The King Stone

Standing Stone
Nearest town: Chipping Norton
Nearest village: Long Compton
Map reference: SP 296308

The King Stone ImageMany legends are attached to this twisted standing stone

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The King Stone lies 73m to the north-east of the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, not far from a burial chamber locally known as The Whispering Knights. This 2.5m (8ft) tall and 1.5m (5ft) wide standing stone is placed behind an iron fence, across the road that runs between the menhir and the circle. In fact this twisted stone, bent like a hunched hag and still undated, lies in another county: Warwickshire. Recent excavations indicated that the stone could have been a marker for a burial mound, and a round cairn was discovered a few meters across, to the NNW. A natural mound which once stood nearby, called the Archdruid's Barrow, is now reduced by ploughing.
    The legend says that all the stones in this area were once human beings: a king and his army. They were met by a witch who owned the land over which the ambitious conqueror marched. She said to the king:
Seven long strides shalt thou take,
If Long Compton thou can see
King of England thou shalt be.
And the king shouted:
Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I shall be known.
But when he had taken the seven strides, all he could see was the Archdruid's Barrow, which blocked his view of the village in the valley below.
The witch cried:
As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be.
Rise up stick, and stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be
And I myself an eldern tree.
So the King became the solitary King Stone, his men the Rollright Stones circle, and his knights the Whispering Knights burial chamber.
    The King Stone may originally have been somewhat bigger than it is now; people used to chip pieces off it as good luck charms. They included soldiers who took the chips into battle, and Welsh drovers who came by with their herds of cattle. There are many other legends attached to the King Stone. It is said that dreadful noises were heard when a man, using 24 horses, removed the stone to his house; when he took it back only two horses were needed for the return journey. Another story tells how the King Stone goes down to a spring in Little Rollright spinney to drink, but only when he hears Long Compton church clock strike midnight.
    According to the 18th century antiquarian William Stukeley, near the King Stone was a flat area of turf where young people meet at a special time and make merry with cakes and ale. People also used to gather there on Midsummer Eve. In 1895 A.J. Evans reported that they stood in a circle round the King Stone, and when the elder (the eldern as the witch said) tree was cut and bled, the stone was said to move his head.

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