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

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Stones in the road…
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And the stones in the road shone like diamonds in the dust
And then a voice called to us to make our way back home.

Mary Chapin Carpenter

No, this isn’t about that stirring song, Stones In The Road,* by Mary Chapin Carpenter (though it could be) on her 1994 album of the same name, but about the megaliths that lay scattered along our highways, byways, high streets and lanes which, depending on your point of view, can certainly be either, ’A thousand points of light or shame’. Heritage Action ran a feature here - on the stones in Ingatestone High Street, Essex, stones which almost certainly once formed a stone circle but, sadly, are still there on the road and just as vulnerable to damage now as when that feature was first run. The stones in Ingatestone’s High Street are not the only examples of megaliths used as buffers, pushed onto verges or just left where they are, awaiting their fate to be damaged or deliberately broken up. William Stukeley’s 1724 Groundplot of Avebury shows no less than nine stones in the roads there – all now long gone but once part of the proud Avebury Henge.

On Flowergate (road) in Whitby, north-east Yorkshire, is the famous stone Wishing Chair. It’s not clear that the Wishing Chair is originally from a megalithic structure but, as British History Online** records, “The monoliths which exist in the parish possibly mark ancient British interments…” so there is a possible connection between the Wishing Chair and a megalithic site. The Wishing Chair is now to be found outside the Little Angel pub in Flowergate. British History Online again records that, “A diligence commenced in 1788 to run twice a week from the ‘Turk’s Head’ and ‘White Horse and Griffin’ at Whitby to York and another to Scarborough began in 1793. The mail-coach started in 1795 and ran three times a week. A Sunderland coach commenced in 1796. All the coaches ran from the Angel Inn…” The Wishing Chair now has steps cut into it and was perhaps used to assist passengers in and out of their carriage, or riders on and off their horses.

Turning south again there are stones on the verges outside The Church of St Barnabus at Alphamstone in Essex – and outside the lichgate of The Church of St Mary with St Leonard, Broomfield also in Essex – both almost certainly pre-Christian sites. More here -[...]ith_st_leonard_broomfield.html

The examples above of ‘stones in the road’ are perhaps just a few of many more scattered through the country - some with possibly intriguing histories. It’s been suggested, for example, that the stones in the little village of Berwick St James, Wiltshire may have originally been part of the Stonehenge complex (see Eternal Idol). But perhaps the most famous ‘stone in the road’ of them all is the London Stone in Cannon Street, east London. Both the stone, with its receptacle and iron grille, were designated a Grade II listed structure on 5 June 1972. It’s recorded that the, ”London Stone was for many hundreds of years recognized as the symbolic authority and heart of the City of London. It was the place where deals were forged and oaths were sworn. It was also the point from which official proclamations were made.”*** Legend has it that, “So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish.” Let’s hope so, and as one of the longest surviving, and most respected ‘stones in the road’, this stone might, perhaps, lend itself in some way to the 2012 Olympic Games – for what better symbolizes the history and continuity of the City of London, and a place to swear the Olympic Oath, than this stone that lies at its very heart.

And the stones in the road leave a mark from whence they came
A thousand points of light or shame.

It's a mind boggling decision - and as a heritage project an easy target. But after all the millions that have already been spent on plans and consultations surely it would have been better to see the project through to completion. What is now of paramount importance, and pointed out by Heritage Action last week, "...please, let it not be suggested that the existing facilities be upgraded. Half of the national disgrace isn’t how they look but where they are situated. Let nothing be done to cause them to stay there a moment longer than they have to."

Mary Chapin Carpenter

This is part of a feature which first appeared on The Heritage Journal. For the full feature please see - http://heritageaction.wordpres[...]%a6-like-diamonds-in-the-dust/

* The Stones In The Road
** From: ‘Parishes: Whitby’, A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2 (1923), pp. 506-528. URL:

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Posted by Littlestone
20th May 2010ce