The London Stone, a granite obelisk dated to 1836, marking the southern boundary of the City of London's conservancy jurisdiction on the River Medway.
Reasons for Designation
The London Stone (New London Stone), an obelisk erected in 1836 in Upnor to mark the southern boundary of the City of London's jurisdiction over the River Medway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as a boundary marker of the City of London's conservancy jurisdiction along the River Medway and as a memorial to significant points in the landscape along the River Thames and Medway where the excitement and ceremony of the Mayoral septennial customs was experienced;
* Design/Aesthetic interest: as a prominent intact obelisk and commemorative civic structure within the surrounding landscape and riverfront at Upnor. The obelisk design may have been symbolic in adding legality and permanence to the City's claims of jurisdiction;
* Group value: for its functional and aesthetic relationship with the other London Stones in this part of the River Thames and Medway which served to mark the southern and eastern river jurisdiction boundaries of the City of London.
Commemorative stones denoting the position of events which have otherwise left no visible trace on the landscape are to be found throughout Britain. One such obelisk stands in the village of Lower Upnor in the parish of Frindsbury Extra. It is dated to 1836 and was erected in front of an earlier C18 boundary stone. Both stood on the foreshore below Cookham Wood, now Cockham Wood, in Upnor and marked the City of London's jurisdiction over this part of the river (Howe, G.W, 1965, p. 285). The stones now stand on dry land between the Arethusa Venture Centre and the River Medway, close to the riverfront in Lower Upnor. Historic sources indicate the stones may have been moved to dry land for protection. The boundary stone is marked on late C19 OS maps as 'The London Stone' in the same vicinity as present. The City's rights of control were originally purchased from Richard I in 1197 and concerned control of fisheries and tolls along the River Thames and part of the Medway. The legal position on the capital's ownership was never clear and the City's jurisdiction was frequently challenged. The obelisk and its earlier boundary stone were the focus of periodic visits by the Lord Mayor of London and other officials to assert the City's conservancy jurisdiction. These river trips included ceremonies undertaken at the stones, pomp and excitement with spectators rewarded with beer, wine and newly minted coins: "The Sword of State and City Colours were laid on each stone and the stones circled three times. Wine and beer were made available and after drinking a toast to the City of London some of those present were “bumped” on the stones. Money was also thrown amongst the poor which along with the bumping and general excess was for the purpose of keeping the City’s Claims in recollection” (Anon 1796, 3).
All of these served to instil the course of such boundaries in the minds of those who needed to observe them. These visits became social events with dinners and balls held in either Rochester or Southend-on-Sea close to another London Stone called the Crow Stone at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex (Howe, G.W 1965, pp. 282-287; Anon 1816, 3; Anon 1836, 3).
City of London obelisks were erected at Upnor, Leigh and Yantlet Creek to reassert these rights following a government select committee held in 1836. This concluded that London should lose its jurisdiction over the Thames and Medway due to laxity in carrying out its duties (Weinreb & Hibbert 1995, p. 883). The choice of a taller obelisk may have been symbolic in adding legality and permanence to the City's claims of jurisdiction. Historic sources indicate the lower C18 London stone at Upnor was still in use for ''bumping'' during 1849 ceremonies at the obelisk (Anon 1849).
The City lost control of these rivers to the Crown in 1857 under The Thames Conservancy Act. These stones have therefore become memorials to the points in the landscape where the boundaries of London's reach were along the Thames and Medway. They are memorials to points in the landscape where the excitement and ceremony of the Mayoral septennial customs was experienced. This is evident from an inscription dated 1980 on the 1836 obelisk at Upnor. This Mayoral visit to commemorate the former jurisdiction of the City of London is recorded in Rochester City Council's charters and customals, 1974, no 2 (http://www.cityark2.medway.gov.uk).
The obelisk dated to 1836 stands in front of the earlier boundary stone. It is taller in height and made from a single pillar of granite stone, of square section with a pyramidal top. The lower part is partially subsumed in the tarmac of the pavement and hidden behind a kerb stone. The obelisk is carved with the arms of the City of London and inscribed with the names and dates of Mayoral visits.
The front inscription reads: "RIGHT HON. WILLIAM/ TAYLOR COPELAND/ LORD MAYOR/ JOHN LAINSON ESQ.ALD/ DAVID SOLOMONS ESQ/SHERRIFS/ 1836/ SIR JOHN PIRIE BART/ 1842/ 1849/SIR JAMES DUKE/ 1856.
The side inscription reads: THE RT.HON/ THE LORD MAYOR/ OF LONDON/ SIR PETER GADSDEN/ GBE. MA. DSC. F. ENG/ 19TH JULY 1980