Stone Circle

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 crest.

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 a chat.”