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Rollright Stones


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A lively story is told about this prehistoric monument in Oxfordshire, which consists of a circle of stones plus a single taller stone, some 50 yards off, called the King Stone. An invading king had encamped his army on the hill, encouraged by a witch's promise that if he could reach the crest in seven strides and see the village of Long Compton in the valley, he would be king of all England. It seemed easy, but the witch cheated him, raising a mound to block the view. He and his men became stones, and she an elder.

It is said that the King Stone goes down to the stream to drink ‘when he hears the church clock strike midnight’; the stones of the circle sometimes dance in the air. The elder tree bleeds if cut on Midsummer Eve, at which the King Stone nods approval. Anyone trying to remove the stones meets bad luck, and it is impossible to count them—a baker who tried to do so by putting a loaf on each stone found one always disappeared. In the 19th century, some said fairies lived underground near the King Stone; others thought chips from the King Stone brought good luck.

Descriptions of the Rollright Stones begin with Camden in the 16th century, and the legends grow more detailed as time passes; the fullest account is by L. V. Grinsell, The Rollright Stones and Their Folklore (1977).


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