Purton Stoke Millennium Stone
It all started last year when Millennium celebrations seemed such a good idea. Our Village Committee gathered and thought through what we could do in this special year. We were impressed with the Purton Boundary Stones and that set us thinking about a stone of our own - in our case a Millennium Stone. The search was then on to find a substantial one hopefully with some local significance. Eventually we located one on Hurstead Farm. We had a choice of different sizes all made of local / Cotswold stone and shaped and dressed very purposefully. Mark and Brian Scott told us they had probably been there for a hundred years.
We selected one then had it engraved with PURTON STOKE 2000. “I’ve got an idea”, said Philip Richings, “Wouldn’t it be fun to dress up like Stonehenge men and drag the Stone from the River Key bridge to the entrance to the Village!”. And so it came to pass that at 10am on 24th June, the Millennium Stone Street Party Day, Don, Phil and Jim stood by the bridge staring at a Stone, weighing about 400Kgs, on a palette with a rope tied around it. Fortunately for us the palette was resting on round fence posts. (All placed in position courtesy of Brian and a tractor. Who said that was cheating?) We hauled gingerly and to our delight it moved relatively easily, but then to our chagrin fell off the front roller. “More fence posts!” was the cry, as we left to meet up again at 3pm when the rest of the village would be there.
As expected the crowds gathered to witness this historic(?) occasion. After a little persuasion half a dozen men took hold of the rope and started the long haul up Stoke Street, and a similar number of women started moving the rollers from the back to front as the Stone proceeded on its journey. Steering wasn’t easy. Because of the uneven road and rollers of different sizes, the load moved as if it had a mind of its own. But we made progress. By now people started to come out of their houses to watch and then join this strange procession. The dressing up part had been voted against, but nevertheless one man came wearing a sheepskin. One or two cars tried to get past, some succeeding but others giving up and taking the long way round via Bentham. The steep(!) hill up to the old Post office was the most difficult, but when that was accomplished the ladies decided that they would rather pull the rope, so the men took their turn on the rollers. All was going well until we reached Jubilee Cottage, at which point the palette broke up, and the Stone keeled over. A quick meeting resulted in a cry for help to Brian Scott, who lifted it up (with a little help from Tommy Tractor) and rested it again on the remains of the palette.
There was a loud and enthusiastic cheer from the crowd, now numbering about 70, when the Stone was placed in its temporary resting place by the Bell Inn. (It has since been moved to a second temporary location beside the Jubilee Tree). Pictures were taken, and, because of the inclement weather, the Street Party was held in the Young Farmers’ Hut. Inside, the trestle tables were laden with all sorts of goodies to eat - sandwiches, rolls, quiches, vol-au-vents and cakes galore, all lovingly prepared by the Committee ladies, earlier in the day. There was a friendly buzz in the air as neighbours caught up with the latest village gossip.
The ultimate plan is to gather items to place in a time capsule underneath its final resting place (for the next 1000 years?).
PS The shape of the Stone has given rise to much speculation about its origins. The number one guess at the moment is that it was part of a lock gate from the old North Wilts Canal, by Cross Lanes. Brian says that his Grandfather helped to dismantle the Canal after the Company was wound up in 1914. See what you think next time you are passing.