Calls to give Sidmouth back its Seven Stones monument
PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 January 2016 | UPDATED: 10:53 12 January 2016
Members of a history group are calling for Sidmouth's answer to Stonehenge to be reinstated - nearly 200 years after it was turned into a rockery elsewhere.
The ‘Seven Stones’ monument dates back millennia and stood on Mutters Moor until Lord Rolle decided he wanted them for his Bicton estate, writes Stephen Sumner.
The Sidmouth Remembers Facebook group is now calling for them to be returned, and members say it could be a big draw for tourists.
Graham Symington, who touted the idea, said: “I felt saddened and shocked to learn that Lord Rolle had dug up and removed this 3,000-year-old monument, which had been built by our Sidmothian ancestors, just to prettify a rock garden on his Bicton estate.
“We know where the stone circle originally stood and we also know where they currently stand at Bicton, so wouldn’t it be nice to have them returned, so we can put them back where they belong?”
Research shows that the Bronze Age monument consisted of six standing stones around a central stone, and they may have had something to do astrology.
They now form a part of a Japanese rock garden at Bicton Park after they were moved there in around 1830.
Graham was not the first to be intrigued by the story of the Seven Stones.
Victorian antiquarian Peter Orlando Hutchinson wrote of meeting someone who remembered the monument, which stood 40 feet or more in diameter. He was told that the rockery at Bicton Park was made of those stones and many others.
In 1970, the Sid Vale Association (SVA) tracked down eight stones in Bicton Park ‘quite unlike the rest’, close to Shell House.
A member at the time said that permission to move them had been denied 12 years before, and there were risks in doing so.
“No living man knew them up there on the moor, and we probably wouldn’t really be happy with our new-old ring,” said the SVA member. “It would be a bit phoney.”
In 2003, the Herald reported how a Norman Lockyer Observatory member called for the stones to be returned.
He said: “If the stones were removed today, it would be called sacrilege.
“There are very few of these circles still in evidence in Britain and I feel that, as an act of education, they should be returned.
“When they had possibly been round for 5,000 years, 180 years is nothing.”
Later that year, David Jannaway, an Otter Valley Association member, said he had learned that the stones were tied to the gardens at Bicton Park by a conservation order and they could not be removed without a valid reason.
Bicton Park owner Valerie Lister this week told the Herald she believed the stones had been removed before she took it on as a charitable trust in 1998.