Legendary Landmark and Talisman ‘The London Stone’ to be Returned to Cannon Street
A mysterious ancient stone is to be returned to its home in London in the next few weeks. This enigmatic object, popularly known as the ‘London Stone’ has been one of the landmarks of the great English city for a millennium and is believed to hold mystical power. Despite being preserved for centuries, no-one actually knows the history of the stone. This mysterious object is very important in the heritage of London and according to one legend even preserves its prosperity.
The reverse of the London Stone from inside the building in which it was kept since the 1960s, until redevelopment work. (CC BY 2.0)
History of the London Stone
The first mention of the London stone was in 1188 when there was a reference to ‘Henry Lundenston (London Stone), presumably named after the landmark, who according to the Daily Telegraph subsequently became Lord Mayor of London. Originally the stone was part of a much larger object and it was fixed in a street which is now called Cannon Street. In 1742 it was moved to the north of the street and some years later, because of construction work, was built into the wall of St Swithin’s Church. This church was badly damaged during the Blitz, but the stone survived. When the ruins of St Swithin’s were demolished in 1962 it was fixed into the wall of 111 Cannon Street.
Once site of Church of St Swithin’s 1962 with the surviving London Stone set into the wall. (David Wright / Church of St. Swithin's London Stone / CC BY-SA 2.0)
The London Stone is approximately 22 × 18 × 12 inches (54 × 42 × 30 cm) and weighs 75 kgs and it was once part of an unknown stonework, building, or object. It had been fixed into the wall at knee height and it is protected by a metal grill. It is a rather undistinguished and ugly piece of limestone which has no distinctive features and marks. Despite its long history, not many Londoners are actually aware of the stone.
Mythical stories of the stone
The origin of the object is not known but there are many myths regarding it. Among the stories are that it was brought to the city by the legendary King Brutus. Others believe that it was used by Celtic Druids in their religious rites. Some have even claimed that King Arthur drew the sword Excalibur from this very stone. The London Stone is believed to be essential for the prosperity of the great city. According to the Guardian, there is a belief “that if it is moved from its home in the City then London will no longer flourish.”
The stone had been unceremoniously kept behind a grill in Cannon Street. (Chris Downer / City of London: London Stone/ CC BY-SA 2.0)
The London Stone has captured the imagination of many writers down the centuries. Shakespeare references the object in Henry VI Part II when the rebel Jack Cade uses it for a throne. The great Romantic poet William Blake also refers to it in one of his poems and it is thought that he is the source of the story that it was once used by Druids.
London Stone removal and return
At present, there is construction work being undertaken on Cannon Street and the building where it has been housed since 1960 is being redeveloped. To protect the artifact, it has been moved to the Guildhall Museum of London for safety and here it has been put on public display. Many people have visited the stone in recent times and are intrigued by the various myths about the stone.
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The building in which the London Stone was housed from 1962, as it was before recent development. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The object is being returned to its Cannon Street home in the next two weeks. According to Roy Stephenson, curator of the London Museum, the “developers of the new building were creating a fine home for the London Stone.” This means that the object will be placed in an alcove with a grill in 111 Cannon Street and on public view. The object will not leave London, which if the story is to be believed, guarantees the future prosperity of the capital of the United Kingdom.
The London Stone is attracting a great deal of attention and this is raising many Londoner’s awareness of this historic if mysterious stone. However, it seems unlikely that we will ever know the origin and the history of the object. While many are sceptical about the powers of the London Stone, it is widely accepted that it is best to keep it within the boundaries of the city… just in case.
Top image: The London Stone, as kept in the alcove of 111 Cannon Street Source: CC BY 2.0)
By Ed Whelan