Taynton type stone
Dimensions; Top 17 x 17 cms, height 21 cms, central hole 5x5 cms and 4cms deep.
Description: This is a simple squared off block. Apart from the square hole there are markings on at least two of the sides. On one side there there are three deep cuts. On another there are some other indistinct marks which may be that of a saltire cross shape.
Side with 3 indentations
Side with possible saltire
The possibility that there is an incised pattern is very doubtful. However at a certain angle and in a certain light it is just possible to imagine that there is some such carving
All four sides and the base are uniformly carved. There is no evidence that different chisels were used to finish off any of the surfaces. The stone type is consistent with other stones connected with the Abbey and in this case we have a history which supports the theory that it did come from the Abbey. (See below - The Silchester Stone's Provenance )
Comment: It is not possible to tell whether the hole and/or cuts were made at the time of its original carving or at a later date. What is remarkable is that all sides, including top and base, are uniformly carved. To date faces of stones that were not intended to be viewed, or which were attached to other stones, were given very different treatment. (See for example the Newtown stone, where different chisels were used to dress the different faces depending on their function.)
It is difficult to be sure as to this stone's function. The fact it is square, and not round, would suggest that it was part of a wall, maybe a quoin. Unlike other stones there are no incisions to give grip for the mortar attaching this stone to any other part of a building or section of masonry. If the hole is part of the original design, could this be part of a tenon and mortise join? One possibility is that it was the base stone of a square central support pillar.
A couple suggestions are given here
The Reading Abbey Stone, now the font in St James' church, has a square central base which may well have had such a stone as part of a central pillar.
This is difficult to see in a photograph. Whereas the four surrounding pillars are round the central one would have been square, as can be seen in this 19th century reconstruction of the base.
The dimensions of both the square in the centre of the Reading Abbey Stone and of this block are approximately the same.
The Silchester Stone's Provenance
The owner of the stone now lives in Silchester. She grew up on the family farm at Bulmershe. When Woodley was being developed the farm was lost as houses were built over its land. However she was told how her grandfather told her how his forebears ahd gone to the Abbey site to collect stones whenever these were required for the maintenance of farm buildings and the like. This appears to have been an accepted means of acquiring stone and a custom that had probably been followed by many generations.
There is also a connection with the Abbey site in that from 1834 until the late 1840s much of the Abbey site was owned by the Wheble family who were also the landowners of the Woodley estate.
The following is the story of the stone in the owner's own words:
This stone and a few others were at Bulmershe Court Farm when we arrived there in the early 1950's. When we left, in 1963 after the farm had been compulsorily purchased for housing and education, we took a couple of the stones to Shinfield. They were in the garden there until about 1990. Then I took one stone to my house in Henley on Thames where it sat by the clothes line post on the path. The top niche would fill with rain and the birds came to sip. The other stone was taken by my sister to her house.
My stone came with me when I moved from Henley to Silchester in 1998. In the garden, it gradually became covered in moss until I became aware of the hunt for Abbey stones.
I took some photos of it in its green woolly coat and then cleaned it up so that it's marks could be seen. We always believed it was an abbey stone, so I was delighted that you were able to confirm it to be most likely, especially with the 'Wheble connection'.
This is a most interesting account for it tells how Reading Abbey stone came to be moved around. It is an example of why it is possible to find stone possibly connected with the Abbey, scattered over such a wide area.