My previous blog about a nearby archaeological site, Castle Hill at Beaumont Leys, started a good-humoured exchange in Facebook after my New Zeeland born friend asked about a standing stone in Anstey. The comments meandered and we finished with comparing the acting talents of Van Damme and Segal – with a favourable review in relation to standing stones of uncertain origin. Nevertheless, a quick search in Heritage Gateway with ‘standing stone’ as the specific search term resulted with only one standing stone from Leicestershire. However, there is a recorded boundary stone of Medieval or post-Medieval age in Anstey, on Gynsill Lane north-east of Gynsill Farm. It has a status as a Listed Grade II building.
It is this boundary stone that keeps cropping up elsewhere on Internet. There is a very good photograph on Leicestershire villages by Peter Jones. The standing stone is mentioned in Wikipedia, too – in relation to lay lines. It is presented as a menhir on Megalith Portal. These last two suggestions show that we are entering now a land of enthusiasm and make-believe.
Naming something as a menhir – or even a standing stone – relates a local monument with such awesome complexes as Avebury or Stonehenge in this country or Carnac in France. For some people such monuments have spiritual meaning and value. Google ‘Carnac stones’ and see the list of the sites that come up first. Among the more scholarly entries you have a selection of Sacred Destinations, Crystal Links and Atlantis Quest. Naturally, everybody would like to see one’s own village in a more grandiose light. A menhir sounds so much sexier than a boundary stone. The language used and the potential narrative related with such a monument hints of a considerable antiquity and allow the teller to cross national boundaries.
The Anstey stone is located at the point where old ridge and furrow undulations change direction. This suggests that it is related with Medieval or post-Medieval boundaries. It is interesting to note that it was lifted to a more upright position by a farmer at the time when the A47 was to be constructed so that it was not to be erased. Thus, a standing stone or not, it has a tangible local value and appreciation.