Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:
Churchill Churchyard’s Megaliths

Churchill Churchyard is an emblem of late Georgian prejudice. Built in 1826 (to replace the more ancient Saxon church which stands further down the hill) the tower dominates the landscape. In a deliberate act of cultural supremacy, the churchyard is surrounded by stones robbed from a nearby ancient Pagan site.

Summary for ‘Churchill Churchyard’s Megaliths’:

Location: Churchill, Oxfordshire

Type: ‘Standing Stones & Circles’.

Condition: Stones around the perimeter of the churchyard.

Access: Footpaths around edge, churchyard has implied public access.

OS Grid Ref.: SP282240

Further information: Wikipedia.

Walks posts for site:
    • The Anomalous Megalith and
    • A Beltane Megaliths Trail.

So many of the commentaries on All Saints Churchill discuss at length its ornate construction. In comparison to other churches, though, they miss the blindingly obvious. The churchyard is surrounded by large, ancient stones – most likely robbed from a stone circle that is reputed to have stood in nearby Sarsgrove Woods.

The 27 metre tall tower of St. Edward’s Stow-on-the-Wold, standing on top of the hill on the other side of the Evenlode valley, was erected in 1447. It dominates the landscape for miles around.

In the 1820’s, up-and-coming Churchill abandoned its even more ancient (hence diminutive) Saxon church and erected its own massive 30-odd-metre-tall tower. Perhaps with reference to the power it sought to project, and slightly taller than St. Edward’s, it was modelled as a two-thirds-scale copy of Magdalen College Oxford’s tower (completed 1509).

To retain the higher ground level along the west side by the main road, and returning up the eastern side as a wall, the site was circled with large stones. At first they just look rough and undressed by the masons; until you look more closely. Clearly old and gnarled, and made of the same silty sandy limestone you see at Rollright, Enstone or Lyneham, they are ancient stones that have been above ground for many years.

These are ancient stones; robbed from a structure that once stood somewhere within the Sarsden Estate. Various sources talk of Sarsgrove Woods as the source/original site of these stones.

Nearby is Besbury Lane Barrow, and to the east is The Jurassic Way, and there's another ancient route running along the ridge along what is now called Old London Road (which links Chastleton Barrow to The Hoar Stone).

The site of the circle may conceivably have been on the ridge above the woods; or the woods were far larger back then and the circle was cleared with the inclosure and development of the land. This time-line fits the date of the inclosure awards (page 71) for the local area around the end of the Eighteenth Century.

As the name implies, Churchill is at the top of a hill. Either from Kingham Station or the bus stop in Chipping Norton, the bench outside the churchyard makes a nice ‘first stop’ for the day, or ‘last’, depending upon the direction of travel.

Sitting on the bench the old stones form the boundary wall down the eastern side of the churchyard. It’s a good place just to sit and pause and study the weathered patterns in these old stones. Also, the trees give a little shelter should it be raining.

Follow the road north, around the front of the church, and more stones fringe the pavement through the village, as far as the Kingham road junction. These stones are more polished, by the passing spray of cars or the cleaning of the parks staff mowing and trimming the verges through the village.

Take the Sarsden Road downhill from outside the church, and on the left, when the verge is kept cut back, you might spy a few more stones. Notably at the entrance to the first driveway on the left below the church.

Though the structure and the purpose for which these ancient stones were erected is lost, the stones persist. Today they have a new purpose, both in the construction of the church, but also as a monument to the mindset of our modern times. An ideology which would happily destroy the legacy of more ancient cultures in order to demonstrate its modern-day supremacy.