Craig recommends… Here’s my original review of London Stone. If you enjoy looking at it then there are plenty more Roman attractions in London. The best one is the amphitheatre in the Guildhall Art Gallery’s basement, followed by what’s left of the Roman city wall. There is some old Roman pavement in All Hallows by the Tower, and lots of dug up statues and artefacts on display at the Museum of London.
London Stone is No.10 in our list of London’s most historic attractions.
Important note: London Stone is on temporary display at the Museum of London. They are planning to return it to Cannon Street once the building work has completed.
London Stone is one of the most intriguing monuments in the City of London… but also one of the least impressive. It’s basically just a lump of ugly rock –but that belies its true worth.
Experts believe that it most likely dates back to Roman times, and probably acted as some kind of mileage marker. Others people believe that it marked the centre of the city, and there are even suggestions that it formed part of an ancient stone circle on Ludgate Hill. One of the more outlandish theories is that it’s the same rock from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur!
Whatever its original origin, over the centuries it gained a mystical authority and came to symbolise the authority and power of the city. Oaths were sworn here, deals were struck (by striking the stone), but as the years went by it fell into disuse, and now occupies a rather sad spot on a busy London street.
Nobody knows how old the London Stone is, or where it came from, or what it originally signified, and it’s quite possible that it’s just a plain old lump of rock. But there is plenty of history and mystery associated with this thing, so it’s worth a quick look the next time you’re in the vicinity.
At the moment it’s on display at the Museum of London, but that’s not where it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be locked inside a ground-level grill in Cannon Street (opposite Cannon Street station). But unfortunately they decided to knock the surrounding building down, which meant that they had to shift it into the museum. I’m sure that they were secretly hoping they could keep it forever, but there was such an uproar when they announced the change that the developers had to promise to return it to Cannon Street once they’ve finished the building work. But trust me: the damage is already done. That new building is doomed!
Moving the London Stone is like freeing the ravens at the Tower of London, or opening the Ark of the Covenent at the end of Indiana Jones. This thing is akin to the Arkenstone. It’s the heart of London, the dried-up centre of the city, the fossilised pip of whatever tree stood here first, and by moving it they have brought down the wrath of Gog and Magog (the mythical guardians of The City).
Experts believe that it dates back to Roman times, and probably acted as some kind of mileage marker. Other people push it back even further, and insist that it was part of an ancient stone circle on Ludgate Hill. The romantic types (the loonies) all argue that it was the stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur. But all they really know for sure is that it’s even older than old, and it’s mainly for this reason that it gained an enigmatic status in The City. People used to come and touch it to seal a deal (a bit like swearing an oath on the Bible). Jack Cade was supposed to have hit it with his sword when he rebelled against Henry VI. But in my lifetime it’s just been shoved inside a cubby hole on the street. Now it’s being carted back and forth while they work out what to do with it.
So, remember… if you want to see it right now then you’ll find it inside the Museum of London, but hopefully it will be back at Cannon Street before too long.