London Stone

The London Stone is a stone that is said to be the place from which the Romans measured all distances in Britannia. It is now set within a stone surround and iron grille on Cannon Street, in the City of London. This artefact is sometimes called the Stone of Brutus. Popular legends include the stone being the remains of an ancient stone circle that is alleged to have stood on Ludgate Hill and even the stone from which King Arthur withdrew the legendary "Sword in the Stone".

History

Whether or not this is true, the London Stone was for many hundreds of years recognised as the symbolic authority and heart of the City of London. It was the place where deals were forged and oaths were sworn. It was also the point from which official proclamations were made. Jack Cade, popular leader of those who rebelled against Henry VI in 1450, observed the tradition by striking his sword against it as a symbol of sovereignty after his forces entered London; on striking the stone, he then felt emboldened to declare himself "Lord of the City".

The earliest written reference to the London Stone is in a book belonging to Æthelstan, King of the West Saxons in the early 10th Century. In the list of lands and rents some places are said to be "near unto London stone". It was already a landmark in 1198 when it was referred to on maps as Lonenstane or Londenstane. The first mayor of London was Henry Fitz-Ailwin de Londonestone (meaning 'Henry, son of Ailwin of London Stone') who served the city some time between 1189 and 1193.

The Stone was originally situated in the middle of Cannon Street and was much larger than it is now. Later the Stone was set into the wall of St Swithin's Church which was on this site before it was bombed during the Second World War (the Stone remarkably left unscathed).

The stone is still on display opposite Cannon Street station although rather inconspicuously situated. The stone and box, with iron grille, were designated a Grade II* listed structure on 5 June 1972. There is also a pub nearby called "The London Stone".

Like the Ravens of the Tower of London, there is a myth that states the Stone's safety is linked to that of the city itself; "So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish". This relates to the myth that the stone was part of an altar built by Brutus of Troy, the legendary founder of London.

Location

The nearest London Underground and National Rail station is Cannon Street — the station's main entrance is actually opposite the Stone on Cannon Street.

In fiction

The London Stone is a prominent setting in Charlie Fletcher's children's book about "unLondon", Stoneheart. It also features in The Midnight Mayor, Kate Griffin's second Matthew Swift novel about urban magic in London.