London Stone: a mysterious block of stone in central London. What is it, and why are there so many myths about its origin and purpose?
London Stone has stood in Cannon Street, in the centre of the City of London, since at least about AD 1100 (when it was first mentioned by that name) and probably for much longer – although with several moves and occasional absences! Once described as ‘a great stone … pitched upright and fixed in the ground very deep’, all that remains is a small very worn block of limestone – and a mystery. When and why was it first erected, why was it called ‘London Stone’, and how did it become famous? In October 2018 the last remnant of the famous stone returned from the Museum of London, where it had temporarily been on display, to a splendid new setting close to its original site in Cannon Street.
John Clark was for many years curator of the medieval collections of the Museum of London, and since his retirement in 2009 he has maintained his connection with the museum, with the honorary title of Curator Emeritus. He is also an Honorary Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Archaeology. He has long had an interest in the relationship between London’s history and the legends and myths that have grown up about the city, and in the ways Londoners have interpreted the physical remains of London’s past in the light of their understanding of its history. In particular he has studied the history, and mystery, of ‘the stone that is called London Stone’.
In this talk John considers what is known about its origins and it history, and how a mythology has gradually arisen, identifying it as – variously – a Roman milestone or milliarium, a druid altar, the ‘Stone of Brutus’, the City’s fetish stone, a last relic of a Roman Governor’s palace, a mark-stone on a ley line, inspiration for authors of ‘urban fantasy’, an essential element in London’s sacred geometry, or London’s palladium, portending disaster if it is disturbed.
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