Stone Me

Rollright Stones lie to the West, where a finger of Warwickshire pokes between the borders of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. It's few miles off the A361, but what the hell.

Their name suggests some kind of megalithic nodding toy ("Knock 'em over and they Rollright back again!"), but the Stones are named after the villages of Great and Little Rollright, themselves named after a Saxon property settlement, and transferred to the Stones when they had already been there for millennia. (Best estimate - around 2000 B.C.)

They comprise a circle of diameter 100' (38 Megalithic Yards), known as The King's Men, with a single outlying stone to the North-East, known as The King's Stone.

The stone circle is, frankly, disappointing. An unprepossessing collection of garden-centre rock-garden rejects whose only visual interest lies in the circle they form. Thirty-eight Megalithic Yards, I said. The builders had little legs.

The King's Stone is more interesting. Probably as much as a 1,000 years older than the circle, it's tall and imposing, overlooking a rolling landscape. Walking around the stone, it assumes an odder shape; there's a cavity on the other side which makes the thing look sculpted. A bent figure, arms akimbo, bowing to the rising sun. Indeed, if a brass plate told you it was by Henry Moore, you'd believe it.

There's a third group of stones, sitting rather forlornly in a nearby field. Known evocatively as The Whispering Knights, they are probably the remnants of a barrow (an ancient mausoleum).

These stones have been here for four thousand years, give or take a century, or a millennium, and we have no record of the artist's name. The experts say that it was the Beaker Folk who raised this and other such monuments. What does that tell us? It tells us that we know nothing about these people, but we think we know what they drank out of.

("We don't know who built the Chrysler Building, but we've got this polystyrene cup...")

Some authorities suggest that the chaps with the Beakers were Early, or Proto- Celts, but since the Punctual Celts are as much of a mystery, we're none the wiser.

When I first came across the Beaker People in the literature, I saw them rather like those blokes who keep a personlaised pewter tankard behind the bar of their local pub. They wear blazers; you've seen them.

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