The village of Stanton Drew preserves the third largest collection of standing stones in England.
Yet, perhaps because it lies off the beaten track, its remarkable prehistoric stone circles have not received the same level of interest and exploration as the more famous examples at Avebury and Stonehenge. This obscurity, and the lack of modern intrusions into their surroundings, have protected their solitude and character.
The great stones (or megaliths) and the patterns they make in the landscape remain mysterious: however, recent surveys carried out here have yielded dramatic results, and helped to clarify our understanding of the site.
There are three stone circles at Stanton Drew. The Great Circle, at 113 metres (370 feet) in diameter, is one of the largest in the country: it has 26 surviving upright stones, although there may once have been up to 30. The other two circles, to the south-west and north-east, are smaller. Both the Great Circle and the north-east circle were approached from the north-east by short ‘avenues’ of standing stones, most of which have fallen.
In the garden of the village pub is a group of three large stones called The Cove, and to the north, across the River Chew, is the site of a standing stone known as Hautville’s Quoit. Their closeness to each other, and the alignments between some of them, indicate that together these stones formed a single complex.
Stone circles like these are known to date broadly to the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (around 3000–2000 BC), and many examples are known. Such circles are believed to have played an important part in contemporary social and religious life, and there is evidence that some were aligned with major events of the solar and lunar calendar.