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21 September 2008
Devil's Quoits stone circle restored

The Devil's Quoits (Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire) would have been one of the most important standing stone circle sites in Britain. By the end of the 19th century only three of the stones were standing, surrounded by ploughed fields. A photograph from the 1880s shows one of these about 2.5 m high. The site was briefly archaeologically excavated in the 1940s just before the three stones were pulled down to make way for a war time aerodrome whose runway cut straight through the monument. After the war, a large part of the adjacent site was excavated for gravel. Further archaeological excavations were carried out in 1972-3 and then again in 1988 and these showed that once there were more than 30 stones in a 75 m diameter circle with a two metre ditch and outer henge bank surrounding them.  The stones are formed from a local conglomerate stone. The stone circle is now thought to be between 4000 and 5000 years old and is partly a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
     After use as a waste recycling site, the area has now been restored with the object of allowing public access to the Devil's Quoits for the first time in more than sixty years. Engineering company Wardell Armstrong were asked by Waste Recycling Group to provide advice on the restoration. The task was to rescue remaining stones and to re-erect them in locations known from the archaeological record to have contained them. The remaining stones were to be supplemented by new stones of the same geological type obtained from a quarry at nearby Ducklington. The task included assessing safe founding conditions, designing suitable foundations and supervising the lifting and positioning of the stones within the site to methods accepted by English Heritage, working in close liaison with the assigned archaeologist.
     The massive henge earthwork was rebuilt in March 2002; some of the original stones were piled up in November 2003; in October 2005 some of the original stones were moved into position and new stones were erected to replace lost ones. 8 of the original stones were re-erected earlier this year. The remaining 21 stones, which were sourced from a nearby quarry in Ducklington - and are of exactly the same type of ironstone conglomerate as the originals - were erected in the most likely locations of the missing stones. Last 13 September 2008 saw the official opening of the fully restored monument. It is worth noting that it's not English Heritage who have made it happen, but the painstaking excavation and enthusiasm of both Oxford Archaeology working with site owner Hanson.
     Please note the Devil's Quoits are on private property; an 'official' access to the site will be from the top of the lake by the recycling centre.

Sources: Jane Tomlinson (5 July 2008), Wardell Armstrong (September 2008), Heritage Action Journal (18 September 2008)

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