Every day thousands rush past a hideous grill attached to an empty 1960’s building awaiting redevelopment not realising that behind the ironwork set into a niche is one of London’s oldest landmarks, known to have been in The City since 1198. While on The Knowledge it took me some considerable time to track down the so-called lonenstan or London Stone, an unprepossessing piece of Clipston limestone or oolite.
With its round-shouldered top and twin grooves, measuring about 18 inches across, if found in a field, one would ignore it. The discovery of remains beneath Cannon Street Station led archaeologists to believe that a Roman Governor’s Palace once stood on the site. It is known that during the reign of Augustus a central stone was placed in the Forum in Rome, this measured 8ft tall and was covered in bronze. The obelisk was used to mark the starting point for the measurement of Roman highways. When London became the capital of Britannia a similar point would have been needed. Could this be the top part of the golden milestone that was used to measure the straight Roman roads that radiate out from Londinium?
Edward III made London Stone the axis of London’s trade and granted rights to hold markets within a 7-mile radius and Jack Cade during the 1450 Kentish peasants’ revolt struck London Stone with his sword and declared himself Lord Mayor of London, he was subsequently killed and his head ended up on a pike adorning London Bridge.
London Stone has been the subject of various legends including that Brutus brought it here from Rome; the stone marks the site of Druidic sacrifices; that it sits on a Ley line connecting significant places and marks the mystical centre point of London or even the British Isles; that the stone once formed stone circle of King Lud (whence came Ludgate); and that the City’s prosperity depends on its safekeeping.
The London Stone is pure history, there are so many amazing stories and theories behind it, yet thousands of people walk past it every day not even realising there is anything there. This lump of ancient and mystical limestone must be the most unnoticed and unloved of tourist attractions in the City of London – and all you have to do is search for it. To point you in the right direction follow this link.