The London Stone

Updated on June 21, 2018
The remains of the London Stone
The remains of the London Stone | Source

Until 2016, thousands of Londoners walked daily past an anonymous grille at 111 Cannon Street without realising that they were inches away from London's oldest treasure, even blissfully unaware of its very existence.


The grille behind which it lay hidden for decades
The grille behind which it lay hidden for decades

Behind this grille sat a fragment of limestone; the remains of the London Stone, at last, albeit temporarily, on display in the Museum of London while its former home is demolished and a plinth is erected to house it. This stone sat at the centre of Roman Londinium, which is believed to have been around the entrance to Cannon Street station. It is thought (though without evidence), that measurements of distance were taken from the stone, and that in Roman times people would meet at the stone to conduct business, gossip and assemble for important proclamations and events. However Christopher Wren claimed its base was too wide for it to be a simple milestone. It is not native to the city, and is believed to have been quarried in Rutland or Somerset, and set before the residence of the Governor of Londinium. It is unlikely that it was brought from Troy by Brutus as the legend, which states London will flourish as long as the stone remains in place, suggests. It is also thought to have stood at the centre of the new street plan established by Alfred the Great, and to have got its name around this time.

The story goes that Jack Cade struck the stone with his sword during his march on London in 1450 and declared himself Lord of the city; an event portrayed by Shakespeare in Henry VI part II. This has led people to believe that this was how civic leaders were sworn in during Medieval times, but there is no credible evidence to support this. Like his depiction of Richard III as a deformed psychopath, Shakespeare, a Tudor propagandist as well as a dramatist, has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nor is there any record of Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson or Sadiq Khan doing the same in modern times.

Shakespeare, Henry VI, act 4 scene 6-Jack Cade striking the stone and declaring himself mayor
Shakespeare, Henry VI, act 4 scene 6-Jack Cade striking the stone and declaring himself mayor

Any object as old as the London Stone is believed by some to have intrinsic, even magical powers. William Blake believed it to have been a druid sacrificial altar. Some even believe it be be the stone Arthur pulled Excalibur from. Again, a very unlikely story, but the stone is possibly the inspiration for the myth. One legend states that if the stone is destroyed, London will fall, like the kingdom of Albion if the ravens leave the Tower of London. The stone has in fact been damaged rather than destroyed, as only a piece of less than half a metre square remains today. First cracked during the Great Fire of 1666, it is unknown to what extent and how it became the fragment it now is. In more recent times, despite the church upon which it was mounted being gutted during World War Two, the remains of the stone survived intact and was put behind the Cannon Street grille in 1962 until 2016.

Arthur. There is no evidence that he existed.
Arthur. There is no evidence that he existed.

It is a travesty that such an important historical item has suffered such an ignoble fate as it has over the last fifty or so years, being virtually hidden behind a grille in a basement behind a WHSmiths magazine rack. In other cities it would be worshiped. It can only be a good thing that it is finally being rehoused where people can see it. People ought to know their history, and an item like this that has witnessed Boudicca's destruction of London, the Great Fire and the Blitz is as historically important as the Magna Carta.

Sources

  • London, The Biography-Peter Aykroyd
  • The Museum of London Website
  • Henry VI pt 2, Act 4 scene 6-William Shakespeare
  • The Guardian 12/3/2016
  • BBC


Questions & Answers

    © 2018 DJ Hurst

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)