The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Devil's Quoits



Beacon Hill is a very conspicuous landmark, just above Eynsham Bridge, on the Berkshire side of the Thames, about two and a half miles in a straight line from the "Quoits." [..] The devil was playing quoits on Beacon Hill on a Sunday, and in a rage at being told it was wrong, he threw these three to where they are now.
One of the quoits standing in Walker's Field was once taken away and put over a ditch called the "Back Ditch" in the "Farm Close" to make a bridge; but it was always slipping, and although often put back, it would not rest, and they were obliged at last to take it back to where it now stands. Wheel marks can still be seen on it - (From Chas. Batts, labourer, of Stanton Harcourt, aged 35, who had it from his father. January 1 1898).
{Mr. Akerman, in 1858, records a rationalised version of the same story, as follows: "There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that the northernmost stone was once removed by an occupier of the land, and laid across a watercourse, where it served as a bridge over which waggons and carts for some time passed, and that it was restored to its old locality at the request of one of the Harcourt family. A grove in this stone, eight inches from the top, seven inches in width, and about three inches deep, is believed to have been caused by the wheels of the vehicles when it lay prostrate."}

{Joseph Goodlake of Stanton Harcourt (now of Yarnton), aged 63, in March, 1901, gave me the following particulars which he had from his father: "When the war was in England, the fighting ended at Stanton by those stones, and from there across to Stanlake Down by Cut Mill. Harcourt was the general; he was Emperor in England; he is buried in the church with his sword and gun and clothes." Further: "When the war was in England the officers used to hide behind them" (the Devil's Quoits) "from the bullets," and the men used to pick the bullets out of them when my informant was young.}

{The legend connecting the Quoits with a battle is confirmed by a story told by Tom Hughes [Scouring of the White Horse, 1859]: "An old man in that village" (Stanton Harcourt) "told me that a battle was fought there, which the English were very near losing, who was in the thick of it, and called out, 'Stan' to un, Harcourt, stan' to un, Harcourt,' and that Harcourt won the battle, and the village has been called Stanton Harcourt ever since."}
From:Stray Notes on Oxfordshire Folklore, by Percy Manning, in Folklore, Vol. 13, No. 3. (Sep. 29, 1902), pp. 288-295.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th September 2006ce
Edited 30th September 2006ce

Comments (1)

I first visited Stanton Harcourt back in1996. My father had not long died and i was going through his genealogical research which placed significant forbears in the churchyard there. So after a summer school at Oxford i set out to investigate Stanton Harcourt along with some other sites in that part of the Thames Valley linked to our family. Having an interest in the Neolithic landscape i thought i'd follow up a reference to the Devil's Quoits but couldn't find them. There had been a Time Team prog in 1995 on animal remains found in the gravel excavations the previous year and i was enthused by memories of that. I don't know what i had expected to see but the ravages of gravel removal and continuing presence of the industrial preoccupation made itself felt. On the other hand it co-exists with a healthy leisure activity and i have since passed that way to take advantage of the handy campsites nearby. A recent visit reawakened certain thoughts and google search led me to these pages and was gratified see that a reconstruction has been attempted though latterly it seems to have faltered. Looking at the maps and reading through the notes it would seem to be an important neolithic site. I couldn't find a mention of where the stones might have been brought from. I am thinking large bits in the glacial deposit which presumably accounts for all that gravel, a large part of which now surrounds us in the form of concrete. Posted by alanjc
21st April 2008ce
You must be logged in to add a comment