Ancient Arthur's Stone
Arthur's Stone is a neolithic dolmen lying on a hilltop near Dorstone in Herefordshire. Dating from around 3500 BC it is a very impressive monument and features a gigantic capstone which must weigh at least 25 tonnes, although it has been split across it's width as the millennia have worn on. As you'd expect from a site with such a name, a legend regarding King Arthur features in the various tales associated with the stones. He supposedly killed a giant here, and as the monster fell it cracked the capstone, leaving two depressions in the ground with its elbows as he fell. There is a stone lying a little way from the dolmen that also has depressions in it, again supposedly made by Arthur. In reality Arthur's Stone was once a multi-roomed burial chamber with a lengthy tunnel leading inside. This was the perfect spot to show how important the ancestors inside were to the tribe as the hilltop looks out over a magnificent vista beyond, over the Golden Valley and on towards the Welsh mountains.
CS Lewis is thought to have spent time at Arthur's Stone and probably based the death of Aslan the lion here from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Anyone familiar with either the book or the film will instantly see the connection on first seeing the stones. Coming back to historical lore, Charles I gathered his army here and had a banquet laid out on the stone in the September of 1645. It can't have been much of an army as this was well after the Battle of Naseby, but Arthur's Stone was also the location of a curious footnote in the accounts of the Wars of the Roses.
Thomas ap Griffith was a Welsh knight who fought for the cause of the Lancasters. During his eventful life he made many enemies and never hesitated in taking to the sword as conflicts with these adversaries flared. One such rival was known as Turberville, according to a descendant of Thomas “an arrogant cracker and a notable swash buckler”. When a row between the two turned fiery Turberville challenged Sir Thomas to a duel while “twirling his moustaches and sparking out fury and fear from his eyes”. The location set for this fight? Arthur's Stone.
If ever a scene deserved to be featured in a film or TV series it must have been this. The men clashed swords at, around and even on top of the mighty monument until Turberville fell, mortally wounded, and the reputation of Sir Thomas was restored – for a time. As the fortunes of war changed Thomas ap Griffith fled into exile to France. Upon his eventual return he was ambushed by yet another old enemy with a score to settle and died during the skirmish. His killer threatened to have his corpse dug up and mutilated if the debts he claimed were not paid to him and so some friends of Sir Thomas secretly disinterred his body, reburying it in a safe place. Years later it is claimed that Thomas's son Rhys ap Thomas personally delivered the death blow to Richard III at Bosworth Field and restored the fortunes of their lineage.
As Herefordshire was the birthplace of the ley lines concept, you'd be right in thinking that Alfred Watkins placed Arthur's Stone in a position of high importance in his writing, a convergence of several leys, and other writers and thinkers like John Michell continued to add to this theory. Arthur's Stone is a wonderfully atmospheric place with stunning views across the valleys. Arrive early in the morning and if you're lucky enough to have the place to yourself you might feel the powerful atmosphere of the place...some people have even claimed to have experienced a “time slip” here. With the ruins of Snodhill Castle and the oak forest of Moccas Park also nearby Dorstone is the ideal centre for a day of exploration.
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Arthur's Stone, Dorstone, Herefordshire
The gigantic capstone of Arthur's Stone
The death of Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - the resemblance with Arthur's Stone here is quite apparent