London Stone is an historic artifact now housed behind an iron grill in Cannon Street, stirring up all kinds of mystique and intrigue – and rightly so.
The stone is a block of limestone, and is of a sort that is not naturally found in or around the London area. Geologists have concluded that the nearest source for its origin would be in Kent, which is a full 60 miles away.
The original reason it was brought to London is unknown. The earliest written reference to the London Stone is in a book belonging to King Athelstan in the early 10th century. It was used as a common transportation landmark in the 12th century, when it was referred as the Londenstane.
Texts from the 17th and 18th centuries suggest that it was actually a central marker from which all distances to related cities or townships were measured back in Roman times.
The London Stone is sometimes called the Stone of Brutus, referring to the mythical Trojan founder of London. Popular tales include the stone being the remains of an ancient stone circle that is alleged to have stood on nearby Ludgate Hill. In other legends it was associated with the mythical King Arthur, as so many ancient objects tend to be in England.
Although there are no references which suggest that the stone had any symbolic authority, in 1450 Jake Cade, leader of a rebellion against Henry VI, struck his sword against it and declared himself "Lord of the City." The event was dramatised in Shakespeare’s play Henry VI.
In the 15th century, the stone was a common place for meetings, the taking of oaths and the making of official proclamations. The Lord Mayor of London would strike the stone with a staff on Mayor’s Day as a proclamation of authority.