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Don’t move the London Stone!

A plan to move one of the most symbolically important objects in London away from its Cannon Street home is being strongly opposed by the Victorian Society.

Image courtesy of Jonnee via Flickr

The Grade II*-listed London Stone has been placed on or opposite the site of St Swithin's Church on Cannon Street for the entire recorded history of the capital. It is first mentioned in historical documents as early as the year 1100 and has been written about by both Shakespeare and Dickens.

It has become the subject of countless myths including a famous saying which claims, ‘So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long will London flourish'. In centuries past it was one of the tourist sites of London and it still appears on London maps.

Yet a developer has applied to move the London Stone and its nineteenth-century iron grille around the corner and into the foyer of the new Walbrook building.

The motivation for this is the redevelopment of the 1960s office block at 111 Cannon Street, where the stone is placed in an alcove in the wall.

'It is unacceptable to move the Stone from its historic location simply because it suits a developer,' said Chris Costelloe, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'The Stone is a tangible and permanent part of the streetscape, not a portable exhibit to be moved inside a building and displayed using lighting and mirrors'.

Mr Costelloe added: 'The London Stone is a key part of London's history and yet is in danger of being forgotten. The redevelopment of 111 Cannon Street should be an opportunity to bring it back to prominence as part of an imaginative design for the site, with the London Stone as its centrepiece.'

The Society has written to the City of London to warn that moving the Stone and its surround in this way will harm its significance.

Background

The origin of the London Stone is unknown and probably always will be. It is made of oolitic limestone, of a type first brought to London for building and sculptural purposes in the Roman period.

Originally it was in the middle of Candlewick Street (now Cannon Street), but it was moved in 1742 to the north side of the street by St Swithun's Church, where it has been ever since. By 1828 it was embedded in the south wall within a protective stone niche. In 1941 St Swithun's church was gutted in the Blitz, and in 1962 the Wren church was demolished and replaced by the current office block. The Stone is the only reminder of the presence of St Swithun's church, known as St Swithun's London Stone. 

It is currently set too low down, presumably to suit the window line of the 1962 building, but its womb-like, semi-visible setting adds to its air of mystery and its significance.

Wednesday 30 November, 2011

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