Artists impression of the King Stone inside a new wildflower meadow. Note the great view over the valley!

For the first time in recorded history the Rollright Stones straddling the Oxfordshire Warwickshire border on the edge of the Cotswolds have come under one ownership.  The Trust already owns and manages the c. 5,800 years-old Whispering Knights burial chamber and c. 4,500 years-old King's Men stone circle in Oxfordshire;  it has now finalised a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the King Stone, the third of the monuments across the road in Warwickshire [1].  This single standing stone is probably c. 3,600 years old, erected to mark an adjacent Bronze Age cemetery.  2000 years later, the Stones were valued by Saxon people, perhaps as a formal meeting place with a substantial cemetery nearby [2].

The Stones take their names from a legend about a King and his followers who were turned to stone by a witch because he couldn't see Long Compton, the village at the bottom of the hill.  The view over the Warwickshire vale and beyond is one of the most celebrated in the Cotswolds and is an integral part of the historic interest and setting of the King Stone and a well-known public amenity.  

The Rollright Stones were recorded as one of the 'Wonders of Britain' in the 12th century AD, and were among the very first monuments to be put into state protection (in 1883 and 1894) [3], though they have remained in private ownership.  The King Stone has hitherto been looked after by the Haine family who have farmed the land for decades.  It will now be under the day-to-day management of the Rollright Trust who seek to ensure that the monuments are not commercialised but make a positive contribution to peopleís well-being through education, cultural events and other initiatives, widening awareness of their archaeological and historical interest and spiritual associations.

The Trust also seeks to conserve and enhance the wildlife value of the Stones and their surroundings, including over 70 species of lichens, some of them regionally or nationally rare.  The acquisition of the King Stone includes over 3 acres of pasture land, which, with the support of the Cotswolds Glorious Grasslands initiative, the Trust is planning to turn into species-rich flowery meadow [4].

The Chairman of the Rollright Trust, George Lambrick said, "The Stones are a true gem of the Cotswolds.  With all three monuments in our ownership we can enhance their overall management in the low key way that everyone loves and respects. We are immensely grateful to Nat le Roux and Nick Cavalla who helped found the Trust and enabled us to acquire the two Oxfordshire monuments, and to Nat for a further major donation which has provided the bedrock of this acquisition.   In addition to creating the meadow, we will be doing archaeological surveys to find out more about the site, enhancing our education work, and improving visitor information, including a 'toposcope' guide to the view.  We will also have greater flexibility in managing events and access arrangements.  The work starts now!"

The Trust welcomes all further donations large or small towards the acquisition of the King Stone, creating the meadow and related projects - see https://www.rollrightstones.co.uk/donate.  The Trust relies entirely on volunteers for its work and is always grateful for a helping hand in practical ways:  to join the Friends of the Rollright Trust, or volunteer to help look after the Stones go to https://www.rollrightstones.co.uk/get-involved.

References:

  1. A recent petition calling for traffic calming measures at the Stones attracted over 32,000 signatures (see https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/rollrightstones).   
  2. There are at least two prehistoric barrows by the King Stone and an unusual Saxon burial was found nearby in 2014
  3. There are c.420 monuments in state care.  There are 10 others in Oxfordshire and apart from the King Stone, Kenilworth Castle is the only other one in Warwickshire.
  4. This initiative is seeking to restore and expand the area of species-rich limestone grassland across the Cotswolds - see https://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/looking-after/our-grasslands-projects/glorious-cotswolds-grasslands/