones of Blood. They also are the central motif in Penelope Lively’s children’s novel The Whispering Knights.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Chipping Norton Rd, Chadlington, Chipping Norton
Oxfordshire, England, OX7 3PE
+44 (0)1608 641 993
- Address: Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom, OX7 5QB
- GPS: 51.9755709,-1.5712872999999945
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: OX7 5QB
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: Poor
- Image Credits: Paul Vincent