November 3rd – On this day in 1450 Jack Cade, alias Mortimer, and thousands of armed supporters invaded London “to punish evil ministers and procure a redress of grievances”. The rebellion ended with the “Harvest of the Heads” of its leaders.
During the rebellion, Cade struck the “London Stone” on Cannon Street with his sword, and declared himself to be “Lord of this City”, an act immortalised thus by Shakespeare in “Henry VI Part II”, Act IV, Scene VI:
“Now is Mortimer Lord of this City. And here, sitting upon London-stone, I charge and command that, of the city’s cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign. And now, henceforward, it shall be treason for any that calls me other than Lord Mortimer”.
In the Medieval period, the “London Stone” stood in the middle of the street, as indicated on the map of 1520, and on the “Agas” one of 1561-70, and was apparently used as a place from which to make important public pronouncements, being evidently richly endowed with symbolic significance. Its recorded history extends as far back as the twelfth century, when the first Lord Mayor of London, from 1189-1213, was one Henry Fitz-Ailwyn or FitzAlywn de Londonestone; and indeed back beyond the Medieval period and into the Saxon, it being referred to in a document of Athelstan, the first Saxon King of All England (924-39). And it is possible, although not proven, that before that, it was associated in some way with the Roman Governor’s Palace complex that once stood nearby, and now forms part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument substantially under Cannon Street Station (it has been postulated, plausibly, that it served as a milliarium, or centre-stone, from which Roman roads radiated and distances were measured). Indeed, according to one of many romantic myths surrounding the stone, it was the very one which Brutus used to mark the city of Troia Nova, and “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long will London flourish”. As Leo Hollis put it, in his book ‘The Stones of London’: “We will never know [its true origin], and perhaps that is as it should be”.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.