London Stone – What Exactly is it?!

London Stone

It looks like a plain rock protected strangely by a gate. Very easy to miss, tourists in London could walk past it without even knowing what was there. But one thing is sure. There is something important about the London Stone. It’s just that no one really knows what that something is.

The rock has stood the test of time, watching quietly as wars, plagues, kings, and time passed. Though the rock was nearly moved in 2012, it is still sitting at 111 Cannon Street in London today. But it begs the question: why is the rock even there and why should we care about it?

Even Londoners can’t say for certain but there have been theories over time. There is a plaque near the rock that states that the origin and purpose of the rock is not known.

A Chunk of Limestone

So what exactly is the London Stone? It is a chunk of limestone that is a short .5m tall. It is not particularly large, which should rule out some ideas of why it might be important.

But just like you walk into a room and forget why you came, Londoners walk past the stone, forgetting why it’s there. History has told us that while we don’t know why it’s important, Londoners sure seem to.

Spreading Rumors with King Arthur

We do know that the stone has been mentioned pretty often throughout the centuries. Geoffrey of Monmouth was around in the 12th century. He was working toward writing a history of Britain and mentions the stone.

But the best rumor about the stone is the legend of King Arthur. The thought is that this could be the very stone that Arthur pulled the sword from, making him the king. Of course, we don’t know if Arthur ever existed or not.

The Romans

Another theory that has been popular for centuries is that it was a rock used by the Romans. They occupied Britain from around 43 AD to 410AD. This theory says that the Romans used it as a road marker to measure where they were. Even Charles Dickens went with this theory in his book Dictionary of London.

It is not a bad theory, but there is no evidence to support it, except for the monument in Rome that looks somewhat like it. Really though, it seems more of an oral tradition than actual fact, maybe even started by William Camden who was trying to write the history of Britain back in the 16th century.

The Stone of Brutus

Another oral tradition that has been floating around about the rock is that the city of London cannot survive without it. There is even a proverb out there about it, claiming that if Brutus’s alter stone is ok, and then London will be a great city. No idea who wrote that one though.

It seems that the superstition about the stone is partly what Londoners have such a bad time when the topic of moving the stone comes up. The Brutus in the proverb is known as Brutus the Trojan and is claimed to be the founder of the city of London. While it may seem a stretch since that was so long ago there is not much in the way of history, no one can disprove it either.

Maybe a Place for Druid Sacrifices

One more interesting theory is that the stone was important because the Druids used it to sacrifice their victims on it. If that isn’t morbid, we don’t know what is. Hanging on to a giant chunk of limestone because some guys a long time ago killed other guys on it seems like a bad idea.

In the same vein with the Druids, there was another idea that the stone was part of a stone circle. Since the Druids are known for their circular alters or architecture if you will, this is still possible. But why would they still hang onto it?

An Official Piece

Even though the rock had been sitting in its place for quite some time, it was in the 15th century that it was thought to be something nearly magical. It became a noted meeting place as well as a spot to take oaths and vows. The Lord Mayor of London started using the rock to show his authority.

Rebels also liked its importance, with Jack Cade, leader of a rebellion in 1450, hit the stone with his sword before heading to King Henry VI. Cade thought that if he hit the stone, he would now be Lord Mayor and have control of London. Shakespeare mentions it in his play Henry VI as well.

The Pretorium

As the rumors of the origin of the stone have flown by through the centuries, the detectives today have made progress. It turns out that the stone is in the middle of where a Roman structure of some kind was sitting. The structure was called a pretorium, which is pretty much a governor’s palace.

Even with modern science, the true origin of the rock is anyone’s guess. With so many ideas coming and going through the years, it could be any of them or something different entirely. One thing is sure though. The rock is important somehow.

Brutus of Troy

Brutus of Troy is not listed in any classical text, but is still widely considered the founder of London and perhaps the first king of Britain. There was a historical compilation somewhere in the 9th century that mentioned Brutus and his importance to both London and Britain. The 9th century account goes pretty deeply into the life of Brutus. It is thought, however, that Brutus named Britain after himself after he left his home. Brutus’s story is a myth to this day. There is no way to sure that it was Brutus who put the stone there. Brutus is a nice thought though.

The London Stone ~ Relic From A Lost City?

If you would like to learn more, this short video will give you an up close look at the stone and also some more information.