Thursday, July 29, 2010

London Stone


Like a child outgrowing its toys, London has its very own transitional object: the London Stone. The city has clung onto this object for so long it has forgotten why it was important in the first place: fertile ground for urban legends to flourish.

“Already a subject of speculation in the 16th century, subsequently identified in turn as a Roman milestone, as a Druid monument, as the ‘Stone of Brutus’ and as ‘London’s original fetish stone’, it is now considered by some to play an essential role in the ‘sacred geometry’ of London. How have such diverse opinions as to its purpose arisen? – and can we truly identify its date and its original function?”

Apparently it’s on very important ley lines; it may have been part of an ancient megalith circle; it is reputedly the fountain of authority in the city; it protects the city from harm. And it is does all this from a frankly grim spot on Cannon Street across from the station - housed in a dirty little wrought-iron shrine at ankle height, built into the side of a shortly-to-be redeveloped shop. Sad and crumbling and no different to any other lump of stone you’ve ever come across.

It’s documented way back (mentioned by Shakespeare, no less), and according to John Clark (the former Senior Curator (Medieval) at the Museum of London) was sited in a very interesting location in the geographies of both Roman and Anglo-Saxon London. However, the Enlightenment in its arrogance moved it (all?) out to the side of the road and the Victorians bricked it up in the side of a church. Oh, and completely removed all archeological trace of its original site when Cannon Street was cut-and-covered for the Circle Line.

So there it is. A London mystery.

No comments: