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The Four Shire Stone near Moreton-in-Marsh is a waymarker that stands at the former meeting point of four counties of The Cotswolds.
But, what many people do not know is that this boundary line pillar was an inspiration to J. R. R. Tolkien and his Legendarium.
It is thought that this monument inspired the Three-Farthing Stone of the Shire which is mentioned in both of his books The Hobbit and the Lord Of The Rings.
Here’s a complete guide on how to visit the Four Shire Stone in Moreton-in-Marsh and all you need to know about the Four Shire Stone Tolkien connection!
What is the Four Shire Stone?
The Four Shire Stone is not a stone at all really, it’s actually a 9-foot pillar that is made of locally quarried Cotswolds stone.
The pillar was constructed centuries ago to mark the meeting place of four English counties. Those are Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Worcestershire.
At each side of the pillar, the county has been carved into the stone in the direction it faces. So, if you were walking here centuries ago, this waymarker would have given you the direction to head!
From the stone, you can head to the East or West into Gloucestershire, North to Warwickshire, South East to Oxfordshire, and South West to Worcestershire.
It’s located around 25 miles from Oxford and two miles away from the town of Moreton-in-Marsh.
Although waymarkers like this have been commonplace in the UK for centuries, this is now the only place in Britain that marks the point where four counties used to meet.
Four Shire Stone history
There was an older waymarker here called the Four Shire Stone that was built in 1675. In Thomas Habington’s Survey of Worcestershire he mentions;
”The stone which toucheth four sheeres, a thing rarely scene”
The current structure we see today was then rebuilt in the 18th-century and it’s this monument that is grade II listed.
As well as marking the meeting place of four counties, it also used to mark the boundary lines of seven civil parishes. These are Moreton-in-Marsh, Batsford (former), Lower Lemington (former), Great Wolford, Little Compton, Chastleton, and Evenlode.
According to local tales, this used to be a place where gangs from different counties used to meet to fight before the days of a unified police force.
It proved a smart place because it was really easy to run off into an adjoining county and avoid arrest from the local constabulary!
In 1931 the boundary lines of Worcestershire changed and then the pillar only marked the meeting place of three counties. Ever since then, it’s lost some of its importance.
The modernisation of the roadway meant that the Four Shire Stone became of little use to travellers. So, it became largely forgotten. For years, it was abandoned and surrounded by lots of shrubberies and overgrowth.
Today, the site has recently had a clear-up project and is now protected by a barrier. They are in the process of cleaning and repairing the Cotswold stone to revive this important piece of Cotswold’s history!
The Four Shire Stone Tolkien Connection
Many people visit this pillar today as there is a strong possibility that this place inspired J. R. R. Tolkien and his Legendarium.
It’s actually been confirmed by a local Tolkien Society who claim that this pillar inspired the “Three Farthing Stone” in the Lord Of The Rings.
In the books, the Hobbit’s homeland is called the Shire and it’s divided into four farthings. Three of those farthings meet at the Three-Farthing Stone and these are Westfarthing, Southfarthing, and Eastfarthing.
The Three-Farthing Stone lies on the Great East Road between By-Water and Green-hill country. Which, you could compare to the Four Shire Stone as it lies on the Great A44 road.
Plus, we know that the boundary lines of Worcestershire changed in 1931 which would also tie in with the fact that only three of the four farthings meet at the stone in the Shire.
Fun fact: A local Tolkien Society called the Three Farthing Stone Smial are the ones who awarded the blue plaque to The Bell Inn Moreton in Marsh! The pub has similarities to the Prancing Pony at Bree.
Where is the Four Shire Stone in the Cotswolds?
So, if you wanted to visit this Hobbit-like location for yourself in the Shire then you’ll need to head to The Cotswolds. This is a huge area that stretches from The Midlands to the South of England.
The Four Shire Stone is located on the old boundary marker between the four counties of Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Worcestershire.
Although the boundary lines are outdated now, you can still find the monument right beside the A44 road at the turning of Great Wolford between Evesham and Oxford.
This is located just a few miles away from the thriving Cotswolds market town of Moreton in Marsh.
So, if you are on a road trip in the North Cotswolds, it makes a great place to stop for any Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit fan!
- Four Shire Location: A44 road, Junction of Great Wolford. Click here for the Google Pin!
- Four Shire Stone Postcode: CV36 5NQ
- Four Shire Stone Grid Reference: SP 23037 32168
- Four Shire Stone Coordinates: 51°59′14.96″N 1°39′56.65″W
How to Visit the Four Shire Stone Moreton in Marsh
By far the easiest way to access the Four Shire Stone is to drive. It’s just 1.7 miles out of the main High Street of Moreton in Marsh on the A44 Road.
You need to drive in the direction towards Oxford for around a mile and then make a turning when you see the sign to Great Wolford.
You can then stop here and there is a small space on the side of the road where you can park your car to get out and have a look!
Make sure to park with consideration and be careful to not park too close to the junction turning. Also, look both ways when you walk over to the stone.
Although Great Wolford is a quiet place, cars do turn down here all the time from a national speed limit road!
You could walk here from Moreton in Marsh in around 30 minutes. There is a pavement along the A44 Oxford Road.
Eventually, that pavement then turns into a narrow grass-beaten path on the side of the A44 road that leads you all the way to the marker. But, it wouldn’t be very scenic with all the cars whizzing by you!
Are you looking for more Tolkien locations in the Cotswolds & Oxfordshire?
There are many places in The Cotswolds that fans and Tolkien societies alike feel inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium.
If you haven’t visited already, head to Moreton-in-Marsh next where you can visit The Bell Inn pub. Many believe this was the inspiration for the Prancing Pony at Bree. Even if you didn’t want to go inside, you can see a blue plaque outside the front door!
In Stow-on-the-Wold, you must pop by St Edward’s Church and head to the back of the churchyard. Here, there is a door flanked by yew trees which many believe is a real-life Moria and The Doors of Durin.
In greater Oxfordshire, you could head to the Vale of the White Horse. Near the site is Dragon Hill which Tolkien’s son believes is the location of Weathertop. Near to that is Wayland’s Smithy which is another inspiration for the Barrow-Downs!
And who could forget Oxford where Tolkien was a professor at the university? Head to the Eagle and Child to have a pint where he used to meet with his contemporaries ‘The Inklings’. Members included authors such as C. S. Lewis who wrote Alice in Wonderland!