Robert Mercer excavated around the Quoit in 1969 with the intention of lifting the stone if the original site could be discovered but he was unable to locate any trace of a socket for the stone, concluding that if the stone had toppled from its original position it must have stood on the site of the present road, where of course, any trace of the socket would have been destroyed. Indeed, Musgrave’s early 18th century sketch plan of Stanton Drew appears to show Hautville’s Quoit, lying in the middle of the Chew Magna-Pensford road.
Stukeley described the Quoit in 1723 as lying ‘flat upon the ground by the road side’ with his sketch showing the Quoit on the southern side of the road. Mercer had come to a similar conclusion that the Quoit’s original position was at the side of the B3130 Pensford – Chew Magna road. However, it seems likely that the course of the road has deviated over the years. And of f course we cannot dismiss the possibility that the Quoit could have been removed from some other location and dragged to the side of the field, as such for ploughing clearance. Yet, it seems a remarkable coincidence that the stone should be moved to a location in exact alignment with other parts of the Stanton Drew circles; Hautville’s Quoit is considered to be an outlier of the Stanton Drew stone circles.
The Quoit lies on a straight line through the centres of the Great Circle and the South South West Circle across the Chew valley. In fact there are two alignments at the Stanton Drew complex; the second runs from the Cove through the Great Circle and Northeast Circles. Today Hauteville's Quoit is not visible from the centre of the Great Circle. However, if the stone were erect, and any vegetation and buildings removed, the top of the stone should be within view.
The Quoit consists of non-local pale brown to grey sandstone with translucent grains of quartz. In the late 19th century Lloyd-Morgan described the rock type of the Quoit as fine-grained sandstone and considered it possible that it may be sarsen. Mercer also thought the stone to be of a ‘Wiltshire sarsen stone’ origin as used at for the stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge. Field work has noted a number of similarities between the stones at Fyfield Down, the source for the Avebury megaliths, and Hautville’s Quoit, suggesting a similar origin.
The stone has been much reduced over the centuries. According to the Rev. John Collinson the stone originally weighed 30 tons and stood 4m tall. Collinson records that pieces of the Quoit were constantly being chipped off for road mending. Part of the stone was broken off in 1836, and in 1994 Grinsell described it as about 2.2 metres long.
In the 18th century Stukeley described the Quoit as being 13 feet long; sadly it is now about half that length. However, in the 17th century John Aubrey described the Quoit as being 10 feet 16 inches (sic) long, 6 feet 6 inches broad, and 1 foot 10 inches thick. As the stone cannot have increased in size it would appear these antiquarians were not measuring the same stone. Indeed, Stukeley also referred to the presence of a second 'coyt'.
The Second Quoit - The Tollhouse Stone
This second ‘coyt’ that Stukeley described was also of large size and also lying beside the road but half a mile above the bridge whereas the first one was half a mile below. He named them both "Hautvil's Coyts". Collinson had also reported the existence of a second quoit, but it is unclear whether he was reporting first-hand, or merely copying Stukeley whose work had been published just fifteen years earlier.
Notably, no other writers claim to have seen a second quoit, and its existence was doubted by Charles Dymond, who, in 1896, questioned whether Stukeley was confusing it with the Tyning Stones, though these were in a field and not lying beside the road.
John Richards of the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society states that Stukeley had included the second quoit in one of his drawings of Stanton Drew clearly labelled ‘another coyt’ and lying on the north side of the Chew Magna–Pensford road. Jodie Lewis named the second quoit as the the 'Tollhouse Stone' as it was was shown on Stukeley's plan as north of the present B3130 road and west of the tollhouse. No trace of it now remains and probably suffered a similar but more devastating fate to Hautville's Quoit, being broken up for road making.
Today the field boundaries are not so far removed from those of Stukeley's day making it possible to estimate the rough placement of the Tollhouse Stone in the landscape, lying about 250 metres to the north-west of the Tyning Stones and about 500m north-west of the Great Circle. However, this position denies an obvious alignment with the Stanton Drew complex.
Antiquarians described Tyning's Stones as two prostrate megaliths, around 5ft long, having lain recumbent for at least the last few hundred years in a field called Middle Ham at Lower Tyning, to the north west of Hauteville’s Quoit. Grinsell describes them as two stones located just west of a cow shed, at Middle Ham, Tynings, to the west of Stanton Drew. They may have formed part of the Stanton Drew complex. The Tyning's Stones may have been the two megaliths reported in a field adjoining Sandy Lane apparently being removed in the 1960s but like so much of our megalithic heritage now lost.
John Richards, John Oswin and Vince Simmonds, Hautville’s Quoit and other archaeological investigations at Stanton Drew, Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society in collaboration with Bath & North East Somerset Council, 2012.
BACAS carried out geophysics and other surveys at the Quoit and its field between 24-27 February and 2-5 March 2012.
Jodie Lewis, Monuments, Ritual and Regionality: the Neolithic of northern Somerset. BAR British Series 401. Oxford: Archaeopress,2005.
Gordon Strong, The Sacred Stone Circles of Stanton Drew, Skylight Press, 2012.
L V Grinsell, The Megalithic Monuments of Stanton Drew, 1994.
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