There’s a special secret hiding in a pretty nondescript field set deep within the rolling hills of Devon. To be honest, there are even sheep wandering about here, grazing and eating the lush green grass! In a land where the lines between fiction, fantasy and reality are blurred, Spinster’s Rock in Devon, England has long been shrouded in mystery and folklore.
So it is here, in a field, at the end of a very narrow lane (think grass growing in the middle of the road!) that Spinster’s Rock is situated, right in the very middle of a ley line. But what do a bunch of rocks in the heart of the Devonian countryside have to do with anything? Well, what if I told you that the dolmen was erected thousands of years ago in the neolithic period…
Sounds interesting now, right?
What is the Spinster’s Rock Dolmen?
First things first: what is a dolmen? The word ‘dolmen’ derives from the Celtic words meaning stone and table. A dolmen is (usually) an underground tomb that is marked by the presence of standing stone topped by one lying flat stone. Fancy finding a large concentration of dolmens in the same place? The largest concentration of dolmens in the world can be found in Carnac, Brittany.
Spinster’s Rock is allegedly the entrance to a neolithic burial chamber. The neolithic period was between 4500 BCE and 2000 BCE. This means that Spinster’s Rock has been standing for at least 4000 years! During the neolithic period, Dartmoor was a hive of activity. It wasn’t the barren landscape that we see today but filled with thriving forests and human settlements.
Unfortunately, there is no way of telling whether or not Spinster’s Rock really is the site of a burial chamber. Due to the nature of the acidic soil on Dartmoor, organic matter decomposes within a matter of years and tougher materials such as metal rot away not soon after. As a result, no human remains have ever been found on the site.
Why the name Spinster’s Rock?
Well, in 1862, during a particularly stormy night, the stones collapsed. The story goes that three witches who lived nearby thought that the collapsing rocks were a tragedy for the history of the area (not to mention the important ley line). They were killing time one morning before starting their weaving. As a result, they headed out before breakfast that very same day and set about re-erecting the stones…
Whether this is true or not, remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear: if the stones really did collapse and were re-erected, this was in the age before modern day machinery and so no one is quite sure how they managed! The top stone alone weighs over 15 tonnes…
What’s also interesting to note is that perhaps ‘three sisters’ relate to Norse mythology. The Vikings made it all the way down to Devon and with them, came their own legends and mythology. In Norse mythology, Norns are a bit like the Fates in Classical Rome. Norns were women who ruled the fates of men by weaving… Three sisters, weaving: sound familiar to you?!
Are the rocks ‘the real deal?’, though?
During the past few decades, doubt has been cast on the authenticity of the dolmen. While there’s no doubt that Dartmoor has one of the largest collection of neolithic monuments in the world, Spinster’s Rock doesn’t occur close to any other neolithic artefacts. In reality, the rocks may well have been erected in the 1800s (with little evidence to suggest otherwise).
However, I prefer to think that Spinster’s Rock is the real deal and that the fact that the stones have been linked to Norse mythology suggests that they are thousands of years old!
Whatever the case, the field is a peaceful spot, filled with sheep and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area…
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