Rollright Magic

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The Rollright Stones is a site of three Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments near the village of Long Compton on the borders of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire in the English Midlands. Constructed from local limestone, the three monuments are known as the King’s Men, the King Stone and the Whispering Knights, and are distinct in their design

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Photograph By: William Hands

and purpose, and were built at different periods in late prehistory. The stretch of time during which the three monuments were erected bears witness to a continuous tradition of ritual behaviour on sacred ground, from the 4th to the 2nd millennium.

The Location

The Rollright Stones are located on the contemporary border between the counties of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, two-and-a-half miles north-northwest of the town of Chipping Norton, and one-and-three-quarters of a mile west of the smaller village at Great Rollright. The monuments sit on the scarp of the Cotswold Hills, just as the scarp forms a ridge between the Stour valley to the north and the Swere valley to the south.

The stories of the stones

The stones have been at the centre of many tales and stories, including the tale reported in a rhyming version by William Camden in 1610, that a king was riding across the county with his army when he was accosted by a local witch called Mother Shipton, who said to him:

“Seven long strides thou shalt take, says she

And if Long Compton thou canst see,

King of England thou shalt be!”

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Photograph By: William Hands

His troops gathered in a circle to discuss the challenge and his knights muttered amongst themselves– but the king boldly took seven steps forward. Rising ground blocked his view of Long Compton in the valley and the witch cackled:

“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 elder tree!”

The king became the solitary King Stone, while nearby his soldiers formed a cromlech, or circle, called the King’s Men. As the witch prepared to turn herself into an elder tree, she backtracked into four of the king’s knights, who had lagged behind and were whispering plots against the king. She turned them to stone as well, and today they are called the Whispering Knights.

Website for the stones: http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk/

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Photograph By: William Hands
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