The chapel and
the house were built on the site of a prehistoric
circle of standing stones, which may be seen, adjacent
to the house. One such stone has been visibly incorporated
into the south-east corner of the chapel.
There are two types of stones. There are sarsens,
blocks of sandstone, residual boulders from a bed
of sandstone which once covered the chalk at the
top of the valley to the East of the chapel, and
which were deposited by the weight of the ice melting
at the end of the ice age - more than 3000 years
ago. The name sarsen is derived from the 17th century
use of the word Saracen, denoting something foreign
and unusual. Another type of natural stone formation
is the pudding stone, consisting of pebbles stuck
together by natural limestone cement that has washed
between them and hardened into solid rock.
Both these types of stone are present in the stone
circle. Prehistoric man considered such stones unusual
and of importance and placed them on end, in formal
arrangements, for religious purposes.
In 601 AD Pope Gregory the Great instructed the
Christian missionary priests in England to adopt
existing 'pagan' sites of worship as their own.
Hence the stone incorporated in the south-east corner
of the chapel.
In the 12th century Stonor was called Stonora and
our family name was de Stonora. It is tempting to
think that the meaning of it was ' a hill (ora in
Latin) of stones' - which forms the Stonor family
In his 'Natural History of Oxfordshire', published
in 1677, Dr Robert Plot wrote, "After consideration
of flints and pebbles apart, let us now take a view
of them jointly together, for I have found them...on
the way from Pishill to Stonor house in clusters
together of diverse colours and united in one body
by a petrified cement as hard as themselves...but
the best of them (i.e. pudding stones) all are in
the close at Stonor, of which some of them are so
large and close knit, that could the Ingenious
Proprietor, Thomas Stonor Esq. find a way to slit
and polish them without too much charge, he might
make rich chimney pieces and tables of them so far
excelling porphyries and marble, that might compare
perhaps with the best jasper or achat."