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The Hoar Stone, illustration from The Gentleman's Magazine, 1824

The Hoar Stone, illustration from The Gentleman's Magazine, 1824

The Hoar Stone at Enstone

16 March 2021 (Updated 2 January 2024)

The Hoar Stone lies at a crossroads between Enstone and Fulwell. Only three stones stand today, but older descriptions of the site describe a considerably larger monument, constituting the entrance to a large chambered tomb.

The stones are supposed to stand on the intersection of two lay lines, the east-west one connecting with the Hawk Stone to the west at Dean.

The Hoar Stone at Enstone

The Hoar Stone at Enstone. Credit: treehouse1977, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr.

The Old Soldier of Enstone, and other legends of the Hoar Stone

There are a number of local legends about the stones. One of the local names for the largest stone is the 'Old Soldier', said by some to be named after a civil war general. If General Hoar every existed, which seems unlikely, he was presumably a thirsty chap as it is said that the stone goes down to the village pub for a drink on midsummer's eve!

In another version of the story, the stone instead goes to the brook at Woodford to drink the water.

This story is similar to stories about other local standing stones such as the King Stone at the the Rollright Stones, and the standing stone at Lidstone near Chipping Norton, which were also said to go down to nearby streams at midnight to have a drink.

Another belief about the Enstone Hoar Stone, one commonly repeated about similar standing stones, is that if the stones are moved, they will return to their original positions under their own steam.

Other Oxfordshire hoar stones

Old maps of the county provide clues that there may have once been many more standing stones in Oxfordshire than are visible today.

Hoarstone Spinney, Kirtlington

Ordnance Survey maps from the mid-to-late 19th century show a strip of woodland to the north of Kirtlington clearly marked as 'Hoarstone Spinney', suggesting that there is or was once a hoar stone close to this site. I visited and took a brief stroll through the woodland on an overcast Sunday in December, and could not see any sign of standing stones, but the area is quite overgrown and on private land so I didn't linger. This essay by the 19th century antiquarian Percy Manning on the archaeology of Oxfordshire mentions 'hoar stone spinney' as being the site of a cromlech that has since been removed and now exists only in name.

Hoarstone spinney 1898

A map from 1898 showing Hoarstone Spinney. Credit: Re-use: CC-BY (NLS).

Hoarstone Spinney stands at the junction between two ancient routes, Portway, an early Medieval pathway that crosses Oxfordshire roughly North-South, and Aves Ditch, an iron age ditch and bank once thought to be the route of a Roman road. Locations at the junction of ancient paths like this were popular sites for standing stones, backing up the hypothesis that there was once a standing stone at this location.

According to some sources, the term 'Hoar stone' refers to a stone erected as a way to mark a parish, property or other boundary.

Hoar Stone, Leafield

A 1919 Ordnance Survey map shows a tantalising label in a field near Fairspear Farm, to the north east of Leafield: 'site of Hoar Stone'.

Leafield hoarstone 1919

Ordnance Survey map from 1919, showing the site of a hoar stone near Leafield. Credit: Re-use: CC-BY (NLS).

This label is missing from the previous and preceding OS maps of the same area, but does hint to another standing stone on this site at one time.

Hoar Stone, Barton park

The grounds of Barton Park near Steeple Aston contain the remains of a burial mound marked with large stones, the largest of which is known as the Hoar Stone.

The Hoar Stone at Steeple Barton

An Ordnance Survey showing the Hoar Stone at Barton Park, near Steeple Aston. Credit: Re-use: CC-BY (NLS).

Like Enstone, there are a number of legends about these stones either moving on their own, or bringing ill luck to anyone who attempts to move them.