Stanton Drew

  • Period : Neolithic
  • Type: Three Stone Circles
  • Address: "Druids Arms" public house, Stanton Drew, Bristol BS39 4EJ
  • OS Grid Ref: ST600633

The Stanton Drew complex consists of three stone circles (the third largest Neolithic stone circle in Britain), two avenues and a cove. The circles are thought to have been originally described by the famous antiquarian John Aubrey in 1664 and the first plan of them was published by William Stukeley in 1776. The largest or "Great Circle" is 113m in diameter and originally consisted of around 30 standing stones, however only 27 survive today and most have now fallen down. In the same field is the Northeast Circle which is 30m in diameter and probably consisted of 10 or more stones, of which only 9 are still there. The Southwest Circle is in a separate field and is 40m in diameter.

Various excavations have taken place, from the middle of the 17th century when human bones and an object described as a "round bell, like a large horse-bell" were recovered after a stone fell down, to geophysical work by English Heritage (1997) that showed a surrounding ditch and nine concentric rings of postholes within the stone circle. With over 400 pits and a 40 metre wide entrance to the north east it would have been a very impressive Neolithic monuments.

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 site has two legends common to many stone circles

The stone circles and cove were thought to be the petrified remains of a wedding party turned to stone by the Devil. The cove consisting of the parson, bride and bridegroom, the other circles being the remains of the guests.

According to the tale one Saturday, many years ago, there was a wedding feast on the site of the stone circle and everybody was having a merry time. When the clock struck twelve the party fiddler refused to play because it was Sunday, the Sabbath day. The bride, who was quite inebriated by this point swore that the party would go on, even if she had to go to hell to find a fiddler. No sooner had the words left her mouth, a tall dark man with a fiddle appeared and struck up a tune. Faster and faster he played and the wedding party were compelled to keep up with the tune. This went on all night and by the morning the whole of the group had turned to stone, and the Devil had made off with their souls. There was one survivor of the ordeal. The village fiddler who had refused to play at the stroke of midnight was found the following morning, cowering in fear at what he had seen during the night. Traditionally the Devil said that he would return one day to play for them again.

Another tradition connected with the stones is that they are uncountable. Anybody who tried to count the stones would either die on the spot or become ill soon afterwards.

The Song of Stanton Drew

Midsummer eve it fell on a Saturday
Sue and William went to be wed 
They had music played by a fiddler' 
"Let's go dancing,! William said.

(Chorus)
They danced and danced and danced around 
They danced and danced to the fiddler's sound 
They danced with a skip, they danced with a hop, 
It seemed that nothing could make them stop.

Midnight struck and then said the fiddler 
"Dancing on a Sunday wouldn't be right," 
Sue gave a laugh, "Don't care if to Hell I go 
I'll find another fiddler tonight."

(Chorus)
They danced and danced and danced around 
They danced and danced to the fiddler's sound 
They danced with a skip, they danced with a hop, 
It seemed that nothing could make them stop.

Off went the fiddler, left them all grumbling, 
Then another fiddler came along the way. 
"You'd like to dance and I'd like to play for you" 
Tunes he played both merry and gay.

(Chorus)
They danced and danced and danced around 
They danced and danced to the fiddler's sound 
They danced with a skip, they danced with a hop, 
It seemed that nothing could make them stop.

"Stop" cried the dancers, "NO" cried the fiddler, 
He kept on in spite of their moans. 
They couldn't stop their jerking and a stumbling, 
Then in a flash, He turned them into stones.

(Chorus)
They danced and danced and danced around 
They danced and danced to the fiddler's sound 
They danced with a skip, they danced with a hop, 
It seemed that nothing could make them stop.

Stanton Drew in the County of Somerset 
That's where the Devil played at Sue's request, 
They paid the price for dancing on a Sunday. 
Now they are standing evermore at rest.

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