In a farmers field in the village of Stanton Drew, 6 miles south of Bristol there are three stone circles, two stone avenues, a cove of stones and an outlier at Stanton Drew.
The name Stanton is derived from the Angle-Saxon 'stan' meaning stone, and 'tun' meaning farm. The stone circles were shown on early maps with the title 'the weddings'.
The Great Circle at Stanton Drew is the second largest stone circle in England and has 27 of the original 30 stones which is 112m (368ft) in diameter. An avenue extends to the north east of the Great Circle towards the River Chew and a second avenue meets it from the north eastern stone circle. It is also the largest known timber circle site, but no markers exist.
Beside it lies the impressive North-East Ring, 8 or 9 very large stones, out of 10 originally, measuring 29.6m (97ft) across, four are still standing. Shown in the picture above, with great ring beyond.
The South-West Ring, 40 metres across with 12 stones surviving is in another field nearby and is badly ruined.
From both the Great and North-East circles there are two short avenues running north-eastwards towards the River Chew. The avenue starting from the North-East Ring, has seven surviving stones.
Stanton Drew Circles and Cove, Somerset
In the garden of the village pub, The Druids Arms, is the Cove, which consists of two upright stones and a slab lying between them. This is in a straight line with the centres of the two accessible stone circles.
The Outlier, also known as Hautville's Quoit, is to the north of the circles, across the River Chew. It is a sandstone boulder, now recumbent, and it is in a straight line with the centres of the Great Circle and the South-West Ring.
Their alignments and proximity would suggest that these sites were related as a single complex and it is a fair assumption that Stanton Drew was very significant during the later Stone Age. Very little is known about the site and the stones. Perhaps because of their location, a bit off the beaten track, they have not taken on a significance like Stonehenge or Avebury. No excavations have been recorded but it is believed to be the same age as Avebury, and neither have any modern survey's been made until recently when a Geophysical Survey was carried out by English Heritage.
The site is suggested to be aligned on the river, and at some times of the year this floods and then often the river runs red, with clay leaching into it.
The great circle has its own magnetic field, and this can be seen using a compass, this has led some to believe that these monuments were more than observatories but did something with, or was connected with, energy flow. At the time they were built the magnetic effects of the earth would have been many times stronger than they are today. Many also report this ring having one of the strongest effects on dowsing rods, these are not made of magnetic responsive material so not in theory simply affected by the magnetic field that has been created.
On one visit, there were no other visitors at first, but we were closely followed by a couple from Holland and as we were leaving another car pulled up by the side of us. It was a very interesting site to see and worth a visit if you like stone circles, you will not be disappointed. On our latest visit we saw no one else. This is probably the finest stone rings in Britain, so near a major city, far more complete and original but known by fewer people.
A second tradition is that the stones are uncountable. It is said that anybody who tried to count the stones would either die on the sport or become ill soon afterwards. (I have found no record of this though).
It is often said that Stanton Drew was lucky, being tucked away from public gaze it was not subject to the same vandalism from Christian groups as some other lowland monuments, it is largely complete, the finest original example that we have, and with some features still functioning. While with Avebury for example many of the stones were destroyed and others buried and it was only in the 1930's that it was restored and many stones put back. There is no such record of any similar restoration at Stanton Drew. So how can we explain that when Aubrey visited Stanton Drew in the summer of 1664, he recorded that many of the stones had been removed and smashed during the previous few years by farmers wishful of extra land, and was unable to reach the stones because the field was full of ripening corn. So does this mean that there were other circles beyond what we can see now, or could there be another explanation.
This map shows the position of the stones within the surrounding area
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