The Longstone at Mottistone

Legend has it that St Catherine and the Devil had a contest to see who should control the Isle of Wight. The Longstone’s tall iron sandstone pillar was supposedly thrown by St Catherine from the Down to the east which bears her name.

The Devil's wager

At over 4m high and 2m wide, this was a mighty feat indeed. The Devil’s smaller stone (a mere 2.9m high and 1.2m wide) fell short and he lost the wager. The final resting place of the stones – St Catherine’s dominating the recumbent smaller stone – is said to symbolise the triumph of good over evil.

The Longstone marks the entrance to a Neolithic long barrow

It has now been shown that the stones are what remains of a 6,000-year-old Neolithic communal long barrow for burying the dead: 31m long, 9m wide and 2m high. Long barrows in this part of England that aren't on chalk or limestone are rare. It is thought that bodies were laid out for birds and animals to feed, then the bones were buried in chambers and the soil heaped up into a mound.
In Neolithic times the mound was likely to have been higher. People probably worshipped the sun and moon; this may be the reason why the Longstone barrow is aligned west–east.
Bodies may have been laid out for burials at the Long Stone 6000 years ago
An artist's impression of the Long Stone as it would have been when built 6000 years ago
Bodies may have been laid out for burials at the Long Stone 6000 years ago

The Longstone site is no longer as it was intended to be

The burial mound has been damaged over the years and the stones themselves may have been moved in Saxon times. They were certainly dislodged in the 19th century by Lord Dillon, a local squire who was curious to see what lay beneath them. He unearthed nothing for his efforts.
1956 excavations revealed kerb stones and part of the ditch which had run around the mound. 

Moot Stone: a meeting place in Saxon times

Ancient burial places frequently retain their cultural and mystical significance for thousands of years. In Saxon times - 4,000 years after the Neolithic long barrow was built - the Longstone is thought to have been used as a meeting place where judicial and administrative affairs were carried out.
'Moot' is Saxon for meeting place and it is possible that the name of the village – Mottistone – is a corruption of 'moot stone'.
People still celebrate the solstices and equinoxes at the Longstone to this day. You can discover the Longstone for yourself on our downloadable walk.