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The Giant's Marbles, The Sandpit, Shotover Country Park

The Giant's Marbles, The Sandpit, Shotover Country Park

Photo: Steve Daniels, via Wikimedia Commons

The Giant of Shotover Hill

23 May 2021 (Updated 7 September 2021)

A few hundred years ago Shotover Hill is reported to have possessed a hill carving of a giant, similar to that found today at Cerne Abbas in Dorset.

The giant was known as Bullingdon, and was recorded as being present in 1723 but having disappeared by 1763. Sadly no drawing of the giant survives, but he may have carried a bow or a staff.

The Giant's Marbles

Various legends exist concerning a giant living on or near Shotover Hill. One is connected to the large spherical stones known as Giant's Marbles that can be found in the area of the hill known as The Sandpit.

These are said to have reached their current position after being hurled by the giant during a game of marbles.

The tears of Empress Matilda

Another origin story for these stones is that they are the fossilised tears of Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I in the 12th century.

According to the story, after a failed attempt to seize the throne in 1141 she had been forced to flee London for the safety of Oxford. She wept with relief upon coming in sight of Oxford as she crossed Shotover Hill.

The Giant's Grave of Shotover Plain

Until it was flattened during tank practice during WWII, Shotover Plain was also home to a mound of earth approximately 60ft long that was believed to be a Neolithic chamber tomb.

The mound was known as the Giant's Grave, reiterating the belief that the hill had at one point been home to a giant.


  1. 'Folklore of Oxfordshire' by Christine Bloxham (Tempus Publishing, 2005, ISBN: 9780752436647)
  2. Empress Matilda (wikipedia)
  3. Myths and Legends of Shotover (pdf)