The “London Stone”

The London Stone at 111 Cannon Street

The “London Stone” goes on temporary exhibit at the Museum of London today, while the site on which it formerly stood, at 111 Cannon Street, undergoes redevelopment.

The London Stone at St Swithin's

Previously, from the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it had  been  incorporated into the south wall of the church of St Swithin London Stone, and was preserved when the church was demolished after having been damaged in the Second World War, according to a stipulation in the conditions for the redevelopment of that site.

Previous to that, throughout the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, it had stood in the middle of the street, as indicated on the map of 1520, and was apparently used as a place from which to make important public pronouncements, being evidently richly endowed with  symbolic significance.   During the failed rebellion of 1450 that ended with the “Harvest of the Heads” of the leaders, one of the same, Jack Cade, alias Mortimer,  struck the stone with his sword, and declared himself to be “Lord of this City” (see May 8th posting on “Jack Cade’s rebellion”).  In 1189, the first Mayor of London was one Henry Fitz-Ailwyn de Londonestone, who evidently  lived nearby.

Indeed, the  recorded history of the stone extends back even beyond the Medieval period and into the Saxon: it is 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).

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”.

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