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Mounds and Relics


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Another relic of our British ancestors whereabouts, traces of which are still to be seen, though neglected and known but to a few, was an upright monolith about seven feet high and three feet in the ground, standing in the circular sloping hollow of a field in the neighbourhood of Leicester Abbey, and which has from time immemorial borne the name of "St. John's Stone." When and how the stone was deposited on this spot must be left to geologists to determine, but there is little doubt that it entered into the mysterious Druidical rites celebrated in this probable place of worship or assembly in ancient British days.

In later times it became a place of holiday resort on St. John's or Midsummer Day, where it gets its name. Mr. W. Kelly, our learned local antiquarian, writing of thus interesting stone, relates that Mr. Richard Harris (formerly Mayor and M.P. for this borough) once informed him that as a boy he frequently played on the spot, it being customary for children to go there and dance round the stone, or roll down the grassy slopes which encircled it. The young people, he added, were careful to leave the place before dark, as it was believed that at midnight the fairies assembled and danced there.

Many years ago, however, on account of the annoyance to the proprietor from the numerous visitors, rough and gentle, who were attracted to the spot, the relic was levelled to the ground, and the present generation are mostly ignorant both of its hornier existence and of the significance attached to it.

The stone is still to be seen a few inches above the earth, in the centre of a wide grassy hollow resembling an amphitheatre, and is of interest to all who love to dwell on the far-distant Past of their ancient town.

Mr. Frederick T. Mott, in an interesting contribution to the first number of "Notes and Queries" published by Messrs. J. & T. Spencer of Leicester, calls attention to an oblong arrangement of mounds of earth on the western slope of a hill on the Beaumont Leys estate which, he suggests, may have possibly been the site of an old British encampment and there are remains at Ratby which point to a similar origin, a theory which the name of this village or "rath" in the Celtic tongue, strengthens.

That there was more than one camp in the near neighbourhood of Leicester is certain, from the Romanized plural form of "Rath", "Ratae" afterwards adopted by the Romans as the name for their new Station "Ratae Corieltauvorum."

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