The most important remains of prehistoric religion found in Leicestershire are probably the two monoliths known as the St. John's Stone, or Little John's Stone, and the Hostone, or Hellstone. The former was a pillar of sandstone, originally embedded in sand, which stood in a field near Leicester Abbey, called Johnstone Close.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was about 7 feet high, but by the year 1835 it had become reduced to about 3 feet. In 1874, according to the British Association's Report, it was about 2 feet high, and it has now completely disappeared.* A drawing of the stone, made by Mr. J. Flowers in 1815, has been reproduced in Kelly's Royal Progresses and Visits to Leicester.
A custom existed from time immemorial until last century of paying an annual visit to the St. John's Stone on St. John's Day, the 24th of June, when "a festival was formerly held there, a vestige of old fire or sun-worship."** Children who played about it were careful to leave before dark, for then, it was said, the fairies came to dance there. This superstition attests the religious significance of the monolith, for fairies, all the world over, continue in popular imagination to haunt ground which has once been sacred.
*British Association Report, 1874, p. 197. Mr. Warner, who lived at Leicester Abbey, said, however, that the stone had quite disappeared by the year 1840.
**British Association Report, 1878, p. 190.
From 'Memorials of Old Leicestershire' by Alice Dryden, 1911.
Very interesting item on St. John's stone included here. Pastscape say's that the area around the stone got used as the city's rubbish tip before being redeveloped for housing.
The article also mentions "part of St. John's Stone now sit inside St. Luke's Church in Stocking Farm, Leicester". I also note that "there were alter stones at Barkby on Ridgeway, in Markfield on Alterstone Lane and in Parker Drive, off Blackbird Road"."There was also something in Enderby, she said, an old mistletoe bush worshipped by the druids."
(SK 5779 0644) St John's Stone (NR)
The stone is, so far as is known, a natural feature. It can be presumed therefore that it still exists in its original position. However the area is now used as a refuse tip and no part of the stone is visible.
The area has now been considerably developed and no trace now remains of this stone.
No further information was obtained as to its archaeological significance.