Tag Archives: London Stone

The Myth of London Stone

21 Nov

London Stone has been a landmark for centuries. And where facts and science have failed to provide a definite history, myths have flourished. London’s Cannon Street is a frantic mêlée during the morning rush hour. As commuters hurry to work, few notice the small crypt, with a glass encasement within it, built into the wall of 111 Cannon Street. Fewer still know that to peer inside would reveal a stone – nothing extravagant, just a lump of oolitic limestone. There are no precious metals or engravings; it’s not a dazzling artefact you might find in a museum. But what it is, and has been as long as records exist, is a literal and metaphorical part of London. Some 18th-Century writers even suggested that, much like the palladium that protected the city of Troy in Ancient Greek mythology, the stone’s survival is key to the continued existence of London itself. One thing that is for sure is that it is always there, and always remains the same, it has stood roughly in the same spot, while everything around it has changed. To this day, however, the exact origin of this 53cm-by-43cm-by-30cm piece of rock, known as London Stone, remains a mystery. Studies undertaken in the 1960s revealed it was likely Clipsham limestone, probably extracted from the band of Jurassic-era rock that runs from Dorset in England’s south-west to Lincolnshire in the north-east. London Stone was included on the earliest printed maps of the city in the 16th Century. What remains today is only a fraction of the original stone that was once embedded in the ground in the centre of Candlewick Street, now known as Cannon Street, a short walk from the Tower of London. John Stow, a 16th-Century London historian, wrote in 1598: “It is so strongly set, that if carts do run against it through negligence, the wheels be broken, and the stone itself unshaken.” It was an entirely impractical position, no doubt, but bearing how much the topography has changed in London over the last millennium, it’s fair to assume that the streets were built around the stone. But that is all we can say definitively.

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