Prehistoric sites of interest in Surrey - the Camberley Maidens stone circle

The legendary Camberley Maidens stone circle

The legendary Camberley Maidens stone circle - Credit: Phil Berkin

Our amateur ‘historian’, Morris Otley, brings us further outlandish tales from our county’s illustrious past, with a healthy disregard for any historical accuracy...

Prehistoric sites of interest are rare in Surrey, a county at least as old as Wiltshire, which, by comparison, contains far more than its fair share. However, the reason for this is straightforward. Whereas the good people of Wiltshire remain fascinated by the sight of large stones standing on end, the natives of Surrey have long been more interested in bricks and mortar.

Until 1996, when it was removed to make way for a prestigious development of executive maisonettes, the Camberley Maidens was Surrey’s last standing example of an authentic stone circle. Fortunately, thanks to the imagination and generosity of the site’s developers, the memory of these odd looking rocks will be preserved for eternity in the name, Stonyfield Crescent.

The point of a stone circle is, of course, a well-worn topic of speculation among archaeologists, anthropologists and hippies. Healing centre, astral calendar, sporting venue, alien landing site; all are equally plausible. However, I wager that the true answer is the urge to possess “one like that but bigger”. The Otley theory is that Stonehenge is simply the winner of a one-upmanship race that began with a Neolithic loafer arranging pebbles in a circle. All that stuff about lining stones up with the rising sun and importing ridiculously expensive Welsh materials came along later; doubtless a load of sales blarney from some silky tongued henge consultant.

On the right lines

Much more interesting to my mind is the ley line. For starters, these canny constructs of the ancient mind can’t even be seen! Much the same, spookily, as the World Wide Web.

A ley line is the intentional alignment of prominent natural features such as hilltops and ponds with man-made forms such as standing stones, burial mounds, old churches and post boxes. Surveyed by so-called dodmen, the purpose of a ley line was to aid overland navigation in an age before Ordnance Survey – which, for the benefit of younger readers, was an aid to navigation for people who had mastered the art of unfolding paper.

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Now, whereas Surrey has been terribly short-changed in the standing stone department, we can at least boast some top class ley lines in our county. The pick of which being the highly prestigious Buckingham Palace Ley. Should you ever need to travel in a straight line from St Edward the Martyr’s Church in Brookwood to Charing Cross via Buckingham Palace, an ancient dodman has paved the way for you. Well, not literally obviously.

Following a north-easterly route that dissects St Mary’s in Horsell, All Saints in Woodham, St Mary’s in Walton-on-Thames, Bushy Park, Richmond Park, Fulham Palace and St Luke’s in Chelsea, the Buckingham Palace Ley is a conceivably useful route, the only drawback of which is that it now requires a helicopter to navigate.

In fact, the only travellers ever recorded to have attempted it on foot were Surrey’s most thwarted adventurers, Carp and Rankle (See Untold Surrey, June). Even though this was in the days before London’s suburbs grew truly impenetrable, our heroes’ quest was, as ever, doomed. Confronted whilst making their way through the grounds of Fulham Palace, Rankle legged it and Carp suffered the embarrassment of a citizen’s arrest performed by the Bishop of London.

N.B. A quick surf on the mysterious World Wide Web will reveal more about the Buckingham Palace Ley Line.


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