Sunday, 18 January 2009

Long Compton Church, Warwickshire

On our way to the Rollright Stones we stopped in the nearby village of Long Compton. The church there has one of the most unusual-looking lych gates that I have ever seen, as it appears to have a small house over it.

(Click photos to enlarge).

According to a sign posted on the notice board beneath the lych gate:

"The parish lych gate dates from about 1600, when it was the end of a row of cottages. Most of these were demolished in the 1920s. The lych gate became first a cobblers and later an antiques shop in the middle of the last century.

It was re-roofed and restored by a past resident, Mr George Latham, and given to the Church as a memorial to him by his wife, Marion, on 12th November 1964. The room above the gate is loaned to the Compton District History Society.

In the porch to church itself we find this stone figure (pictured below) of a rather peculiar-looking woman. Her almost featureless face with its wide apart blank eyes puts me in mind of the modern-day popular image of an alien "grey".

Another posting on a notice board tells us:

"Beside the door into the Church there is a stone effigy of a woman. It dates from the 15th century. She is wearing an ornate headdress and you can just make out a small dog resting at her feet. The effigy was probably the cover of a tomb, and originally located in the north aisle."

Another theory that the church avoids mentioning is that the figure is that of a witch. It has been suggested that the animal at the figure's feet may be the witch's familiar: a cat or a fox.

Interestingly, Long Compton seems to have a history of witchcraft as a quick Google search will show. For example, local legend tells that the Rollright Stones are the remains of a King and his army who set out to conquer England but the King was hailed by a witch who told him to take seven strides and then:
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be
The King took seven strides but instead of seeing Long Compton he saw a spur of land obstructing the view. The witch said:
As Long Compton thou canst not see
King of England thou shalt not be.
Rise up stick, and stand still, stone
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and they men hoar stones shalt be,
And I myself an eldern tree
Date visted: 17 January 2009


  1. You really do have some wonderful and interesting photo's on here! Good work!

  2. Thanks Kev. Just out of interest, did you get here via my guitar blog?

  3. Long Compton is a place I shall long remember; I first went through it in 1955 or 56 on my bike riding from London to Birmingham, well, Solihull actually. I subsequently rode through it a couple of times, and wondered why I always felt uneasy doing so.

    The first time I rode through was probably between 5 and 6 pm on a fine autumn Sunday evening, heading north on the old A34. I ‘whizzed’ down very quickly in top gear. As I entered the village I felt the temperature drop and the hair on the back of my neck, and arms seemed to prickle and stand on end. I changed down and stood on my pedals accelerated out and away. I swear I went up quicked than I came down. There was no one about. There were lights in a few houses, there was smoke rising straight up from the chimneys and the trees were still. It was eerie and for some inexplicable reason I was very frightened. There was no traffic and I felt very alone.

    It happened again in the spring, at a similar time of day, although perhaps a tad later and again I had this uneasy feeling, and once more, saw no one. I wasn’t quite as scared, but I certainly didn’t hang about.

    A couple of years later, riding with some friends in an ad hoc cycling club, we stopped to examine the King Stone and Whispering Knights and the Rollright Stones where our leader told us the tale of the story of “Seven long strides, If Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be”. In the his version anyone 6 feet tall should have been able to see the village But of course no one could. We were all over 6 feet in height, and not one of us ascended to the Throne. I recounted my unease about Long Compton and Alan told me Long Compton was the home of witchcraft in England and that the last witchcraft murder, with a pitchfork, had taken place there, although he placed it only about 10 years previously.

    I am not unduly sensitive or spiritual, and I do not believe in ghosts, but there was something about Long Compton then that still makes me shiver. But hold on.

    During the late 1970s and 80s I often found myself driving, on business between Guildford/London and Birmingham, particularly to the NEC and occasionally to Stratford on Avon. Driving south I always chose the A34 as a more pleasant and convenient road than the M1 or A5 and in my comfortable company car I was perhaps insulated from anything malign abroad in the air .... But ..... I always felt uncomfortable while passing through ....................... and to this day I have never seen a living soul there.

    Has anyone else ever felt this way about what is clearly a delightful Cotswold village? I’d love to know.

    Terry Burke