The Rollright Stones are a set of ancient megaliths in the village of Little Rollright in Oxfordshire, England.
The site consists of three separate monuments - a stone circle known as the King's Men, a cluster of four standing stones dubbed the Whispering Knights, and a single standing stone called the King's Stone - that were built in different periods between 4000 and 1500 BC.
History of Rollright Stones
Local folklore has it that the Rollright Stones are the petrified remains of a king and his followers. In fact, each group of stones is from a different time period, reflecting the continuing sacred importance of the site.
The earliest monument is the Whispering Knights, which dates from as early as 4000 BC. The stone circle was constructed around 2500 BC and the single King's Stone was added about 1800-1500 BC.
Unlike the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury, Rollright does not have any significant astronomical alignments other than a view of the midsummer sunset. The precise purpose and use of the stone circle remains a mystery, but the other two monuments were used as burial sites.
What to See at Rollright Stones
The site is entered from a minor road; free parking is available on a lay-by. Very little walking is necessary to see the King's Men or the King's Stone; the Whispering Knights are about a five-minute walk from the others.
The "King's Men" is a stone circle that dates from about 2500-2000 BC. It is almost perfectly round and has a diameter of 104 ft (33 m). Originally, there may have been as many as 105 stones, but today there are 77 stones. Over a third of the stones were put back in place during the site's restoration in 1882.
The stones are of heavily-weathered local oolotic limestone: antiquarian William Stuckeley described them as being "corroded like worm-eaten wood, by the harsh Jaws of Time" that make for a "very noble, rustic, sight, and strike an odd terror upon the spectators, and admiration at the design of 'em".
The Whispering Knights are accessed by a well-maintained grassy path that leads around the outskirts of a private field. Here four stones stand upright in a tight cluster; a fifth, probably the capstone, has fallen. The stones are part of a portal dolmen-type burial chamber dating from about 4000-3500 BC, and originally projected out of a low, flat-topped platform that surrounded them. Dismembered bodies were placed in the chamber for burial. Human remains were place in the chamber for over a thousand years, well into the Bronze Age.
The Whispering Knights are named for the conspiratorial way in which they lean in towards each other. Local legend has it that they were plotting against their king when they were turned into stone by a witch, along with the other monuments at Rollright. Another legend says that on New Year's Eve, at the tolling of the bells of Long Compton church, the stones go down to the valley to drink.
Returning to the stone circle and crossing the road, a short path leads to the King's Stone, a large block of limestone about 2.5 m high. This is believed to have been a marker stone for an early Bronze Age cemetery and was erected between 1800-1500 BC. Several small cairns containing cremations were discovered around the stone. The stone's unusual shape is not original; it derives from early visitors chipping away pieces to take away as talismans or for healing purposes.
The Rollright Stones are located 6 km north of Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, on a minor road between the A34 and A44 (closest to the A34). From either highway, turn at a sign for the Rollrights. Park along a signposted lay-by and enter via a path that leads past the small Warden's Hut.
Quick Facts on Rollright Stones
|Dates:||c. 4000-1500 BCE|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.975535° N, 1.570793° W|
|Address:||Little Rollright, England|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Rollright Stones|
- Personal visit (October 7, 2006); signs at the site.
- Timothy Darvill, Paul Stamper and Jane Timby, England: An Oxford Archaeological Guide to Sites from Earliest Times to AD 1600 (Oxford, 2002), 298-99.
- Official Website of the Rollright Stones
- Rollright Stones - English Heritage
Map of Rollright Stones, Little Rollright
Below is a location map and aerial view of Rollright Stones. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.