A Possible Standing Stone on High Curley Hill

It has recently been pointed out to me that if my NEWLANDS LINE is extended as a backsight from my base point at Whitmoor Barrow, there is a clear line of sight for some 7.2 miles across flat countryside to High Curley Hill near Lightwater village.  This line is orientated to the mid-winter sunrise in the south-east, and the backsight is to the mid-summer sunset in the north-west. The two opposing bearings align because they fall within the critical band of latitude, which passes through the site of Stonehenge, where a similar coincidence of sighting may be found.

Unfortunately, the view toward Whitmoor is now obscured by mature trees, many of which are evergreen pines.  The old photograph below is copied from a notice board at the Surrey Heath Museum and shows that there were once uninterrupted views to the far horizon.   This sarsen stone is unusual; although there are other sarsens in this area, this is the most outstanding example.

On my second visit to the hill, I noticed a strange indentation in the sarsen; in the photograph below, a conical depression can be seen in the centre.  There are other depressions, but I believe these were created by root growth when the sandstone was being formed and had not yet solidified into the hard rock we now see.

This depression is obviously human-made.  It is very smooth and regular, unlike any of the natural features.   The remaining rainwater conceals an evenly dished base.  At the surface, it is about 15 centimetres in diameter and is some 16 cm deep.  I have no idea of the age or purpose of this feature.

Although interesting, this stone is not on the alignment, so further site investigation was required.  The summit of the hill is a flat plateau at a height above sea level of around 420 feet. The summit is at the end of a ridge extending from the west, and there are views to the horizon in all directions apart from along this ridge.  It would surely have been of significance to prehistoric peoples with its flat top measuring approximately 140 metres by 40 metres wide, offering panoramic views to horizons some thirty or more miles away.

Taking a ranging rod, a trowel, and a pruning saw, my next visit was concentrated on the area where the backsight of the alignment crossed the hill about 44 metres from the sarsen.  The area around the sarsen and out to the viewing point in the north-west is well-trodden and clear of scrub, but coming back towards the south-east, the ground has a dense covering of heather and gorse.   Working my way from the alignment back north-west towards the sarsen, I stumbled across the corner of another sarsen just visible through the growth.  The pruning saw proved ideal for ripping through the covering of heather roots to reveal a large recumbent stone.  The next photograph shows the relationship between the two sarsens. The distance between them is about 21 metres. The recumbent stone is about 27 metres from the alignment, a small error over seven miles and without investigation of the sun’s rising and setting at this elevation.

This photograph below is all I have been able to expose to date.  This is a public country park, and I did not want to be seen digging around the stone to ascertain its extent – besides which, at my age, the effort to get this far was quite crippling.   The exposed surface measured some six feet long by 2.5 feet wide.   Probing the edges did not help much in determining the depth or limits of the stone.

As it is so close to the mid-summer sunset alignment, I am going to be so bold as to suggest the possibility that this sarsen was once a standing stone fallen in antiquity.

The pale corner is just visible on Google Earth at   51°20’45.41″N    0°41’30.92″W.  The altitude is given as 411 feet which gives a clear line of sight back to Whitmoor Barrow.  This is best viewed in Google Earth by selecting June 2018 in the ‘Historic Imagery’ option.

It now needs younger and fitter researchers, and with the permission of Surrey Heath Borough Council, to undertake a proper archaeological dig.  I would love to see the whole plateau subjected to examination – at the very least by ground penetration radar.

Best access to this site is from the public car park in the Lightwater Country Park off High View Road, Lightwater, postcode GU18 5YF.


2 thoughts on “A Possible Standing Stone on High Curley Hill

  1. Roy

    Hello Mike
    I’ve been living in High View Road Lightwater for over 20 years and frequently walk in the neighbourhood (more so since the COVID-19 crisis arose!). Therefore it was with great interest that I’ve just come across and read your article about one of the sarsens on the High Curley plateau.
    Three points I’ll make now that I imagine you will probably already be aware of…
    ” A celebratory bonfire in 1945 next to the stone was left to burn after everyone had left. At some time during the night the heat caused the stone to explode. What remains of the stone is about three quarters of the original stone.” (See https://lightwater.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/question-answered-about-the-large-stone-on-curley-hill/).
    “Sarsens are common on the sands of the Bagshot Beds, characteristic of north-west Surrey and adjacent areas. I’m not sure I’m permitted to divulge too many details of particular things I do as part of my job, but I think it’s okay to recount in general terms that not so long ago we received a report of the (re)discovery of the above sarsen boulder, said to be known locally as The Kings Stone, by a roadside near Camberley. According to the reporter, sarsens are frequently encountered in the course of roadworks in this part of Surrey, and a local blog has drawn attention to the nearby stones atop Curley Hill (alias High Curley) and on Brentmoor Heath. The lost Basing Stone, on record at least as far back as the mid-15th century (PNS, 153), may have been another example from the same area.” (See https://surreymedieval.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/kingston-the-coronation-stone-and-digging-a-bit-deeper/).
    You say “It now needs younger and fitter researchers, and with the permission of Surrey Heath Borough Council, to undertake a proper archaeological dig. I would love to see the whole plateau subjected to examination – at the very least by ground penetration radar.” You could approach the Surrey Heath Archaeology and Heritage Trust: it is possible they could help. (See https://shaht.wordpress.com/).
    Forgive me if I’m ‘teaching grandmother to suck eggs’ (what repulsive metaphor!).
    Now on my next walk I’ll have to look for that second sarsen you found.
    With all my best wishes, and stay safe in these strange times

    1. David Porter

      Hi Roy, I had the same thought, I’m trying to write a paper on the subject. I have been cataloguing the stones in Surrey Heath for the past few months. Thanks to Covid and an energetic Labrador. The curly Hill stone is the Apex of two lines of stones one stretching north west all the way to Barossa Common this line very clearly marks the Winter Solstice (it also continues down into Lightwater itself the stones on the green at Corbett drive are on this line – I havent found any stones on the heath on the other side of the red road but google earth has some intriguing bumps that conform to the solstice line inside the army land perimeter. The other line/lines stretches South West, across heatherside, pine ridge golf course and the frimley fuel allotments. the stone at the maultway/red road roundabout was on this line before it was moved. I have no idea what if anything that line signified. Most of the stones have post holes like the High Curly stone. A stone on the S/W line has a clear carving of a stretched crescent (it has a uncanny resemblance to the path of the sun low on the horizon during the solstice – i checked using a solar panel installation app 🙂 ). My favourites are two stones that are perfect east of the curly hill stone that presumably mark the equinox. they are on the camberley side of the M3 near the maultway. Id be happy to share a map or grid refs if anyone is interested. Dave


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