The Countless Stones is another name for the site Little Kit's Coty, a scatter of sarsen stones found off the A229 between Rochester and Maidstone in Kent. Like the nearby site Kit's Coty, the countless stones are thought to be the remains of a Neolithic chambered tomb, although the earthwork that would have covered them has long since vanished. The 27 stones that are left are probably the remains of one of the rooms of the tomb, or a pallisade down one side of the barrow.
During the 17th century, like so many other sites perceived as 'pagan' throughout the United Kingdom, the Countless Stones were vandalised and pulled out of their original alignment in an attempt to vanquish and banish the heathen powers that resided in the site. The stones now lie over quite a wide area, many covered by foliage or hidden amongst the trees.
As with nearly all prehistoric sites, the Countless Stones have their own folklore. There are two variants of the tale as to how they got there name, both involving the local baker.
In the first story, the baker was coming home from the nearby town of Aylesford one winters evening, when he came across the devil sitting on one of the stones.
"If you can tell me how many stones there are," said the devil. "then I will grant you great wealth."
"But what if I get the answer wrong?" asked the baker.
"Then you must come to hell with me and I will claim your soul." the devil replied.
The baker laid a loaf of bread on each stone as he passed it, and by so doing was able to give the devil the correct answer to his question. He won his bet and did not have to go to hell, but what he got as his reward is unknown.
In the second story involves the same baker attempting to count the stones by laying a loaf of bread on top of each one. However, when he turned to count the loaves, they had all disappeared! Convinced that the devil had stolen them in order to preserve the hidden number of the stones, the baker gave up on his task and hurriedly returned home to his village.
There are also various fertility rites associated with the stones, and young women used to lie on top of them on the night of the full moon in order to be able to conceive healthy children.
The stones are well worth a visit if you are in the Rochester area. There is no entrance fee, and they are open all year round.
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Other Local Prehistoric Sights
for pictures of the stones.