Witch's Stone, Speen
(See map at www.streetmap.co.uk)
THERE is a facet of history sadly neglected by historians and folklorists, namely standing stones or markstones. These stones - not normally bigger than three or four feet high - are often seen by roadsides or trackways. Recent research suggests they are evidence of the early habitation of an area. For example the sarsen stone built into the north wall of the parish church of High Wycombe may mark a place of workshop long before any church was built. A standing stone in front of the Guildhall, High Wycombe, has survived in its awksward site by the road. Others are in Bull Lane and on the short cut to the library from the High Street.
Many have legends attached to them indicating that for centuries importance has been put on them. The Witch's Stone at Highwood Bottom in Speen is said to be the burial place of a highwayman named Cooper, and his booty. His ghost is said to haunt the lane. This stone is also on a ley line. Similarly the Tarry Stone in nearby Cookham is known to have been important as far back as Roman Times.
Much work needs to be done on cataloguing the stones and the legends linked to them. To some a tedious task but a hint of the significance stones can have was given in Essex in 1984. Working at night, a group of masked men, calling themselves the Markstone Liberation Front began re-erecting and restoring stones to what they believed to be their original positions.
Keep an eye open when walking around. It is surprising, for example, how many people do not notice the prominent stone beside the Guildhall, High Wycombe - until they almost fall over it!