Letters to William Stukeley

Letters to William Stukeley is in Avebury A Temple of British Druids, With Some Others, Described by William Stukeley.

Books, Prehistory, Avebury A Temple of British Druids, Letters to William Stukeley, Roger Gale 19 Aug 1719

Roger Gale, "for Dr. Stukeley, to be left at the Grecian Coffee House in Devereux Court, near Temple Barr, London."— H. C. [This MS. Letter is in the possession of the Rev. H. F. St John].

Worcester, Augt 19, 1719.


Last Saturday morning I had the satisfaction to see the stones called Rollrick [Map], which are but a molehill to a mountain in comparison of those we saw at Stonehenge and at Abury, and seem to have been intirely of another nature and design, as I doubt not but you will agree, upon my giving you the best description that I can of them. They are pitcht upon the top of a hill about half a mile south west of a village called Long Oompton, just within a hedge that now parts n ploughed field from a heath, and no doubt when these stones were placed there it was all heath. They compose a ring, not exactly circular8, the diameter of it from north to south being 35 yards9, and that from east to west but 33. The stones are of unequall dimensions both as to highth, breadth, and thicknesse, few of them exceeding 4 foot in altitude, and some of them reaching scarce two;10 and the breadth so various that I must have measured every stone to have given it you ; neither can I tell you the number, some being thrown down and broken, and others carryed away, but there are yet 22 standing11, and some of them pitcht so close together, edge by edge, that it is evident they were intended to form a close wall.12 The thicknesse of them is not above 14 or 16 inches. Where the entrance of it was is hard to say positively since there are many smooth gaps now in the ring, but as there is one directly north-east13 [King Stone [Map]] in a line to the King, as they call it, I am persuaded it was there. This King is a great stone which the countrey fancys represents a man on horseback, standing 84 yards14 N.E. of the circle, 8 foot high, 7 broad in the broadest part, and about 12 inches thick, and has, as appears by the gritt of the stone, been taken out of a quarry (as well as those atten- dants he has in the circle) within a hundred yards of his majesty, which observation of mine much displeased my landlord that came from Chipping Norton with me to show me this petrifyed court, which is the creed of the countrey , and he that contradicts it is lookt upon as most audacious free thinker.

I had like to have forgott observing that just in the north point of the circle is allso standing one stone much larger than the rest, being 7 foot high and 5i broad. I could observe no trench running round it, which, if there ever had been one, must still have shown itself upon the heath; nor any marks of an avenue leading to it, nor any barrows or tumuli within view of it, only a bank about 10 yards north of the King, in length about 20 yards, breadth 7, flatt and uneven on the top, as if made out of the rubbish of the neighbouring quarry.

The losse of your company in this journey I am every day more sensible of than the last, having many a heavy hour hang- ing upon my hands which your conversation would have made not onely to passe much easyer but profitably ; 6 long days more have I to lugg through in tiiis city, where the highest antiquity I can meet with rises no higher than the dusty traditionall tombs of a Saxon bishop or two. Which way I shall steer next I can- not determine yet, but if you will favour me with a line how matters go in both Societys, or with anything else you may think worth writing, by Satturday's post, it will be here on Monday morning ; if I cannot be so happy as to hear from you till after that time, be pleased to send your letter to my bouse, and it

will be forwarded thence to me. My service to all friends, and believe me, dear Sir,

Your most faithfull Friend, and humble Servant,

R. Gale.

P.S. In all probability it [the bank] is as ancient as the King himself, I mean cast up at the same time he was sett there, the countrey tradition joyning them together in a rhyme they all have.

If Long Compton thou canst see,

Then King of England thou shalt be.

You cannot see Long Compton where this King stands, but if you step a yard to the north of him it discovers itself over the top of this bank which intercepts it from his view.15

Note 8. Not far from being a true circle.

Note 9. The diameter from north to south is 101 feet, and not 105.

Note 10. The tallest stone is on the north boundary of the circle, and is 7 feet 4 inches high, and 8 feet wide at the gronnd IcTel ; scTen of the standing stones exceed 4 feet, aad one only ia less than 2 feet

Note 11. In 1S40, Sir Henry Dryden and the editor of these Diaries and Letters, made a careful ground plan of the circle, with elevations of the standing stones. At that date 22 stones were standing, the same number as stated by Roger Oale. About 80 were prostrate, and several must have been removed since 1719.

Note 12. Most probably this was the intention, for where two or more stones are still erect and near each other, they are as close as their irregular outlines will allow.

Note 13. There is no trace whatever of an avenue, or of any distinctly marked entrance.

Note 14. The distance from the drde to the king stone is 76 yards. The 9 feet 2 inches high, 6 feet wide at the ground level, and IS inches thick.

Note 15. This letter is referred to in Stukeley's Hist. of Abury, p. 11.