Damage to stone circles in the U.K. reported as lockdown restrictions eased

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BIRCHOVER, England – Police are investigating claims that the ancient stone circle of Doll Tor has been damaged during the lockdown easing period.

The Bronze Age circle of Doll Tor, known as the Six Stones, is a small stone circle near the village of Birchover and a short distance from the natural rock outcrop of the Andle Stone. It is not far from the circles and cairns of Stanton Moor.

Doll Tor – Image credit: Michael Maggs – CC BY-SA 4.0

It is reported that fires had been lit amid the stones and some of the smaller stones had been moved to sit on.

Sam Grimshaw, the person who discovered the damage said, “Once I’d realised what I was seeing I became very angry, and a great feeling of sadness came over me as I saw more and more stones removed…I was amazed at the effort that had been put in to move some of the stones, I couldn’t quite believe it.”

The monument itself probably dates from the earlier part of the Bronze Age (c. 2500 until c. 800 BC). The little circle seems to have formed part of a larger complex with a ditch and a cairn (a stone mound). Human bones, bronze and flint tools, have been found at the site, which may have been a place of burial, ritual and possibly an area reserved for seasonal celebrations. The little monument has had a chequered recent history, however.

The circle was excavated in 1852 by Thomas Bateman and re-excavated between 1931-1934. A number of vessels were discovered here. The cairn which is part of the site held a rectangular stone grave pit containing a cremated female body along with a segmented faience bead. Four other cremations were placed round the inner edge of the stone bank before this was eventually filled in to form the cairn.

In 1993 somebody attempted to restore the circle and cairn, re-erecting some of the stones as well as bringing in others to replace missing ones. This is not very archaeologically sound and the site was taken over in 1994 by English Heritage and Peak National Park authority, who restored Doll Tor to what is thought to be its original Bronze Age condition.

A spokesperson for Historic England said:

“We have had reports that Doll Tor scheduled monument has been damaged and we are investigating this at present. As a scheduled monument, Doll Tor stone circle and adjacent stone cairn is a nationally important archaeological site and protected by law. This site, which is on private land and is not open to the public, forms an important part of our shared past and the preservation of the standing stones, cairn, buried archaeology and other features is vital in helping us to understand the ritual importance of this site and the beliefs of prehistoric peoples. Wilful and reckless damage to this scheduled monument would be a heritage crime.

We are currently working with Derbyshire police, the private landowner and The Peak District National Park to understand the extent of the damage, and we would ask for anyone who may know about this, or witness suspected heritage crime to contact the police. You can also reach out to Historic England’s Heritage Crime team at @HeritageCrime.”

Regrettably the damage to Doll Tor is not the only incidence of vandalism or unthinking behaviour as lockdown eases.

Trench Wood – Image credit: Richard Dunn, CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Parker, who owns a third of Trench Wood, near Droitwich, reported that “Gangs of youths on bikes have cut the wire to access the woodland [and] have cut down trees to build ramps and damaged old oak trees. The damage has been reported to the police, they’ve offered to increase patrols in the area but can’t do much else unless CCTV is available (which it isn’t because the area is woodland without power). I was very disappointed to see the damage to trees in the woodland and the amount of litter that was left behind. The area is ancient woodland, and will take years to recover. A large area of bluebells has also been destroyed.”

There have also been claims on social media that Doll Tor is not the only stone circle to have been targeted as lockdown is gradually reduced in the U.K. that are currently being investigated.

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