If stones could talk – what stories could they tell?
Hartest is a small village south of Bury, Suffolk, England, located in a deep dale.
At its North end lies its silent stone sentry, a limestone boulder with an interesting past.
And, of course, there are different versions of its story.
Just as the Treaty of Utrecht brought Britain the Rock of Gibraltar, it is also said, in at least one story, to have brought it this more humble roughly one metre cube rock, dragged to its present spot in commemoration of the Duke of Marlborough’s victories which brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713.
A more modest memorial it may be than Blenheim Palace, but it still took the efforts of some twenty gentlemen and twenty farmers to drag it on a wooden sled from the top of Somerton Hill on July 7th 1713.
Tired they may have been, but not enough, judging by the ‘erotic debauch’ that is said to have then ensued in the village. Yes because, according to the tale – when the stone found its new home, the people of the village fell under a spell which led to this, the details of which we will spare to our readers.
Another variant of the tale has it that a trumpeter was placed atop the stone, first mentioned in the Bury and Norwich Post of July 1859, that was dragged by 40 horses from a field near Somerton Common in 1713.
A third version holds that the stone was brought to this spot on a sledge drawn by 45 horses not in 1713, but a year later, on August 1st 1714 to mark the coronation of George I.
These stories are contradicted by a further tale that advances no reason for it being placed where we see it today other than that it was discovered in a clay pit on top of Hartest Hill, and was removed by the landowner, ,who had it relocated to its current place, and placed several small stones around it to keep it from rolling over.
However, no matter how prosaic the reason may have been for bringing it into the heart of the village, as folklore soon attributed certain qualities and behaviours to the stone, the most remarkable of which is said to be its nimble ability to flip itself over as the nearby church clock strikes midnight. Whosoever should be brave enough to sit upon it at this moment in the dead of night will be rewarded with either good fortune, or marriage, but not both.
Moreover, Hartest Hill is the steepest in Suffolk, and it has been proposed that the location of a large boulder on the hill’s summit could suggest ritual significance, while others have speculated that the rock once marked the centre of Bury’s terrestrial zodiac, in woodland at Long Grove, within Hawk’s Farm. In this case, the zodiacal sign of Virgo is positioned such that her heart is over Hartest village.