Tag Archives: London Stone

Jack Cade’s rebellion (1450)

Jack Cade's rebellion.JPG

On this day in 1450 Jack Cade, alias Mortimer,  and thousands of armed supporters entered London “to punish evil ministers and procure a redress of grievances”.  Cade went on to strike  the “London Stone” on Cannon Street  with his sword, and declare himself “Lord of this City” (*); and in this capacity to oversee the show-trial at the Guildhall and subsequent execution on Cheapside of the corrupt Lord High Treasurer, James Fiennes, Baron of Saye and Sele, and his son-in-law William Crowmer.    Unfortunately for Cade, in succeeding days he lost what support he had for his cause among the citizens of London, as his followers descended into drunken  rioting and looting in the City.  Eventually, on July 8th, the citizens drove him and his followers from the City, after a pitched battle on London Bridge, during which scores of combatants were killed (**).

The “London Stone” is  visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) 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”.

(**) Cade was later captured and executed in Sussex, as part of the so-called  “Harvest of the Heads” of the rebel ringleaders, whereupon  his   body was brought to London and beheaded and quartered in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark, and his head was put upon a pike on London Bridge.

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”.  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”.

St Swithin London Stone

St SwithinThe last in the series on churches built by Wren after the Great Fire of 1666 that have been lost  since …

St Swithin London Stone was originally built sometime before 1291.  It was burnt down  in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren in 1677-86, using materials from St Mary Bothaw, only to be  severely damaged by bombing in 1941, and subsequently demolished in 1957. John Dryden was married to Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.  

St Swithin London Stone parish boundary marker

St Swithin London Stone parish boundary marker

Essentially only the so-called “London Stone” that was built into the south wall of the church in 1798 still survives at the site, as stipulated in the conditions for its redevelopment (see below for additional information on the London Stone).  There are parish boundary markers on Cannon Street and in Oxford Court (and another just off  Walbrook).  

St Swithin’s Church Garden also survives,  between Salters Hall Court and Oxford Court (and near where Henry Fitz-Ailwyn or FitzAlywn de Londonestone, the first Lord Mayor of London between 1189-1213, once lived).   The pulpit of 1682 salvaged from the church is now in All Hallows Barking.  Swithin was Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century.

St Swithun's church garden

St Swithun’s church garden

The London Stone 

London Stone (in there somewhere)

London Stone (in there somewhere)

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 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.  Indeed, according to one of many romantic myths surrounding the stone, it was the very one from which King Arthur drew the Sword Excalibur, and possessed magic powers; and according to another, it was the one 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 Hollis put it, “We will never know [its true origin], and perhaps that is as it should be”.

London Stone

London Stone

The site of St Swithin Londonstone is visited on our “Lost Wren churches” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Walking in Chilly Weather

Today Bob discovered that it is difficult to hand around his laminated illustrations when his bare hands are numb with cold!

It really was horribly chilly today. Fortunately everyone was well wrapped up (apart from Bob’s hands, that is!)

Highlights of today’s Tower to Temple walk included:

– a helpful explanatory compass just outside Tower Hill station, giving a good preliminary over-view of the sights to come

– the Whitefriars monastery: tucked away where you’d never expect to find it!

– the London stone (hidden in clear view)

-the Monument (some decided to make a return visit after the walk finished, to climb up to the top for the excellent views!)

– exploring inside the Inns of Court

Unfortunately the Roman Amphitheatre, under the Guildhall Art Gallery, was unexpectedly closed to visitors today, due to a rehearsal of some kind (not mentioned on their website – grrrrr!) Everyone strained for a glimpse through the glass doors to the Amphitheatre basement, and had to make do with that for today. Such a shame. Here’s hoping those on today’s walk will take the opportunity to make a return visit another time.

A running joke with today’s group was the plethora of vanished churches along the route – marked only by plaques or parish boundary markers. That’s the Great Fire for you – it really did wipe out a lot of buildings!

But various street names, many surviving from medieval times, did provide interesting glimpses of that long-gone London. For example, today’s group were interested to learn that Cannon Street’s name has nothing to do with artillery, stemming instead from the name of the local trade conducted there way back in 1183…. Any guesses?