The London Stones in Lower Upnor are two obelisks (one much smaller than the other) between the Arethusa Venture Centre and the shoreline that always piqued our interest. After wondering what exactly they were (probably for the hundredth time on a walk down to Upnor Beach) I started researching and finally found the answer!
These stone monuments are the London Stone (as marked on OS maps) and were originally placed to mark the boundaries of City of London’s control over the River Medway. The larger was erected in 1836 so as to be more prominent and preserve the co-ordinates since the original was badly weathered.
The stones have a rather weird history however, so read on for more about the Lord Mayor and his “bumping” parties that circled the stones!
The City of London’s rights and jurisdiction were originally purchased in 1197 from Richard I as a means to tax fisheries and collect tolls from merchants sailing along the river to one of the inland ports. A charter was formalised in 1202 codifying London’s right to the waters and what it could do, with boundary stones being the identifying markers, and two years later in 1204 the London Stone at Upnor was built.
The Lord Mayor of London’s Parties
The Lord Mayor of London in Medieval history sounds like quite a cushy job! As part of his duties his royal ship would be laden with beer, wine, fine food and newly minted coins, and would visit the Upnor Stone to assert the City’s jurisdiction over the waters and win hearts and minds with the village of Upnor.
The Mayor would celebrate with the village, throw coins among the poor, and generally have an excessive celebration.
The festivity was rather cynical in nature however, it was meant as a demonstration of London’s wealth, what it could provide for those that abided by the rules, and as a constant reminder for those that may have needed it.
We’ve seen mention of people being “bumped” on the stone as part of the celebration, but can’t quite fathom what that means.
The New Upnor Stone
Made from Granite and placed just in front of the old boundary stone, the New London Stone was erected in place in 1836 with the inscription:
Right Hon Willm
John Lainson Esq
David Solomon Esq
The Right Honourable William Taylor Copeland was indeed the Lord Mayor of London in 1836 and it as erected and updated in his honour (although we can’t find evidence of any ongoing parties at the London Stone that he attended).
Were the London Stones moved?
According to several historic sources, the London Stones may have been moved to dry land to protect them from the elements and make them easier to spot.
How to get to Upnor’s London Stones
The Stones are located just off of Upnor Road, near the Arethusa Venture Centre, you can check it out on the map below: