The Blowing Stone of Kingston Lisle
19 April 2021 (Updated 24 October 2023)
The mysterious Blowing Stone is a 3ft high sarsen stone that stands in the garden of 2 Blowing Stone Cottages, on Blowingstone Hill near the village of Kingston Lisle.
The stone is perforated with natural holes which produce an eerie booming sound if blown into in the correct way. It is said that the sound can be heard seven miles away!
There was a belief that the sound of this stone was used by King Alfred the Great to alert his troops camped a mile away atop White Horse Hill to the arrival of the Danish forces before the Battle of Ashdown in AD 871.
The stone may have reached its current location by a rather circuitous route. It is thought that the stone was originally situated up on the Ridgeway, and that it was brought down to Kingston Lisle by the Atkins family who owned the estate between 1749 and 1901.
The Blowing Stone inn
The stone was originally placed outside The Blowing Stone inn in Kingston Lisle in 1811, though it should be noted that the current day Blowing Stone inn is a more modern building in a different spot in the village.
According to Curious Oxfordshire by Roger Long, the landlord of the pub used to plug the holes with wooden blocks to discourage drunken revellers from waking up the village by blowing the stone at closing time!
It's not known why the stone was moved from outside the pub to its current location, but it's possible the villagers grew tired of the noise.
The clue's in the name
Given the legend of King Alfred the Great, it would be easy to imagine that the first part of the village name Kingston Lisle is a reference to the 'King's Stone'. Some additional legends about the stone back this up. In The Veiled Vale, Mike White mentions a belief that if anyone is able to use the stone to produce a sound loud enough to be heard from the White Horse Hill then he or she is entitled to be King of England!
Unfortunately, the name 'Kingston' is quite a common one (there are a number in Oxfordshire) and the 'ton' part of the name refers to a hamlet or farmstead rather than a stone. Thus, the name Kingston is commonly used to referred to land owned by the King.
Tom Brown's Schooldays
The blowing stone was well known in the local area, but was brought to the attention of the wider public when it was mentioned in the opening chapter of Thomas Hughes's best-selling 1857 novel Tom Brown's Schooldays.
The novel describes the author paying a visit to the Blowing Stone inn and having the unusual properties of the stone demonstrated to him by the pub landlord.
Hughes describes the landlord putting his mouth to the stone and producing 'a gruesome sound between a moan and a roar, [that] spreads itself away over the valley, and up the hillside, and into the woods at the back of the house, a ghost-like, awful voice.'
- Blowing Stone (Wikipedia)
- The Blowing Stone (www.kingstonlisle.net)
- 'Curious Oxfordshire' by Roger Long (Sutton Publishing, 2008, ISBN: 0780750949576)
- 'The Veiled Vale' by Mike White (Two Rivers Press, 2016, ISBN: 9781909747173)
- 'Oxfordshire Place Names' by Anthony Poulton-Smith (Amberley Publishing, 2009, ISBN: 9781848681712)