Arthur's Stone

Maen Ceti, Cefn Bryn

Arthur's Stone, sometimes known as King Arthur's Stone or Maen Ceti, is a Neolithic burial tomb dating back to 2500 B.C. and was one of the first sites to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882.

Arthur's Stone, Cefn Bryn

How to find Arthur's Stone

Arthur's Stone lays close to the road from Cilibion to Reynoldston, that traverses the length of Cefn Bryn.  Near to the village of Reynoldston, an unmarked, makeshift and somewhat craggy car park marks the well trodden footpath that leads to the Neolithic monument.  Suitable footwear is recommended as the footpath is often muddy and the surrounding heath, despite its elevation, is often waterlogged and boggy.

The Capstone

Perched upon a set of pointed supporting stones, the capstone is a 25 ton quartz conglomerate boulder, measuring an almighty 4 metres by 2 metres and 2 metres depth. However, previous to 1693 the boulder was much larger than this, until an incident knocking more than 10 tons of it to the ground in a clean break. Nobody is sure how this almighty event took place, but many theories exist. Some say that a miller attempted to remove a chunk of the rock to make a new millstone, but that the piece proved too heavy to move. Others suggest it was struck by lightening during a violent storm or that St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales, himself split the stone with his mighty sword in defiance of the Druid worship centred around it. Whatever the cause the broken part can still be found alongside the monument, demoted to the ground.

Ancient Attraction

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.

In 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. Although, the construction of this 'portal dolman' seems a magnificent feat, it is most likely that the Neolithic builders used a boulder conveniently deposited upon Cefn Bryn by a glacial ice sheet that during the last great Ice Age. The builders would have excavated beneath the immense rock, inserting the upright stones as they dug, creating two burial chambers.

Theories

It has also been claimed in Dewi Bowen's book "Ancient Siluria" that a local astronomer, Richard Roberts, believes that Arthur's Stone is part of a astronomical construct together with the alignment of other landmarks visible from Cefn Bryn.

The 17th century rector of Cheriton Church, the Venerable John Williams, was first to document the stone's common name, Arthur's Stone, in his letter to the antiquarian Edward Lhuyd:

"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."

- Venerable John Williams

The famous Egyptologist, Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, was first to excavate the tomb in 1870 and claimed that the pathway followed by the ghostly apparition seen by many of King Arthur on a white steed, is the remains of a stone avenue.

King Arthur and other legends

Understandably, due to its ancient origin, there are many fables to accompany the stone. Legend says that the stone claims its name from King Arthur, who found a rock in his shoe and threw it all the way from Carmarthenshire, straight over the Burry Estuary, to Cefn Bryn. Touched by the hand of King Arthur, the stone physically grew with pride and the surrounding stones raised it high with admiration.

Another story bizarrely tells us that the stone travels over Cefn Bryn as the cock crows to quench its thirst at a local stream and Gower/druid tradition tells us that a young maiden could test whether the man she loved would remain faithful to her. Beneath the light of the full moon, she would offer the magical stone a cake made from barley meal, honey and milk and then circle the stone on her hands and knees three times. If the man she loved appeared before her on the final circuit she knew she had chosen a faithful suitor.

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