Saturday, December 1, 2012

The London Stone.

by Grace Elliot

Behind this metal grating lies the London Stone.


Have you heard of the London Stone?  A post by Grace Elliot.

The London Stone is believed by some to be the most historically significant piece of masonry in the city and yet hundreds of commuters walk past it everyday without seeing it.
Whatever the claims for the London Stone, it is certainly one of the oldest building stones to be found above ground. References to it extend back through the centuries and one 16th century chronicler, John Stow, claimed to find it mentioned in a book dating back to the Saxon king Ethelstane (925-940). There are numerous casual references throughout the centuries and although its exact history is unknown, there are several conjectures as to its historical importance.


The London Stone.

The first and oldest story about the stone is that it was used by the Romans as the central milestone from which all distances in England were measured, and that it marked the exact centre of the ancient city of Londinium. If this is true or not, it was certainly an important landmark for it was said people met at the London Stone to settle debts, to pin important notices or indeed that it was the last remaining stone of the first Lord Mayor's house.

Wilder theories imbue the London Stone with mythical powers, including the stone embodying the soul of the city and that if it is destroyed, London will fall. The origin of this theory perhaps comes from stories of the stone being the last evidence of a sacred monolith (a sort of London Stonehenge), or brought by Brutus when he founded the city.
 

Legends concerning the stone are many and varied but one of my favourites concerns the significance of 'striking the stone.' In Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 2, the leader of the Kentish Rebellion, Jack Cade, strikes the stone with his sword and declares:
"Now is Mortimer lord of this city."

This goes in some way to back an ancient belief that striking the stone was a key part of a ritual which legitimized a leader's claim to authority (echoes of King Arthur and the sword in the stone?), in particular the idea that no Lord Mayor could take office without striking the stone with his sword.
 

So considering the rich history surrounding the London Stone, what became of it?

Is it royally housed in a shrine, surrounded by security cameras and subdued lighting? Sadly, not. It sits sadly overlooked, embedded in the wall of a betting shop in Cannon Street, behind dirty glass and shielded from the pavement by an iron screen. Come to think of it, perhaps hiding it in plain sight is a good idea - a great way to disguise mythical powers…don’t you think…

The London Stone, Canon Street -
currently residing in the wall of a bookmakers.


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12 comments:

  1. I never knew about it. So interesting and lovely post carol

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the post Carol. I read about the London Stone and so went to find it - seeing it's current resting place was somewhat of a disappointment, I do have to say!
    Grace x

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  3. I'd never heard of it before. Very interesting.

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    1. In truth, I only discovered it when researching the Bank of England about 6 weeks ago. It never ceases to amaze me how much there is still to discover! (or how ignorant I am!)
      G x

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  4. How truly bizarre. That it now resides in a betting shop is both a shame and somehow quintessentially English.

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    1. In my more optimistic moments I like to think the stone is just biding its time, and one day, when the monstrosity that is Cannon Street is demolished and redeveloped, the stone will remain and a truly fitting building erected around it.

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  5. What an amazing fact, but how sad that it is not relocated to the museum. It actually bothers me to know that it is located in a betting shop, how horrible. More thought should be given to find a better home for it.

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    1. I'm not sure, but I think the stone is resting in its original position, so to move it would destroy part of its history. What is needed though, is a much more fitting memorial built around it.
      I get the impression that civilisation will rise and fall around it and the stone will remain....

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  6. Thank you so much for posting this! It's the first I've heard of it and now I'm obsessed with learning all that I can. I'm like a sponge when it comes to history....I can't soak up enough. :)

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    1. I know what you mean - they never taught us this sort of stuff in school, which is why I hated the subject - only as an adult did I discover a totally engrossing fascination with the past.
      G x

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