Monday, 27 September 2010

The London Stone

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, wrote Samuel Johnson. He clearly hadn’t suffered at the hands of a London Tube strike or been forced down a Kafka-like maze of the capital’s one-way streets when trying to get somewhere in a hurry.

I staved of my growing ennui of the capital’s trials by visiting The London Stone. This is a rather overlooked little monument connected to the legend that London was founded by those fleeing the fallen Troy (which is clearly bonkers, but nevertheless awesome). The Stone was regarded as important thereafter and was used to mark the site where speeches were given, laws were passed and allegiances sworn. John Dee, magician to Elizabeth I, was obsessed with the block. The Victorians, fascinated with folklore and drunk on the expansion of their empire, were keen to promote anything alleging their heritage stretched back to the great days of the fall of Troy. They posted Police guards to protect the relic and Dickens wrote articles about it.

The Stone’s profile dwindled in the twentieth century and the today the thing is not granted any protected status and is not cared for by any museum (though it does have a cute little cage). Modern scholars point out that, although the block is clearly ancient, there is no way to determine its heritage and little to prove it is the same stone that is mentioned in various chronicles.

The Stone resides in an a rather cramped niche oppose Canon Street Tube station. A plaque explains briefly a sanitised version of its history. Regardless of whether it is THE stone of reputation, its legend and pre-Classical associations deserve to be remembered. It should be spoken of in the same breath as the proverb asserting London will fall if the ravens in the Tower take their leave.

Some of the best articles on The London Stone are listed below. I discovered that my old university friend Jon Yeomans had penned one of them and I thank him for his work. Small world!

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos. This little block of stone has fascinated me too, though when I'm in London I always forget to go and see it!