The baffling origin of London Stone

London’s Cannon Street is a frantic mêlée during the morning rush hour. As commuters hurry to work, few notice the small crypt, with a glass encasement within it, built into the wall of 111 Cannon Street. Fewer still know that to peer inside would reveal a stone C nothing extravagant, just a lump of oolitic limestone.

早上交通高峰时段,伦敦的加农街(Cannon Street)上一片混乱。上班族匆匆忙忙,鲜有人注意到这条街111号墙上的小地穴,里面还有一个玻璃外壳。更少的人知道里面还有一块石头,全无奢华,只是一块鲕粒灰岩(oolitic limestone)。

There are no precious metals or engravings; it’s not a dazzling artefact you might find in a museum. But what it is, and has been as long as records exist, is a literal and metaphorical part of London. Some 18th-Century writers even suggested that, much like the palladium that protected the city of Troy in Ancient Greek mythology, the stone’s survival is key to the continued existence of London itself.


“It’s always there, and always remains the same,” said Roy Stephenson, London’s Historic Environment Lead at the Museum of London. “It has stood roughly in the same spot, while everything around it has changed.”

伦敦博物馆(Museum of London)伦敦历史环境负责人斯蒂芬森(Roy Stephenson)说:“它一直在那里,而且一直保持不变。它大致处于同一位置,而周围的一切都发生了变化。”

To this day, the exact origin of this 53cm-by-43cm-by-30cm piece of rock, known as London Stone, remains a mystery. Studies undertaken in the 1960s revealed it was likely Clipsham limestone, probably extracted from the band of Jurassic-era rock that runs from Dorset in England’s south-west to Lincolnshire in the north-east. In 2016, results from tests conducted by the Museum of London Archaeology suggest London Stone could be from the Cotswolds, 160km west of London.

直到今天,这块长53厘米,宽30厘米,高43厘米,被称为伦敦石(London Stone)的确切起源仍然是个谜。20世纪60年代的研究表明,它很像是克利夫沙姆石灰岩(Clipsham limestone),可能是从侏罗纪时期的岩石带中采集,该岩石带从英格兰西南部的多塞特郡(Dorset)延伸到东北部的林肯郡(Lincolnshire)。2016年,伦敦考古博物馆(Museum of London Archaeology)的测试结果表明,伦敦石可能来自伦敦以西160公里的科茨沃尔德(Cotswolds)。

London Stone was included on the earliest printed maps of the city in the 16th Century. In 1578, L Grenade, a visiting Frenchman, described it as ‘3ft high, 2ft wide and 1ft thick’. What remains today is only a fraction of the original stone that was once embedded in the ground in the centre of Candlewick Street, now known as Cannon Street, a short walk from the Tower of London. John Stow, a 16th-Century London historian, wrote in 1598: “It is so strongly set, that if carts do run against it through negligence, the wheels be broken, and the stone itself unshaken.” It was an entirely impractical position, no doubt, but bearing how much the topography has changed in London over the last millennium, it’s fair to assume that the streets were built around the stone. But that is all we can say definitively.

伦敦石早在16世纪就出现在印刷版的城市地图中。1578年,一位名为格林纳达(L Grenade)的法国访客描述其为“3英尺高,2英尺宽,1英尺厚”。如今仅存的是原石的一小部分,原石曾埋在灯芯街(Candlewick Street)的中心地带,即现在的加农街,离伦敦塔(Tower of London)不远。1598年,伦敦历史学家斯托(John Stow)写道:“它是如此坚固,如果马车因为疏忽撞上它,车轮就会断裂,而石头却不会动摇。”毫无疑问,石头所处的这个位置有些离奇,但考虑到伦敦地貌在过去一千年发生了重大的变化,我们有理由认为,以前的街道是围绕这块石头修建的。但我们能肯定的只有这些。

“Science just can’t explain it C this is one case where archaeology has failed,” said John Clark, curator emeritus at the Museum of London.

伦敦博物馆荣休馆长克拉克(John Clark)说:“科学无法解释这一现象,这是考古学一个失败的例子。”

The stone has been a London landmark for centuries and has borne witness to some of the city’s most dramatic moments. On 2 September 1666, a fire broke out in a bakery on Pudding Lane. Over the next three to four days The Great Fire of London ravaged the medieval heart of London, destroying more than 13,000 buildings C including those surrounding London Stone. Its position in the middle of the street likely saved the stone from significant damage, but the inferno led to a startling discovery.

几个世纪以来,这块石头一直是伦敦的地标,见证了这座城市最重要的时刻。1666年9月2日,布丁巷(Pudding Lane)的一家面包店发生火灾。在接下来的三到四天里,大火焚毁了中世纪伦敦的中心地带,破坏了13,000多座建筑,伦敦石周围的建筑也无幸免。但伦敦石位于街道中部,因此免遭严重的损坏。这场大火还导致了一个惊人的发现。

As architects began reconstructing the city, surveyors found that much like an iceberg, the visible stone was only a small portion of a much larger structure. The ‘root’ of the stone extended around 3m down into the earth. It could have been “a kind of Obelisque,” noted Robert Hooke, from the Royal Society, the UK’s science academy, at the time of excavation. This theory was supported by 17th-Century architect Christopher Wren who, through his son, Christopher Wren Jr, later speculated that it could have been “in the manner of the Milliarium Aureum, at Rome”, an ancient monument from which all roads in the Roman Empire began and mileage throughout the empire was measured.

大火过后建筑师开始重建这座城市,测量者发现,这块石头很像一座冰山,可见的只是小部分,石头的“根”向地下延伸了大约3米。发掘时,英国皇家学会(Royal Society)科学研究院的胡克(Robert Hooke)指出,它可能是“一种方尖碑”(Obelisque)。这一理论得到当时的建筑师克里斯托弗・雷恩(Christopher Wren)的支持。他和他的儿子小克里斯托弗・雷恩(Christopher Wren Jr)猜测,这石头可能类似“罗马城的金色基石”(Milliarium Aureum,Golden Milestone),就是一个古老的纪念基石(大地原点), 罗马帝国所有道路的建造,乃至整个帝国的里程测绘,都由这里开始。

Sadly, evidence to support the theories that it formed part of a structure dating from the Roman Empire are sparse and far from conclusive. What’s more, the stone would soon be relocated, and the construction of the Metropolitan Railway in the mid-19th Century led much of the stone’s original foundation to be quarried away.


By 1742, with London’s increasingly traffic-clogged streets, the stone had become a hazard and was moved a short distance from the centre of the street to the curb side, and placed by the wall of St Swithin’s Church. In 1940, the stone once again survived devastation after the church was all but destroyed by German bombs during the Blitz. In 1962, the remains of the church were replaced by the office building at 111 Cannon Street C which included a specially designed place to keep the stone C and it has remained here ever since (with the exception of the two years between 2016 and 2018, when it resided at the Museum of London while the building was renovated).

到1742年,随着伦敦交通日益拥堵,这块石头容易引发危险,因此从街道中心搬到了不远处,放置在圣斯威恩教堂(St Swithin's Church)的墙上。1940年,这座教堂在闪电战(The Blitz)中几乎被德军的炸弹摧毁,但这块石头又一次在废墟中幸存下来。1962年,教堂遗址上建成的是加农街111号的写字楼,并用一个特别设计的装置保护石头,此后它就一直待在那里,除了2016至2018两年间,写字楼被翻修,伦敦石挪入伦敦博物馆。

Where facts and science have failed to provide a definite history, myths and stories have flourished. In 1450, an armed revolt rose against the deeply unpopular King Henry VI, whose fight to retain control of France was seen as the leading cause of England’s rising debt. Legend has it that the revolt’s leader, Jack Cade, placed his sword upon London Stone and declared himself ‘Lord of London’, an event that was dramatised C and much exaggerated C in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 2. Despite the effect this must have had on audiences, there is no evidence of the stone being employed for such declarations, before or after Cade.

关于它的历史,史实和科学都没有定论,传说却是耳熟能详。其中一个就是,1450年,武装起义爆发,反对“昏君”亨利六世国王(King Henry VI)。亨利六世想保住对法国的控制权而发动战争,英国债务因此飞涨。据传说,起义领袖杰克・凯德(Jack Cade)将他的剑放在伦敦石上,宣布自己为“伦敦勋爵”(Lord of London)。这情节被莎士比亚写入《亨利六世》的第二幕,而且被大大戏剧化了。尽管这肯定对读者和观众产生了影响,但并没有证据表明凯德声明过程中出现过石头。

While it may not have been used to overthrow the monarchy, London Stone has played a role in enforcing royal decrees. One particular incident comes from The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, an organisation founded in 1629 by royal charter with the purpose to ‘support the prevention and treatment of vision impairment’ C a cause the company champions to this day. If spectacles in the city were found not to meet the requirements set out by the company, a claim was brought to court where a guilty verdict would result in punishment or destruction of the eyewear. Minutes from a 1671 case stated that 264 spectacles ‘were found badd and deceitful and by judgement of the Court condemned to be broken, defaced and spoyled both glasse and frame... on the remayning parte of London Stone’.

虽然推翻君主制可能没有用到伦敦石,但它在执行王室法令方面发挥了作用。一个特别的事件是关于名为“受人敬重的眼镜制造公司”(The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers)。该公司1629年收到皇家特许成立,目的是“支持视力障碍的预防和治疗”。直至今日这家公司仍在倡导这项使命。如果伦敦的眼镜被发现不符合该公司规定的要求,事主就会向法院提出索赔,如果判决有罪,责任人就会受到惩罚,且眼镜要被销毁。1671年的一个卷宗显示,264副眼镜被发现有瑕疵;责任人有欺骗行为。法院的判决其镜片和镜架都需要在伦敦石上被打碎、毁坏和报废。

“We think it was a well-known landmark, a gathering place and the point where people travelling into the City would know they had reached London,” said Helen Perkins, Clerk (CEO) of The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, noting that the destruction of the spectacles upon such a famous landmark acted as public deterrent.

“我们认为这是一个著名的地标、一个聚集点,游客到此就会知道他们已经到达伦敦,”眼镜公司的行政总裁帕金斯说(Helen Perkins)说, 在这样一个著名的地标销毁眼镜,是(针对不良行为)公开的威慑。

Although the stone’s original purpose may be lost, its symbolic importance is undeniable. Through fire and bombs, from Roman legionnaires to civilian revolutions, London Stone has remained ever-present.


We may not know what it was or where it came from, but we dare not move it now C the future of London might just be at stake. But then again, maybe it’s just a stone.



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