Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Vanishing England.
West Country states that he has looked in vain for several where he knew that not long ago they existed.  If in the Land’s End district you climb the ascent of Bolleit, the Place of Blood, where Athelstan fought and slew the Britons, you can see “the Pipers,” two great menhirs, twelve and sixteen feet high, and the Holed Stone, which is really an ancient cross, but you will be told that the cruel Druids used to tie their human victims for sacrifice to this stone, and you would shudder at the memory if you did not know that the Druids were very philosophical folk, and never did such dreadful deeds.

Another kind of megalithic monument are the stone circles, only they are circles no longer, many stones having been carted away to mend walls.  If you look at the ordnance map of Penzance you will find large numbers of these circles, but if you visit the spots where they are supposed to be, you will find that many have vanished.  The “Merry Maidens,” not far from the “Pipers,” still remain—­nineteen great stones, which fairy-lore perhaps supposes to have been once fair maidens who danced to the tune the pipers played ere a Celtic Medusa gazed at them and turned them into stone.  Every one knows the story of the Rollright stones, a similar stone circle in Oxfordshire, which were once upon a time a king and his army, and were converted into stone by a witch who cast a fatal spell upon them by the words—­

        Move no more; stand fast, stone;
        King of England thou shalt none.

The solitary stone is the ambitious monarch who was told by an oracle that if he could see Long Compton he would be king of England; the circle is his army, and the five “Whispering Knights” are five of his chieftains, who were hatching a plot against him when the magic spell was uttered.  Local legends have sometimes helped to preserve these stones.  The farmers around Rollright say that if these stones are removed from the spot they will never rest, but make mischief till they are restored.  There is a well-known cromlech at Stanton Drew, in Somerset, and there are several in Scotland, the Channel Islands, and Brittany.  Some sacrilegious persons transported a cromlech from the Channel Islands, and set it up at Park Place, Henley-on-Thames.  Such an act of antiquarian barbarism happily has few imitators.

Stonehenge, with its well-wrought stones and gigantic trilitha, is one of the latest of the stone circles, and was doubtless made in the Iron Age, about two hundred years before the Christian era.  Antiquarians have been very anxious about its safety.  In 1900 one of the great upright stones fell, bringing down the cross-piece with it, and several learned societies have been invited by the owner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, to furnish recommendations as to the best means of preserving this unique memorial of an early race.  We are glad to know that all that can be done will be done to keep Stonehenge safe for future generations.

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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