Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – SP 359 220
Also Known as:
- Thunor’s Stone
Very easy! From which ever direction you approach the gorgeous little village of Taston, get to the Cross in the middle of the road and look up the slight hill and at the old walling on the right-hand side. You can’t really miss it!
Archaeology & History
An impressive seven-foot tall standing stone resting up against the walling of Martin and Martha’s Thorstone Cottage, and which appears to have been recorded as far back as the late thirteenth century in the survey of the Chadlington hundred. Indeed, according to the respective place-name authorities, the village of Taston itself appears to get its name from the Thor Stone, as it’s recorded as Thorstan in 1278 CE. (Gelling 1954)
Less than 100 yards away is a large old stone cross, the top of it now fallen, which may once have had some earlier pre-christian relationship with the Thor Stone; perhaps originating from other standing stones close by our now solitary Thor Stone (see Folklore, below). No other monoliths or prehistoric tombs are presently associated with this site, but its folklore tells of earlier companions…
More than a hundred miles north of here we find an etymological sister in the old village of Thurstaston and where, not surprisingly, we have another Thor’s Stone — but in this instance the name applies to a huge rock outcrop with old pagan legends attached.
Elsie Corbett (1962) tells that the creation myth for this stone was that it originated after the great god Thor cast a thunderbolt down from the heavens and this stone appeared as a result. But more intriguing from an archaeological perspective is what Mike Howard (he of The Cauldron magazine) told us in a short article for the Gloucester Earth Mysteries magazine in 1994, which said that our grand old Thor Stone was once part of a stone circle. He wrote:
“At Taston…are the rather battered remains of a megalithic circle known locally as the Thor Stones. It seems the original circle was dug up many years ago and the stones now reside in a neat pile at the crossroads in the centre of the village. The whole edifice resembles nothing less than an eccentric market cross, topped by a phallic stone.”
Although he doesn’t cite any sources for this bit of info (where’d you gerrit from Mike?), we need to take a more careful look at the old cross nearby. And we find another piece of folklore relating to the Taston cross which said that it was placed there to abate the evil influences that were supposed to come from the Thor Stone. This piece of folklore is simply one laid down by the Church which portrayed most things it did not understand, or sought to repress, as being the work of their own demonic power, Satan.
Between these two old monuments was once a huge old elm tree which, says Caroline Pumphrey (1990), was a meeting place of the local villagers in times gone by. Whether this implies the Thor Stone to have been a moot spot is difficult to tell, although the erection of the cross would seem to add weight to this.
More recent screwy notions comes from one woman who reckoned, curiously, that the Thorstone got its name from some completely invented made-up goddess, saying:
“I believe its more likely to be a corruption of the name of ‘Hoar’, the great Goddess. Indeed the Hawk Stone, and various Hoar stones stand widely hereabouts and probably derived their names from the same deity.”
Utter drivel of course (there’s no such goddess as Hoar)! But — like the christians and others before them — people believe what they want to believe and this sorta nonsense is increasingly found all over the internet. As is well known, the word hoar derives from ‘har’, being ‘grey’ or ‘a boundary’ (Gelling, 1954; Smith 1956); and numerous studies show this quite clearly.
Bennett, Paul & Wilson, Tom, The Old Stones of Rollright and District, Cockley: London 1999.
Corbett, Elsie, A History of Spelsbury, Cheney & Sons: Banbury 1962.
Gelling, Margaret, The Place-Names of Oxfordshire – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1954.
Grigson, Geoffrey, The Shell Country Book, George Rainbird: London 1962.
Howard, Mike, ‘From Thor to Rollright,’ in Gloucestershire Earth Mysteries 18, 1994.
Pumphrey, Caroline, Charlbury of our Childhood, Sessions Book: York 1984.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian