Tuesday, November 10, 2020

London Stone


London The Unfinished City
The London Stone, in its new housing, on Cannon Street.

I first discovered The London Stone back in January 2009, when wandering the streets one evening.

It was hidden in a recess, on Cannon Street, with glass and a metal grate to protect it. The grime, from the passing traffic, had discoloured the protective glass and, although it was lit, it was hard to make out.

I took a photo, just to document what I had seen, and headed on my way.

It was only following some research in to this strange lump of limestone, that I discovered its importance.

I have returned to see the London Stone in its new home, still on Cannon Street, and am pleased to report that it now sits clearly, for everyone to see.

Brief History

London Stone is a piece of limestone measuring 21 x 17 x 12 inches, and is just the upper most part of the original stone, which was roughly 3 feet high x 2 feet wide and 1 foot thick.

It was originally situated on the south side of Candlewick Street, which became Canning Street and then Cannon Street.

It's origin is unknown as is its original purpose.

Over the centuries it has been described as 

  • an ancient object of worship by Druids
  • a Roman Milliarium (measuring stone)
  • a monumental talisman for London
  • The founding stone of London, laid by Brutus of Troy
  • the stone from which King Arthur freed Excalibur
So what is the truth.

The earliest recorded mention of London Stone is around 1098-1108, in an ancient medieval text where it is referenced as 'Eadwaker aet lundene stane' (Eadwaker at London Stone).

In 1450 Jack Cade, who led a rebellion against Henry VI's corrupt government, struck his sword against London Stone and immediately claimed to be "Lord of this City".

By 1608 London Stone had become a tourist attraction, with people flocking from all over the country to see it. 

It is possible that it was damaged when the Great Fire of 1666 ravaged the area, but this is uncertain.

By 1671 the Master and Wardens of the Spectacle Makers' Company, whocontrolled the quality of spectacles for sale in London, seized a batch of spectacles...

"two and twenty dozen of English spectacles, all very badd both in the glasse and frames not fitt to be put on sale... were found badd and deceitful and by judgement of the Court condemned to be broken, defaced and spoyled both glasse and frame the which judgement was executed accordingly in Canning Street on the remayning parte of London Stone where the same were with a hammer broken in all pieces."

London The Unfinished City
London Stone, 2019

Soon after London Stone was covered in a stone Cupola, to protect it.

London Stone was moved several times over the next few years. 

First, in 1742, it was moved and set beside the door of St. Swithin's Church, which had been rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire. It was then moved to the east end of the church's wall, in 1798. It moved, once more, in the 1820s, when it was set within the wall of a stone building. In 1869 an iron grille was installed to give added protection to London Stone. A plaque was affixed above it, in Latin and English.

During the Blitz, of 1940, St. Swithin's church was gutted by fire, with the church finally being demolished in 1962. The stone was placed in an alcove of Portland Stone, with protective glass case and iron grille in the new office building at 111 Cannon Street.

London Stone became a Grade II listed structure on June 5, 1972.

London The Unfinished City
London Stone, 2009.

In March 2016 the building at 111 Cannon Street was up for renovation, so London Stone was moved, temporarily, to the Museum of London, where it was displayed until October 2018.

London The Unfinished City
London Stone, in the Museum of London

There is one quote that still resonates and that many Londoners take to heart, which is...

"So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish."

So, which myth or story do you believe? 
Do you have any other stories about London Stone? 

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