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arthursstone_clip_image002A Neolithic burial tomb dating back to 2500 B.C., Arthur's Stone (sometimes known as King Arthur's Stone) was first excavated by Sir Gardiner Wilkinson in 1870.

One of the first sites to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882, Arthur's Stone is Gower's most prestigious landmarks.

The earliest reference to the name of this New Stone Age tomb appears in a letter from the Venerable John Williams, a 17th Century Rector of Cheriton church to the antiquarian Edward Lhuyd where he wrote:

"The common people call it Arthur's Stone, by a lift of vulgar imagination attributing it to yn [sic] hero an extravagant size and strength"

Over four metres long, two metres broad and two and a half metres high and raised on a series of angular stone supports, the capstone is an incredible twenty-five ton boulder of quartz conglomerate that was deposited here by a glacial ice sheet that crossed the entire South Wales countryside during the last great Ice Age. At this time the stone weighed a good ten tons heavier that it does today as some time before 1693 the rock was split cleanly in two.

Legends abound as to the cause of this break:

  • A miller looking for a new millstone;
  • Lightning striking the stone during a fierce electrical storm;
  • Even St. David himself has been attributed to the act;
  • The stone was once the centre of druid worship and it is said that the patron saint of Wales took his mighty sword to the monument to prove it as an altar of false gods.

Whatever the cause, this large segment still lays at the foot of Arthur's Stone to taunt the visitor with the origin of its mysterious severance.

The monument has been a famous attraction for over half a millennium. In the 15th Century, for instance, it is recorded that Henry VII's troops, having landed at Milford Haven en route to give battle at Bosworth Field, made a one hundred and twenty eight kilometre detour to visit the stone.

arthursstone_clip_image012In the 16th Century the site was listed as one of the "three mighty achievements of the Isle of Britain" (the other two being the Stonehenge and Silbury Hill monuments), but despite such exaltation it is now believed that no great exertion was employed in erecting the monument. It seems probable that the Neolithic builders responsible, taking full advantage of the giant boulder already deposited on the elevated site of Cefn Bryn, excavated beneath the rock, inserting up to twelve upright stones as they dug to support its hefty weight, whilst they created the space for two burial chambers.

With so many other of Gower's historic monuments bearing host to myths, folklore and superstitions it would be remarkable to find something of the order of Arthur's Stone to be barren of such fables. The legends concerning the splitting of the stone have already been discussed, but countless others concerning the origins of the monument and the supernatural powers ascribed to it also exist:

  • The stone takes its name from the legend that King Arthur, during his travels in Carmarthenshire, found a pebble in his boot and tossed it across the Burry Estuary. Landing some eleven kilometres away on Cefn Bryn - having assumed magical powers along its flight The stone grew in stature whilst other rocks indigenous to the region elevated the boulder upon their shoulders to display to the world the wonder of King Arthur's Stone.
  • At each cock crow the stone wanders down to the nearby river, that runs down towards Cheriton, to quench its thirst.
  • King Arthur is sometimes said to be seen riding a white horse near the tomb.
  • At midnight , when the moon was full, young maidens would test the fidelity of the men they loved by offering the stone a cake baked from Barley meal and honey wetted with milk. They would then circle the stone three times on their hands and knees, knowing that if their man appeared before they finished their final circuit he would make a faithful husband.