When visiting the stone circle this is an obvious ‘must-see’. Fortunately, as per the stone circle, I had the place to myself.
This was the clearest day I had visited the King Stone and the views over Long Compton were lovely.
I was looking forward to seeing the ‘wooden witch’ statue but unfortunately it has now been reduced to a pile of wood; still tied together by various bits of wire.
Despite having previously visited this site I didn’t realise (until reading the information boards) that a Bronze Age Barrow was discovered very near the stone.
I am not sure if the information boards are new or I hadn’t previously read them properly!
Pity about the metal railings but still worth a look. When I visited there were several people there with leyline rods (if that's what you call them?). A chap said that there are many lines which converge at the stone circle from all directions.
I love the idea of the info William Stukeley gave, that the young people of the area would gather at the flat area near the king stone (once erroneously assumed to be a barrow) once a year to dance, eat cakes and drink ale. Oh those were the days!
I love the folklore attached to the stone as well, and it doesn't at all appear creepy to me. The shape is well worth wondering about. My friend did geology for his first degree, so I set his mind ticking about natural ways to get that shape.
The King Stone had its usual effect on me – i.e., not very positive – and it was interesting when the radiant Lissy said she felt similarly about it. The delightful Jane pointed out that what we were seeing was not it’s original shape, but I wondered if that would actually make any difference to the vibe. Perhaps, if it had been really important, but over the years had been seriously desecrated; maybe the energy has been twisted. Sorry, being fanciful again.
And I wondered how Jane knew it wasn’t its original shape; I realize she’s got an important birthday coming up, but she can’t be *that* old . . .
Stopped here for a short while whilst on the tour of NW Oxfordshire with the lovely Karen and bewitching Fiona.
Never been that enamoured with this stone; it fills me with an uncertain vibe. It has a very sinuous shape, and interestingly, Fiona announced that she felt it to be very ghoulish, like a wraith twisting up from the earth. She could perceive a distorted skull within the rock, it's face contorted in agony. Chilling.
Karen got a couple of smashing pictures, however, and they show it in a much more friendly light. Perhaps the flowers softened the vaguely sinister air that trembles around this intriguing monolith.Then again, it had been a New Moon the day before, and we might have all been having a weird reaction to that and the thundery, monsoon-like weather . . . .
Rollright was one of the first circles I visited back in the early '90s, and the King Stone was the first time I saw some of the strange offerings that get left at these places.
Hanging from a nearby tree/bush was a silver spraypainted piece of toast.
Yeah, go figure....
This strangely shaped stone sits proudly, across the road from the circle. While the Rollright stones and the Whispering Knights are partly hidden this stone commands a much broader view from the land below.
There is yet another tradition connected with Rollrich Stones.
A certain man of wealth, the lord of the manor of Little Rollewright, Humphrey Boffin by name, resolved to remove the King's Stone to the courtyard of his own dwelling, about a mile distant, at the foot of the hill.
The country people dissuaded him from making the attempt, telling him that no good would come of it; but he, being an intemperate, violent man, would not be thwarted of his headstrong will, and commenced the attempt.
He thought to accomplish his purpose with a wagon and four horses, but, though the latter were of a famous breed and remarkably strong, they could not stir the stone a single inch. He then yoked another four to the team, but still without success; again and again he made the same addition, nor was it until four-and-twenty horses had been attached to the load, that he was able to effect its removal.
At length Humphrey Boffin triumphed, and the King's Stone stood in the centre of his own courtyard. But his triumph was of short-lived duration, for no sooner had the shades of night appeared, than an indescribable tumult appeared to surround his house, waxing louder and fiercer as the night drew on; nothing was heard but groans and shrieks, the clash of weapons, and the direful din of battle, which noises lasted till the morning, when all again was still. Humphrey Boffin was greatly frightened; but, for all that, his heart was not changed, and in spite of omens he swore he would keep the stone. The second night was worse than the first; on the third, the uproar of the two were combined, and then Humphrey Boffin gave in.
Adopting his wife's counsel (for she, clever woman, saw at once where the shoe pinched), he agreed to restore the King's Stone to the place where Mother Shipton had commanded it to stand. But, the difficulty was how to accomplish the task. It had taken four-and-twenty horses to drag the stone down hill. How many must there be to carry it up again? A single pair settled the question : they wer no sooner in the shafts than they drew the wagon with perfect ease; nor did they stop to breathe nor did they turn a hair on their up-hill journey!
The country people, however, were right. The attempt did Humphrey Boffin "no good;" the civil war breaking out shortly afterwards, his homestead was burnt and his house ransacked by Cromwell's troopers, and he himself, endeavouring to escape - without Mrs. Boffin- tumbled into a well and was drowned. The lady, it is added, eventually consoled herself by marrying the captain of the troop, who, when the wars were over, became a thriving farmer and leader of the conventicle at Banbury.
From p163 of 'Household Words', an article on Mother Shipton, in volume 14, for July-December 1856. Charles Dickens wrote some of the articles and edited the others, but it's not clear to me if this is one of his.
The fairies dance round the King-stone of nights. Will Hughes, a man of Long Compton, now dead, had actually seen them dancing round. "They were little folk like girls to look at." He often told a friend who related this to me about the fairies and what hours they danced. His widow, Betsy Hughes, whose mother had been murdered as a witch, and who is now between seventy and eighty, told me that when she was a girl and used to work in the hedgerows she remembered a hole in the bank by the King-stone, from which it was said the fairies came out to dance at night. Many a time she and her playmates had placed a flat stone over the hole of an evening to keep the fairies in, but they always found it turned over the next morning.
Holes in hedgebanks eh. A terrible cynic might think of something more furry than a fairy as culprit. From: The Rollright Stones and Their Folk-Lore, by Arthur J. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Mar., 1895), pp. 6-53.
It was said that a miller at Long Compton thinking the stone would be useful in damming the water of his mill, carried it away and used it for that purpose; but he found that whatever water was dammed up in the day disappeared in the night, and thinking this was done by the witches, and that they would punish him for his impertinence in removing the stone, he took it back again, and though it required three horses to take it to Long Compton, one easily brought it back.
Notes and Queries, April 8th 1876.
You may like the end of the letter:
"Witches, and ghosts, and village legends, though the belief in them may still linger in remote parishes, are becoming, as the old man at Rollright said, less cared for, and will soon be things of the past. But are the thoughts, and the interests, and the beliefs that are rising up in their place calculated to advance the morality and the religion of the labouring classes? I fear not.
J. W. LODOWICK."
A Farrier from Hook Norton tells of how the King Stone got its unusual shape by saying an immoral king tricked Wayland Smithy into making enchanted armour for him, but upon wearing it he was twisted and deformed and turned to stone, for only the faeries could don that armour without risk of harm.
In Christine Bloxham's book 'Folklore of Oxfordshire' (published by Tempus 2005), There is another version of the witch's rhyme, associated with the King Stone at the Rollright site, involving a Danish General and goes thus:
Said the Danish General
If Long Compton I cou'd see
Then King of England I shou'd be
But replied the British General,
Then rise up hill and stand fast Stone
for Kind of England thou'lt be none
Up until the eighteenth century, a 'barren wife' might visit the circle during the night "in the hope that by baring her breasts and touching the Kingstone with them" she would be made pregnant.
Does this mean you actually become pregnant as a result of touching the stone - what Burl surely implies? He doesn't specify his source. You'd imagine it more likely that the stone would make you more fertile and so more likely to get pregnant via the usual method. But maybe I'd never really thought about this (not uncommon?) idea before: maybe it is the former that was believed? Especially with the stone being male - the King in fact.
Taken from Prehistoric England by Graham Clark.... quoting Sir Arthur Evan's version of witch and king..
Just as the king approached the crest of the hill, from which the village of Long Compton would be visible, she halted him with the word "seven long strides shall thou take" and
If long Compton thou canst see,
King of England thou shalt be"
exulting the King cried out;
As king of England I shall be known"
and strode forward 7 paces, but lo! instead of Long Compton there rose before him a long earthen mound, and the witch replied;
As Long Compton thou canst not see
King of England thou shalt not be.
Rise up, stick, and stand still, stone,
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be
And I myself an eldern tree".
The whispering knights were turned to stones by the witch because they were plotting treachery..
[The King's men and the knights] go down the hill "at midnight to drink of a spring in Little Rollright Spinney. According to some accounts they go down every night when the clock strikes twelve; according to others at certain special occasions, "on Saints' days for instance." What is more, the gap in the bushes is pointed out through which they go down to the water. In some versions of the tale, the King also goes down to the stream at the same hour with his men; but others say that "the King* goes down to the water to drink when he hears the clock strike twelve," meaning, as my informant was at pains to explain to me, that as he cannot hear the clock stays where he is. One sceptic assured me that he had passed by the stones many a time at midnight and never seen them move.
*Sometimes too, the king's men with him. In some accounts the stones descend to drink at a stream by Long Compton.
The Rollright Stones and Their Folk-Lore
Arthur J. Evans
Folklore, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Mar., 1895), pp. 6-53.
Edwin and Mona Radford's 1948 'Encyclopedia of Superstitions' also makes mention of the Witch Elder tree.
Their version states that the Elder is held to be the same witch who petrified the King and his army, and that at each year at midsummer, prior to the ceremonial cutting (and bleeding) of the Witch Elder a feast was held next to the stone, which would later indicate it's approval with a nod.
From a horrifying letter from a W Parry to W Stukeley himself, just before Christmas 1742:
" I have, as hundreds have done before me, carried off a bit from the King, his Knights, and Soldiers, which I intend to send or keep for you."
Notes and Queries from May 14th 1859 perhaps illuminates this odious habit further:
"My guide told me that it was daily diminishing in size, " because people from Wales kept chipping off bits to keep the devil off," and that he could remember it much larger. My guide was born half a mile off, at Long Compton, and had, he said, lived there "all his days.""
People From Wales!! The cheeky bleeder!! It's MILES away from Wales. Classic anti-Welsh sentiment if you ask me! Oops. Parry's a Welsh name, isn't it.. And the road going past the stones is a drovers' road from Wales. Oh well.
And another example from 'Folklore' vol 6, no 1, p23- from yet another Welsh sounding traitor, Arthur J Evans.
Chips were taken from the King-stone "for luck," and by soldiers "to be good for England in battle." Betsy Hughes told me that her son, who had gone to India as a soldier, had taken a chip with him, "but it brought him no luck, for he died of typhus." A man told me that he had been offered as much as a pound for a chip at Faringdon Fair; and the Welsh drovers, who used to trench the road with their cattle before the railway was made, used continually to be chipping off pieces, so that formerly the stone was much bigger than it is now. A man at Great Rollright gave me a chip that he had kept in his house for years.
Notwithstanding the prevalence of this practice there were many who held that to do an injury to the stones was fraught with danger. In Wales one of the most frequent punishments that falls upon those who thus transgress against the stones is the breaking down of the transgressor's wagon, and this belief still survives at Rowldrich. A ploughman informed me that one day a man who was driving along the road from Banbury swore to a friend who was with him that he would carry off a chip of the King-stone "though his wheel locked." He got down from his cart and chipped off a piece of the stone, but when he tried to drive on he found that one wheel was locked in such a way that nothing he could do would make it go round again.
The King Stone is in front of a long mound - the mound that stopped the king seeing Long Compton in the legend. Stukeley called the mound the 'Archdruid's Barrow' but it's probably natural. He said "near the archdruid's barrow by that called the King Stone is a square plot, oblong, formed on the turf. Hither, on a certain day in the year, the young men and maidens customarily meet and make merry with cakes and ale." (from Stukeley's 'Abury').