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The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues

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<b>The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues</b>Posted by HobImage © William Stukeley, M.D. F.R. & A.S.
Nearest Town:Keynsham (7km NE)
OS Ref (GB):   ST600633 / Sheets: 172, 182
Latitude:51° 22' 0.5" N
Longitude:   2° 34' 28.73" W

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Stanton Drew – new Great Circle entrance found


New evidence of archaeological features in and around the three prehistoric stone circles at Stanton Drew has been revealed... continues...
moss Posted by moss
14th October 2011ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

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Fieldnotes

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Drove from Hetty Peglar to Stanton Drew, still a sunny Sunday. It felt like we were driving through a posh private housing estate to the site itself. I think it was my headspace being off kilter but I found this place difficult.
The stones glittering pink & hoary are lovely. The earth here is a great rust colour; it looks so rich & fecund!
Unfortunately fecundity; "she", "mother" & "healing" was all I heard for the next hour as a group of people pranced about with flowers & bongos in the smaller circle. Oh dear what do I sound like? Each to their own, peace & love & all that! Can't we have designated days!
Some huge stones; odd rectangular shapes. Seems to have a henge? Benevolent cows everywhere, I even petted one! Hurrah.
Overheard a comment that we weren't in the vibe cos we were taking photos on a mobile phone; better than a conversation we heard from a female group member telling "Jemima" that she'd better use the rotivator on that particularly awkward part of the garden! Right Carol, shut up.
Really it's a fantastic place, we'll pick a better time on our next visit.
The Cove is lovely.
Posted by carol27
22nd September 2015ce
Edited 25th September 2015ce

To me Stanton Drew is one of the best and one of the worst stone circles in Britain, on the one hand the stones are massive colourful giants gnarled with ages unguessed, and theres not just one circle but three, and not just three circles but a cove too, but...
On the other hand more than half the stones are pushed over perhaps into pits dug to recieve them, so now they barely poke through the grass,
and the Great circle is almost too big to take it in as a whole circle, the passage from the big field to the south west circle was muddy last time (the kind of mud that stinks and melts wellies), this time it was bovine rush hour . The south west circle is loads different in character to the other two, it occupies a small hillock and the stones are smaller.
Although there may be two hands, a visit to Stanton drew is always worth the long drive (unless you live in Bristol) and one I will continue to make, news of the cove being part of a longbarrow and a lost henge surrounding the stones, just makes the place all the more interesting.
postman Posted by postman
1st August 2010ce
Edited 1st August 2010ce

Today met up with Bristol based Friend for another little stony adventure; same Friend as I got lost in Cornwall with. Some reservations as a very limited bus service served by the *672 small bus (see below for details) which went the scenic Chew Valley route. Friend said the driver bore a striking resemblance to Otto from the Simpsons as he was wearing a bandana and dark glasses. When he asked us if we were going to the Stones somehow it boded well for the visit.

I had printed off the field notes from TMA which I read on train; all were distinguished contributors though Treaclechops of 2003 shone out with a sense of fun and wit (as her field notes always do when by chance I stumble upon them). I will try therefore not to duplicate what has already been written and just give a few impressions of our visit. We picked up the helpful English Heritage leaflet from the gate and dropped some money in the empty sounding honesty box.

I found the diagram in the leaflet very helpful as we made our way slowly down the slope to look at the stones from all perspectives. Looking uphill in the diagonal direction of the church tower seems to give the impression of walking towards and into a 'ritual site'. After half an hour or so we made our way back up to the South West Circle though needed to circumnavigate a small field of dairy cows to get to it. All the stones in this circle are now lying flat; it was however an interesting perspective to look downhill towards the Great Circle and small NE circle.


* Details of how to get to Stanton Drew by public transport:
The 672 from Stop CP on Colston Avenue, leaves 11.35am arrives Stanton Drew (Druid Arms) 12.46pm. Although just over an hour it was a drive through along scenic lanes with fabulous views.
Return journey from outside the Druid Arms at 15.11pm.
NB: These are the only two journeys to run but give well over two hours for visit.
tjj Posted by tjj
6th July 2010ce

I have visited this site on a couple of occasions and can't really add much to what has already been said other than this place is well worth a visit. It is very large with many large stones. The last time I visited the field had cows in it which made little Dafydd very happy! The honesty box and information sheets were still there when I last visited. Posted by CARL
16th June 2010ce

After a trip to the SW Circle, a walk through the farmyard and back to the official entrance, there's a box to leave your fee (£1.00 as at 21.9.09), together with the A4 sheets mentioned by Moth. NB: Dogs aren't allowed in the field.

Like Rhiannon, I felt rather unmoved by the Great Circle itself. It's huge, but many of the stones lie prostrate or are simply missing. It was also occupied by a herd of cows when I visited (they were lying down and showed no interest at all, which given some of my recent experiences was a blessed relief!). To avoid them, I walked around the southern arc of the circle (they were camped out in the north) and made my way to the rather confusing collection of upright stones at the east and and NE side. The "Avenue" runs from the east side of the Great Circle and includes some lovely stones, but its overall condition is rather jumbled.

The NE circle though is an absolute joy, one of the best I have visited. A nice size, it contains some massive blocks of oolitic limestone/red sandstone. Some are very squat and square, impassive as (I think someone else noted) Easter Island heads. A lovely spot, even under an overcast sky. I stayed here, undisturbed and alone, for about half an hour. At this point some of the younger members of the cow herd decided to get up and come over, so it seemed a good time to make my excuses and leave. Back round the southern side, just as some other visitors arrived to have the Circles to themselves. An absolutely essential site, especially if you live in Gloucestershire and yearn for something other than barrows for a change!
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
11th November 2009ce
Edited 12th November 2009ce

I visited on a dull, grey day and my mood didn't lighten when I realised that there were "ceremonies" being conducted within the circles. A group of women were being (for want of a better phrase) sprititually massaged by a middle aged man, whilst listening to "plink plink" music. Grrrrrr.....my issues with this kind of behaviour is that it makes the stones almost inaccessible for any other visitors. This was a Sunday morning (11am-ish) so I would assume it was pretty likely that others would want to visit at this time.

10 minutes later, a coach party of pensioners turned up but they were at least interested and I got a bit excited when I realised that Mike Parker Pearson was the tour guide! Once upon I time, I got excited when I met Michael Stipe; these days I'm an archaeology groupie!

I liked Stanton Drew but it felt a wee bit empty to me. Maybe it was the miserable weather but it didn't lift me in the usual way...maybe I ned to return and have a better experience?
Vicster Posted by Vicster
30th June 2006ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

They say size isn't everything. Stanton Drew's Great Circle may have the second largest diameter in the country, but (on this occasion at least) it left me unmoved and I found much more to interest me in the smaller circles and the views of the surrounding landscape.

The large circle and its smaller cousin to the NE are close to the river Chew, at a point where it gets rather sinuous. Ideally I would have liked to start down by the river and walked up to the circles, up along the avenues – this is surely the direction in which the complex was meant to be approached? Not only do the avenues point you this way, but the EH magnetometer survey (linked to by Chris Collyer on the main page) revealed that the original (huge) Neolithic henge had its entrance in this direction.

If you walk as far as the fence will let you by the north east circle, you will realise that the circles are situated on quite a slope. You need to walk uphill (and curiously, not straight uphill, but across the slope to the smaller circle) to process up the avenues to the circles. It would not be easy – in fact, I think it would be impossible in the case of the great circle – to see what was going on in there until you got closer. Maybe this is deliberate. There's much to be said for conducting your affairs with an element of mystery and hiddenness (think Christian rood-screens etc). Imagine the imposing effect when the timber circles stood there (see below).

The small north east circle is (and I mean this) fantastic. Not only has it managed to retain its complete quota of stones (eight), it seems to be the most perfectly and pleasingly proportioned circle I have ever visited. The stones are huge compared to the space they enclose. They create an extremely agreeable space. My distinguished companion Nigel seemed to nurture similar warm thoughts towards these stones.
The EH magnetometer survey showed that there had been four holes in the centre of this circle – were these 'ritual pits' or the sockets for more stones, now disappeared?
{I spotted this particular circle from a plane when flying into land at Bristol airport: something you may also like to try to take your mind off your nausea}

Staring you in the face from this circle is Maes Knoll, a distinctively shaped flat-topped hill and Iron Age fort. On its left end we could see a bump (known as the 'tump'?). How much of the hill's shape is natural and how much man-made I don't know, but it surely drew the eye from Stanton Drew even in the Neolithic. I'd like to think Hautville's Quoit and the hill are in a direct line with the circle, but I fear having looked at the map this isn't true. [However, since this I've read that the the great and NE circles line up with the Cove, and the Great and SW circles line up with the Quoit]. Folklore says the Quoit was thrown from Maes Knoll, which at least connects the sites in local consciousness.

Although I didn't exercise my imagination enough to appreciate it, the main 'arena' of the Great Circle must have looked outrageous in its heyday. Nine concentric circles of pits (up to 95m in diameter) were found by the magnetometer survey. Each pit was 1-2m in diameter and it is thought that at least some of them contained massive wooden posts, as at Woodhenge. Perhaps they formed part of a building, or maybe the area was open to the sky. Whatever, the pit circles are the largest and most numerous found anywhere so far. Later of course the stones were put up at the perimeter of the circle, and that is all we can see today.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th August 2004ce
Edited 28th July 2006ce

Stanton Drew - The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues - 30.12.2003

I finally got back to Stanton Drew ten years after my aborted first try - see notes below. Where did those ten years go?

I think the access may have already changed from Moth's recent notes. The gate at the honesty box is a small normal gate (swing gate). But 30 metres onwards I then had to negotiate two narrow kissing gates in close proximity before I got in the field. The field was pretty lumpy and full of cow shit, but was pretty firm under foot, even in December.

The two accessible circles are amazing. This complex (adding in The Cove, the South West circle, and Hautville's Quoit) should be mentioned in the same breath as Avebury and Stonehenge, but rarely is, probably because, 1) the two circles and their avenues weren't open for much of the 1990's, Hautville's Quoit is a pitiful sight (on farm land), and the South West Circle has been on private land for as long as I can remember, 2) the lack of tea shop, guide book, huge car park, signposting, etc, and 3) the alleged initial reaction from a distance; that it's just a lot of jumbled stones.

But Stanton Drew rocks - big time. Easy to get to (I think), easy to access now, enormous stones, amazing history. This is stunning. Everyone should visit (not all at once please! The car park probably holds about 4 cars, and the other car park at The Cove isn't huge). The North East Circle is the greatest stone circle I've seen so far on my travels.

It's a disgrace that there wasn't more uproar when the two main circles were closed; it's almost as though this complex doesn't want the attention it deserves. I am so happy that we can now all go to these two circles, virtually anytime we like (well....9am to sunset the sign says, any day except Christmas Day).

Propaganda and access has stopped this becoming seen as circles / complex that are truly 'great'. This is NOT a jumbled mess of stones. Anyone with half a brain will be able to immediately see that there is a large circle (mainly fallen), and then a smaller circle (mainly intact and with enormous stones almost on a par with Avebury). The other stones (the avenues) need a bit of thought but to suggest this is a jumble of stones is a ludicrous assault on human intelligence.

I had this amazing place to myself. No sounds at all except planes droning towards Lulsgate (Bristol Airport) and some birds. Please visit.
pure joy Posted by pure joy
4th January 2004ce

See main Weddings at Stanton Drew page for Access notes.

Tuesday 16 September

While there John and I had the Great Circle down as marginally smaller than Long Meg and her Daughters but when I looked in Burl later, it's actually a bit bigger. As my copy of Burl lives in my rucksack I really ought to remember to look at the damn thing on site a bit more often!!!

As we walked round the Great Circle looking at the fallen stones, it became simultaneously easier to imagine the circle when the stones were standing and more frustrating that the vast majority are fallen.

This is an amazing place, that would be truly mind-boggling in a Hurlers, or Machrie Moor way if only the stones were standing!!. Kind of almost in an Avebury way if you look just at Avebury itself, the West Kennett Avenue & Longstone Cove. (Leave out Silbury & everything else though, because that's where Avebury leaves everything else trailing!!)

John's still slowly converting me to the opinion that more circles should be 'restored' - not in the Cullerie sense, 'just' re-erected as well as possible. Never would've said that a few months ago! (I'll probably change my mind again anyway next time I see a 'badly' or 'overdone' one!!!)

In fact, you only have to look at the damaged but BEAUTIFUL NE circle to see what I'm on about. If the Great Circle was anywhere near as complete as this, we'd all be mind-blown bunnies I reckon.

Big stones, most of them standing. Nice proportions

Maybe it was the defiant insubordination of the smaller circle in close proximity to a much bigger 'monument', or maybe it was something about the proportions. Or maybe it was something else. But somehow, the NE circle in relation to the Great Circle put me in mind of Cnoc Fillibhear Bheag in relation to Callanish.

Well, I know what I mean, even if nobody else does!

(The Avenues are sh**ged and seem very strangely aligned, but they're still a nice little bonus!)

Also see South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.
Moth Posted by Moth
9th October 2003ce
Edited 10th October 2003ce

Tuesday 16 September 2003
Access coming from the west, we took the B3130, turning right at the signpost for Stanton Drew. This junction is remarkable for a strange little cottage on an 'island'. One of the most bizarre domiciles I've ever seen - looks more than a little like a toadstool. Shame about the incongruous big brick chimney.

Driving into Stanton Drew, the circle is clearly signposted to the left. There's a small car park, and entrance to the field where the main circles stand is by a (kissing?) gate with an English Heritage honesty box.

And if you're lucky (we were) a little stock of b/w photocopied A4 single page info sheets. Nice touch but makes it annoying that they don't do it more often!

There's another kissing gate just before you reach the Great Circle. Looks bizarre because (at least at the moment) the only fence either side of it is a single string! This is not visible from more than a few yards away, so it just looks like a gate standing in a field!

The ground around the main and north-east circles is reasonably even, on a gentle slope.

Access to the south west circle is, from memory, over a stile and possibly through a gate too. Or 2 gates. Or 2 stiles. (Sorry!) The small field is also considerably less even and level.

Tuesday 16 September 2003
I'd been looking forward to this one for a very long time, since spotting it in Burl's ...Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany - many years ago, not long after I got the book.

Despite having read quite a bit about it, the place still surprised me, particularly just through the sheer size of the Great Circle, and I guess, the cohesiveness of the whole 'complex'. Guess it's not ALL that often that you visit sites that are so distinctly and unavoidably inter-related. Shame about Hautville's Quoit....

Also see The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues , South West Circle , The Cove and Hautville's Quoit.
Moth Posted by Moth
9th October 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Went here with the delightful Jane a couple of weekends ago. Interesting seeing it at the back end of winter, as oppose to the height of summer. Although the sky was the same fabulous blue as before, I think it needs trees in full leaf to bring out the redness of the stones. The sheep seemed happy enough, and watching the sweet little lambs gambolling around made me feel slightly guilty for serving up Honeyed Welsh Lamb in celebration of St. David's day the night before.

Ooo, whoops, is a christian saint allowed to be mentioned in relation to these sites? ;0)
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
31st August 2003ce

Stanton Drew has rather cleverly hidden itself in the back end of nowhere (if you’re searching for grub at 14:45hrs on a Friday lunchtime, anyway), and requires a scenic drive through rather fabulously named neighbouring villages . . . Norton Malreward . . . Norton Hawkfield . . . but does offer the chance of an excellent pint of Abbot Ale at the Rising Sun, Pensford. (Yes, I realize my map-reading skills are pants, especially as we were travelling west from Stoney Littleton!)

We finally found a corkingly good slap-up meal at the Maes Knoll Toby Carvery, Whitchurch, of all places. As we dined outside, the gray skies suddenly broke up, blue patches prevailed, and the sun shone down at last. ‘Hooray!,’ I thought, ‘Excellent light for stone circle photography!’

And it was splendid. Arriving at Stanton Drew, not really knowing what to expect, we made our way into another field of sheep, who were all casually doing their thing amidst some of the most stunning stones I have ever clapped eyes on. The colours were fantastic, and I have already been exhorting the delightful Jane to get down there with her field box and sketch book. Watch this space . . .

Most of the stones are massive red blocks, and although many of them have fallen (or were they pushed?), it is easy to visualize how magnificent and awe-inspiring they must have appeared in their original architectural form. Studded with white quartz, and subtly covered in ages-old lichens, they emanate a very peaceful and noble vibe.

Particularly impressive were the stones that looked like a heavily pregnant woman, and a ship’s figurehead, minus the head. Also intriguing were the three rectangular blocks that stood in a line; they had such an air of timeless resolution and wisdom about them.

I spent ages scrabbling about in the grass and sheep turds - these seem to be a recurring theme this summer - enjoying the stones exerting their energy on my photography. This time, I wasn't allowed to use a zoom lens. (See Long Meg for further notes on how stone circles control photography).

We stayed for a considerable time, not wanting to leave the idyllic complex of stones, content instead to watch the sheep using them as clearly deeply satisfying scratching posts. Wood pigeons soared past in the golden sunshine, and the stones glow with warmth, their scatterings of quartz glittering frostily.

It was a glorious summer evening, and the symphony of colour made me curse myself for not having a suitable film in my bag. Fortunately, the lovely Karen had her digital camera with her, and got some fabulous colour shots; post your photos, Karen! I hope I can justify this megalithic site with my black and white images. If not, I’ll have to return with a mix of film. That’ll be a hardship, then.
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
31st August 2003ce

Stanton Drew is a hidden gem, poorly signposted, just outside Bristol. The manner in which the site is presented hints at disagreement with ownership, a pathway being traced through obviously fenced land to the stones themselves.

Once we arrived nothing prepared me for the energy I felt. My dowsing rods twitched and soon I was aware of many lines of energy, the strongest appearing to run north to south.

After half an hour or so we felt sufficiently adjusted to enjoy our lunch, and found ourselves at The Druids Inn, which has 3 large stones in the beer garden. Checking alignment, these reek of ceremonial purpose, and it was quite odd watching children caper amongst them.

We paid a final visit to Stanton after our repast, and still the energies were noticeable, so my dowsing powers were not affected by sub conscious sensation. I allowed another visitor to try my rods, and the result appeared to replicate what we had earlier found.

lack of excavation, a powerful location and a stunning location make this site well worth a visit. What hides beneath the surface and in the stones can only be guessed at, but local folklore hints at the darker side of human nature.

Visit, but allow yourself time to become attuned.
Dominic_Brayne Posted by Dominic_Brayne
8th August 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Ooh la la - Stanton Drew is a hidden gem. Dunno why I ain't been here before. Its size takes your breath away. I arrived on a mid-summers evening - and not a soul was around.

It really is a mind fuck. The third largest circle in the UK, traces of a large wooden structure buried beneath the surface and little research done. I guess its overshadowed by Avebury et all. Which is bad - but bad meaning good...a total lack of other visitors really gave me time to soak in the stunning lush agricultural views and breath the place in.

If you're thinking of visiting - take a picnic ... oh yeah and check out the Cove (coven?) in the beer garden of the nearby Druids Arms.

A magical place that rivals Stannon ring on Bodmin Moor for sheer ambience.
Posted by fergusonian
9th July 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Visited 21st June 2003: Having spent a short hot night in central Bristol we drove to Stanton Drew in the early hours, with William tired and bemused in the back of the car (Alfie is used to waking up at silly times in the morning). We nearly didn't make it, because the Police had closed the A37 because of a serious motorbike crash.

We got to the stones just as a small group of Druids arrived (presumably the lazy ones who couldn't get up on time). We crossed the Great Circle behind the tardy Druids joined a small group of their pals, standing in the middle of the North East Circle. The Druids started invoking the Sun, and I took the opportunity to explain to William what a Druid is ("you know how Grandma goes to church..."). These were noisy Druids (are they all like that?) so we sidled away and found a quiet spot next to one of the avenue stones. From here we watched the dawn, with a scattering of other people (maybe thirty) around us doing the same.

The sky was a beautiful wash of colours for a while, with purple and pink and blue and orange shades mixing together. Then it slowly brightened, becoming more bland and less beautiful. The Druids seemed a bit restless, and said a few more things to encourage the sun to rise. This must have worked, because it did. Through the trees to the west it lit us up, and lit the stones up. The freshness of the morning was suddenly right in our faces, and there were ripples of content from everyone there.

After a while people began dispersing. The Druids gathered under a nearby tree and made even more noise. Louise distributed chocolate and we wondered around the stones. This was our first celebration of the Summer Solstice for 5 years, and it was well worth the effort. I don't think we'll miss it again in a hurry.
Kammer Posted by Kammer
3rd July 2003ce
Edited 4th August 2003ce

Such a large site, it's difficult to get a proper perspective – at least at Avebury you can climb a bank and see much of the circle laid out in front of you.

What I got here was a feeling of a large circle for 'proper' ritual, accompanied by a 'training' circle for the neophytes. No idea if this is how it was actually used, just a strong feeling I got.

It seemed to me too that the stones were made of the same rock as at the Rollrights – all eaten away and crumbly.
ocifant Posted by ocifant
16th March 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

A real survivor, big and bold, but like an old war horse, badly scarred and needing nurture. Despite being such a big complex - three circles! - it didn't get me going. It felt broken and somehow bereft. My state of mind perhaps? The stones are massive, impressive with highly worked flat surfaces, and as big as the monsters at Avebury. Impressively rose-coloured with peppermint lichen, the sun cast great dark shadows and allowed the spring green of the grass to sing. I made a sketch but came away feeling sad. Up at the Cove, by the church, conveniently situated in the garden of the Druid's Arms, a monumental stone of the weirdest shape defies gravity and bends over to the left. I leave feeling sad. Jane Posted by Jane
2nd March 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Wowee... this place is SERIOUS. Comparing this place to most of the circles I've seen is like comparing a punk rock gig to a chamber music concert. The stones are just wild - amazing browny-orange hues that look like crouching animals. I'm not sure I'd even dare to come here on a full moon - you could almost hear the power crackling away even on a grey Sunday afternoon.

All the more amazing because of the picture-postcard English village setting... imagine taking tea at the vicar's and he gets out his collection of shrunken heads to show you - that kind of vibe.

Big, scary, wonderful. Circles with tude.
Posted by moondog
4th December 2002ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Stanton Drew (circa summer of 1993)

I have racked my brain and cannot remember exactly when I visited Stanton Drew. I would guess it was the summer of 1993. The main circles were often considered 'closed' and I took a lovely photo of the 'Druid Stones Closed' sign, with the telephone wires seemingly radiating out of it. I asked at the farm next door, and a man told me that the guy who owned the land was a 'miserable sod' and a bit of an absent landlord. He suggested that I wander down on his (the farmers') land and get as close to the stones as I could, or even duck under the fence and take my chance - it was unlikely that the owner would be around. My natural aversion to shotguns meant that I wimped out of going closer, so I just looked at them from the fence. Also I was a relatively local lad so I knew I could visit again sometime.

Anyway, that's all in the past. This website has encouraged me to go back soon and see them properly.
pure joy Posted by pure joy
25th November 2002ce
Edited 2nd July 2003ce

A huge site, that gives you some idea (scale wise) of what might have been at Avebury. I visited alone, had a good couple of hours to myself, then watched the sunset from the smaller circle.

Pagan Hill nearby gives it's name to one of the country lanes. What an address!
IronMan Posted by IronMan
23rd January 2002ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Wow, this place is huge!
First visit yesterday, with only 20 mins daylight left, and we'll definitely return. Theres loads to take in, and you could definitely spend a day here.
The stones are very green (lichen), and although fallen, most stones are still in place, which really helps to visualise the site as it was.
One of Englands top sites, and as it says below-nobody comes!
Chris Posted by Chris
20th January 2002ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

First time at stanton drew. windy place. not as tourist friendly as the likes of your avebury etc, but hey, espesh dig the bouncing lambs in the farmers paddock ting by the entrance. Posted by wubble
18th January 2002ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Standon Drew is slowly getting the attention it deserves. There has been research, confirming the old lithos from the 17th and 18th centuries. Did anyone know that the 'Druids' Arms is agreat pub? Go there! And while we're at it, visit Maes Knoll hillfort as well - West Wansdyke starts there! You don't have a clue? Read this:
http://www.wansdyke21.org.uk/wansdyke/wanvisit96w.htm
and this:
http://www.wansdyke21.org.uk/wansdyke/wanwesteast/wanwest1.htm
Vortigern Posted by Vortigern
20th June 2001ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

The short avenue at the NE end apparently leads to an old dried up watercourse. A water ritual? rebirth? The circles are aligned with Windmill hill and Haut Bois-and a bloody church! Seemed to feel 'closed in ' when visiting, certainly hills surround a lot of the site. More dramatic than Avebury? possibly (and possibly bigger-watch this space) Posted by Mouse
28th June 2000ce
Edited 2nd July 2003ce

The second largest stone circle in Britain, 8 miles from the City and yet no one goes there... A quiet spot by the river with three (count 'em) circles, two avenues and outlying stones: a variation on Avebury, but nobody goes... The largest timber circle in the country and a Cove in a pub beer garden and nobody goes.... It IS lovely though. Posted by Dave M
25th June 2000ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Folklore

Add folklore Add folklore
John Wood mentions in the 1769 edition of his 'Description of Bath' that -
The predominant Colour of that part of the Stone in the Works of Stantondrue, supposed to have been taken from Oaky Hole, is Red; and it is so exceedingly hard, that it will polish almost as well as some of the purple Italian Marble, and is as beautiful: The other Stone is of two Colours, White and Grey; the white Stone seems to have been the Produce of Dundry Hill, but the grey Stone resembles the Sand Rocks about Stantondrue, and seems to have been taken from them.
Oaky Hole , I thought... where can that be? I think he's determined to get oaks in there because it's the favourite tree of druids. And where would a druid and his disciples hang out - a cave, like (so he says) Pythagoras and his disciples did. He says that the cave is situated by the City of Wells - so it's Wookey Hole. Geologists probably have alternative theories, but it's interesting as a mythological explanation that gets the druids in there. Wood hypothesised that Stanton Drew itself was a druidical temple and college.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd November 2016ce
Edited 22nd November 2016ce

Taken from Aubrey Burl's book "John Aubrey & Stone Circles".

(As a 12 year old John Aubrey spent time playing around Stanton Drew)

The chaos told the young Aubrey nothing.
Village gossip offered explanations. Some slabs were so ponderous that no man could have raised them. They were the work of giants. The name of one of them was known, Hackwell. He had been so strong that he had thrown an immensely heavy stone from a distant hill and it landed over a mile away on that ridge on the skyline just above the circles. There were rumours claiming Hackwell was so famous that he was buried in the nearby church at Chew Magna.

Others added a warning. The boy should never try to count the stones. It was impossible anyway because of the jumble but if anyone did reach the right number that person would suffer great misfortune, maybe even death for interfering in what was best left alone.

Another superstition relates how, on the sixth day of the full moon, at midnight, the stones walk down to the river to take a drink. But the best known whimsy, probably celebrated from Puritan pulpits as justifiable punishment for profaning the Sabbath, was that the stones were the petrified remains of a wedding party that had sinned.

A fiddler and his accompanists had played merry jigs for the dancers until Saturday midnight when, of course, the merry-making had to stop before Sunday began. Defiantly, the young bride refused to abandon her pleasure. She, her husband and all their guests would dance on. Midnight came.

The fiddler vanished. The Devil flashed, flared into the night. Everyone, bride, groom, parson, dancers, musicians, all of them instantly became stones wherever they were. And there they remain.

Superstitiously apprehensive locals told Aubrey that the sinners were still to be seen. Three stones by the church were the solidified bride, groom and parson. In the fields the rings were the rigid remnants of the dancers. The avenues were the tumbled lines of musicians.

The tale-tellers said that the fate of those wicked merry makers had been observed that dreadful night by horrified bystanders and had been remembered ever since in this neighbourhood.

“That a Bride goeing to be married, she and the rest of the company were metamorphos’d into these stones: but whether it were true or not they told me they could not tell.”

Reminiscing years later John Aubrey mused:

“I know that some will nauseate these old fables; but I do professe to regard to regard them as the most considerable pieces of [‘observable’ inserted] of Antiquity’ …. After all, was not Lot’s wife turned turned into a pillar of salt”

It would be almost another thirty years before he was experienced enough to see the devilish stones with a more sceptical archaeological eye. He was living in a superstitious world.
tjj Posted by tjj
8th June 2012ce
Edited 8th June 2012ce

What Bob down the pub was telling tourists in 1861. They deserved it, for their 'gaping rustic' remark.
Local intellect is undoubtedly highly mystified as to these relics. The children of the hamlet don't play at "hide and seek" about them after dark, and if public-house oracles are infallible, groans, &c. are not unfrequently to be heard in the stone-close, "when the moon is out," towards the sma' hours. One gaping rustic told us, "as how some do zay that it's a wedding, and that the fiddlers and the bride and groom were all petrified as they went to church." Now this idea is probably a fable of the seventeenth century, when music always preceded a couple to church. Another old dame said, "Others do zay, nobody can't count 'em; certain 'tis a baker did try with loaves on each, and they never could come right. But there 'tis, some do zay one thing, and zum another, that there's no believing none of 'em." So we thought, reader, don't you? An intelligent old farmer told us he had seen men dig several yards down without getting to the foundation of one of these stones. ...

From 'Cross Country' by Walter Thornbury (1861).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th February 2012ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Stanton Drew and folklore

The following which is taken from John Wood's book A Description of Bath of 1765 describes the superstition that lay round the Wedding stones of Stanton Drew as seen by the local people. People being turned to stone, and also drinking from the stones, which is a slightly different aspect of the story.

John Wood had a weird and wonderful theory about Stanton Drew and Druids, that belongs elsewhere, but in writing his book he gave valuable information as to the the existence of the two Tyning stones, and another folklore story about Hakill the Giant who in good giant tradition threw The Coit from Maes Knoll, a hill situated west from Stanton Drew, which also encompasses Maes Knoll Hillfort and the great Wansdyke barrier which either divided two kingdoms in the late British Iron Age or was some form of defense. The work of giants perhaps recognised by our 18th century inhabitants but not rationalised as they are today!

Stanton Drew in the County of Somerset
That's where the Devil played at Sue's request,
They paid the price for dancing on a Sunday.
Now they are standing evermore at rest.

The Wedding Stones
"The remains of this model bear the name of The Wedding, from a tradition that as a woman was going to be married, she and the rest of the company were changed into the stones of which they consist "No one," says the Country People about Stantondrue, was ever able to reckon the "number of these metamorphosed Stones", or to take "a draught of them" or tho' several have attempted to do both, and proceeded till they were either struck dead upon the spot, or with such an illness as soon carried them off.
This was seriously told to me when I began to a Plan of them (the stones) on the 12th August 1740 to deter me from proceeding: And as a storm accidentally arose just after, and blew down part of a Great Tree near the body of the work, the people were then thoroughly satisfied that I had disturbed the Guardian Spirits of the metamorphosed Stones, and from thence great pains were taken to convince me of the Impiety of intent I was about.

Hakim's Quoit

Large flat stone called Hakill on the north-east side of the river by which Stantondrue is situated: And this stone tho' greatly delapidated is till ten feet long, six feet broad, near two feet thick, and lies about 1860 feet from the centre of the circle.

....Now if we draw a line from the centre of the Circle D, to the centre of the Circle B and produce it westward 992 feet, it will terminate on three stones in a garden (Druid Arms now) by the parish church of Stantondrue: two of which stones are erect, and the other lies flat on the ground............. it will terminate on two stone lying flat on the ground in a field call the Lower-Tining (stones now vanished).

In plowing the ground of Maes Knoll as well as that of Solsbury Hill, the people frequently turned up burnt stones, and often find other Marks to prove each Place to have been long inhabited: the former, according to a Tradition among the people of the Country thereabouts, was the Residence of one Hakill, a Giant, who is reported to have toss'd the Coit that make part of the works of Stantondrue from the Top of that Hill to the place where it now lies: He is also reported to have made Maes-Knoll Tump with one spadeful of Earth, and to had the village underneath that Hill given him......

The 'wedding stones' story is found at other stone circles, the wedding taking place on a Saturday and lasting through the night into Sunday, when they were all turned to stone by the piper/harper, or in this case the 'devil'. The christian church again concocting a story to stop people enjoying themselves, one wonders where this story originally came into the history timeline.


Funnily in these tales caught from the past about Stanton Drew there is no 'drinking stone' myth whereby they would have gone down to the river Chew and refreshed themselves.

The 'Song of Stanton Drew' can be found here...

http://www.twistedtree.org.uk/stanton_drew.htm
moss Posted by moss
20th October 2009ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Much in former times has been written on their miraculous origin, and still superstition has not entirely died out, for a native told Prof. Lloyd Morgan that if he hit the stones with his hammer he would smell the brimstone.
Lloyd Morgan was professor of psychology at Bristol University. He 'spoke to the natives' on a field trip c1887.

From the Somerset Arch. Soc. Proc. (Bath Branch) for 1906.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd June 2005ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

The Reverend John Collinson mentions of the stones "it is an impiety to attempt reckoning their number."

Blimey, can't even count them without offending God, apparently. I suppose it's because a good Christian shouldn't associate him or herself with such superstitious nonsense.

'History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset' (c1780)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th July 2004ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

John Wood (the one who designed Bath's Crescent) wrote in 1750:
"No one, say the country people about Stantondrue, was ever able to reckon the number of the metaphosed stones, or to take a draught of them, though several have attempted to do both, and proceeded till they were either struck dead upon the spot, or with such an illness as soon carried them off."

When he tried to count them (why oh why, considering the warning) a cloudburst followed.

(quoted by J and C Bord in 'Prehistoric Britain from the air')
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
8th January 2004ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Miscellaneous

Add miscellaneous Add miscellaneous
All sunlit was the earth I trod,
The heavens were frankest blue;
But secret as the thoughts of God
The stones of Stanton Drew.
Sir William Watson (1858-1935)
baza Posted by baza
16th June 2007ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

The following information is taken from Jodie Lewis - Monuments... The Neolithic of Northern Somerset..
3 circles, 2 avenues, a cove and a henge, with of course the geo-phys'd timber circles. Great stone circle has a dia; of 112.2.m and has 26 stones, the great avenue is 49 m long and 10.4.m wide. It could well be that the timber, stone and earth phases are contemporary, with the inner sacred centre of timbers (either in situ/or rotted) being the focus round which the stone circle and the henge (for viewing) were viewed. The open/closed nature of the central timber structure could be augmented with hurdles/planks for hiding rituals. But of course timber and stone periods might be different, the stone circle just acknowledging the sanctity of the older timber circles
North-east circle is 44 m to the n/e and has 8 very large stones, the largest in the complex, diameter of the circle is 29.6.m. One of the things to be noticed about these stones, no female/male typology, just large square blocks of stone. Leading from this circle is the n/e avenue with 7 stones. Apparently in the centre of this circle were 4 anomalies (maybe pits) sharing an alignment as the four pairs of stones that are the circle, but these circles had orchards around them so therefore tree remains cannot be ruled out.
The South west circle is recorded in 1881 as having some of its stones removed for the fencing round an orchard, so presumably stones have been moved around. It lies 137,2 m s/w of the great circle, has a dia. of 44.2m and is comprised of 12 stones, and Jodie Lewis goes on to say stones have almost certainly been moved around. Again geophysics noted 3 concentric rings of pits within this circle, so again presumably another timber circle within the bounds of a stone circle.
Note; this is written down, not just for anyone reading it but for those two young men sheltering from the cold wind behind a stone (one playing some pan pipes) when I was there last autumn and when they asked for an explanation - did my best at the time but did'nt have the book...

http://web.arch.ox.ac.uk/archives/underhill/viewarchiveslide.php?imageID=26&albumID=1 map plan in the Underhill Archives showing the Avenue

As a note; Stanton Drew circles do not seem to relate to any outstanding landscape feature, such as Maes Knoll, but are focussed towards the river Chew, Jodie Lewis makes the point that at certain times of the year, due to flooding, the river turns red from the clay and soil leaching into the river., this would give it a significance as a meeting place (there is lithic scatter found near the site). This river also joins the River Avon further down at Keynsham were ammonites are found, such as the one at Stoney Littleton.

Part of the henge can still be seen in the foreground of Morfe's photo;

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/44696
moss Posted by moss
25th January 2007ce
Edited 25th January 2007ce

Aubrey visited Stanton Drew in the summer of 1664, but was unable to reach the stones because the field was full of ripening corn. He recorded that many of the stones had been removed and smashed during the previous few years by farmers covetous of extra land.

Leslie Grinsell suggests this explains 'the remarkable circumstance' of the lack of barrows in the area: that there may have been some but were ploughed out.
(in Grinsell's 'Archaeology of Wessex')
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th January 2004ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Links

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Digital Digging


An animation that gives an idea of what all the timber posts might have looked like.

Definitely do not watch this with a hangover. All the zooming in and out is bad enough if you're sober.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th March 2009ce

The H.M.J. Underhill Archive


A magic lantern slide from the H.M.J. Underhill Archive showing the North East Circle and "The Altar in the middle" as seen in the late 19th Century.
Kammer Posted by Kammer
7th October 2004ce

Prehistoric Society page for Stanton Drew


Posted by BrigantesNation
11th August 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

On Stanton Drew, Avebury and Stonehenge


A paper by Larry Bull, written in the light of geophysical surveys at Stanton Drew.
Posted by Larry
1st August 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

Megalithic Walks: Stanton Drew


Another stonking good page by the well travelled and learned Tickners, containing photos of the Great Circle, the North East Circle and one of the avenues.
Kammer Posted by Kammer
2nd July 2003ce
Edited 2nd July 2003ce

The Twisted Tree: Stanton Drew - The Legend


As the name of this page suggests, it contains a colourful version of the story behind the 'Weddings' name. It also has some photos, a description of the site and a diagram of the wood henge discovered by English Heritage in 1997.
Kammer Posted by Kammer
2nd July 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce

English Heritage


Results of geophysics survey at Stanton Drew.
Chris Collyer Posted by Chris Collyer
19th February 2003ce
Edited 19th July 2015ce