Stone circle in East Anglian village?

A QUALIFIED surveyor claims a picturesque village on the Essex/Suffolk border might boast the only proper stone circle outside the west of England.

Laurence Cawley

A QUALIFIED surveyor claims a picturesque village on the Essex/Suffolk border might boast the only proper stone circle outside the west of England.

For generations the sarcen stones at Alphamstone near Sudbury have been at the centre of hot debate as to whether they were ever part of a stone circle.

There are two stones marking the entrance to St Barnabas Church and a number of others further back near - and in - the church, but they form neither a circle nor part of a circle.

But Paul Daw, a surveyor who has visited more than 300 of the 400 or so stone circles, timber circles and henge sites in England, believes he might have found the original location of a stone circle in the churchyard using the ancient technique of dowsing.

He believes the stones which visitors to the church can see have been moved away from a once-standing circle in a corner of the churchyard.

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His claims have been questioned by Suffolk County Council's archaeology team, which said whenever it has investigated the claims of dowsers they have never found archaeological remains.

But Mr Daw said he has had successes in the past and claimed he has had positive readings at Alphamstone suggesting a near-perfect circle of 10 stones.

“The find of a stone circle in East Anglia is unique, as all of England's other stone circles, of which there were nearly 400, all occur in the West Country, the area once known as Wessex, the Pennines and in Cumbria.

“On the eastern side of England, circular earth monuments such as henges and causewayed enclosures, and the occasional timber circle, were built during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods.”

Mr Daw, who is looking for funding to continue with his work and who wants to open a national museum devoted to stone circles, said he hoped there may be a possibility that part of the site which sits just outside the area of consecrated ground might be excavated in the future to see whether his findings using divining rods stands up.

Nobody from the church was available for comment at the time of going to press, but Edward Martin from Suffolk County Council's archaeology service said while he had an open mind about dowsing's ability to find water he had not experienced a positive result for stones or archaeological remains.

“Finding archaeological remains with dowsing doesn't seem to work,” he said. “I would have great doubt about this being real. In south Suffolk you do get boulders which are very often used in foundations. But they would not make much of a monument because they are not huge stones. If we do get anything like that, we would have a timber circle rather than a stone circle.”

Divining rods used for dowsing have been used in various forms for thousands of years.

Scientific Dowsing has its supporters and its sceptics and research into the use of divining rods have not tended to prove it works.

During the 1960s some US Marines used dowsing to try and locate weapon stores beneath the ground.