Thursday, 21 February 2008

The Three Shire Stones


In 1965 I toured the Cotswold area on my bike. Part of the route was along the Fosse Way and a few miles south west of Bath I came across the Three Shire Stones. OS Ref (GB): ST795700 / Sheet: 172. The stones are just off the Bannerdown road ('Holy Hill'). Looking far more ancient than it really is, the structure was erected in February 1859 and the 'opening' was given wide publicity in local newspapers and national journals. These reports added that in the hole excavated for the upright stone on the Gloucestershire side three skeletons and a coin of James II were found. The stones that were used are thought to have been from a nearby ancient chambered cairn. There are three small dressed stones inside, each dated 1736 and with the initial of one of the three counties whose boundary they mark - Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire. These smaller internal stones were described in 1859 as - "three Stones of the dimensions ordinarily used for mere stones in Common field lands; and they were in such a position that travellers could not possibly be attracted by them; and that even those, who knew of their existence, could not at once discover them." The total cost of erecting the cromlech was £34 5s and 8d. a "Dinner to the Workmen" was listed as one of the expenses.

As can be seen from my picture, when I visited it in 1965 the spot was clean and tidy but a recent report commented - "As usual at such places there was litter everywhere - this despite it being apparently miles out, and not all of it could have blown in from the road. Rather fortunately some of the rubbish was plastic bags, so I collected two whole bagfuls and took them back to the car. People eh. It is bound to be the haunt of pissed teenagers but I wonder what they think they're sitting under."

Tiffany stained-glass window of St. Augustine, in the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida. (Detail)
Tradition has it that St.Augustine met the British Bishops at this spot.

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