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Devils Quoits

Henge and buried Stone Circle, Oxfordshire

Photos Celia Haddon
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dquoi2.jpg (11714 bytes)Celia Haddon writes: The remains of one of Britain's largest stone circles, the Devil's Quoits in Oxfordshire, is almost impossible to visit. But by writing letters to the overall landowner, All Souls College in Oxford, and the waste management company in charge of the site, I was finally allowed to do so. However the conscientious and enthusiastic manager of the site spend three quarters of an hour briefing me on all safety hazards and providing me with a safety jacket. Having to spend so much time naturally makes the company not over-eager to welcome visitors.

dquoi3.jpg (11372 bytes)The site itself, a vaguely circular tiny hill, is by the side of an artificial lake, managed by the local nature trust. On the other side is an active landfill site with  lorries at work. Naturally some of the litter from the site drifts over to the little hill. There are no standing stones visible so that the site is a complete disappointment for those who wish to experience the sensation of being in or near an ancient stone circle.

By the end of the last century there were only three standing, all on apparently completely flat land surrounded by ploughed fields. A photograph from l882 shows one which looks to be about eight to ten feet high. Once there were 35 stones in a 75 metre circle with a two metre henge ditch surrounding them. There were two entrances in the henge. It would have been one of the most important circle sites in Britain, just off an old trackway and within sight of the distant Ridgeway.

dquoi4.jpg (27115 bytes)The site was briefly excavated in the l940s before the three stones were pulled down and buried to make way for a war time aerodrome. These three fallen monsters can still just be seen in two different areas among the gravel, nettles, and rabbit holes which plague the site. After the airfield came the gravel excavators, first the Amey Roadstone Corporation and now its successors. In the l970s there were further excavations of site, which appear to have left a series of huge holes further disfigured by mini rabbit warrens. These pits now add to the visual mess which is the current site. All you can see is vaguely circular wasteland with ragwort, green-yellow weld, and chrome yellow stonecrop, deep scarred pits, the occasional three quarter buried stone or stacked up heap of large stones. The cry of gulls and the road of machinery accompanies this vandalised site.

dquoi5.jpg (11337 bytes)The waste management company, more conscientious than the authorities have been, have stacked up any large stones that came to light nearby while extracting the gravel. It is impossible to know whether these would have been the original stones but they could be erected, should the site ever be properly cared for again. No doubt the archeological authorities who have so shamefully failed to preserve the circle would argue that any re-erection would be inauthentic. But it might, at least, serve as a monument to our national vandalism of prehistoric henges.

dquoi6.jpg (22941 bytes)Access: To get in, I had to write first to the Bursar of All Souls College, then to an estate agent who managed their land, then to Hanson Waste. It took a further six to eight phone calls after that. The manager doesn't want to spent too much time 'inducting' peple , which takes three quarters of an hour explaining all saety risks etc. So it is possible but it takes a lot of persistence.
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Rating: General Impression 2, Ambience 1, Access 1

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