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The Crow Stone & The London Stone

September 18, 2019
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this extract from A London Inheritance – written by a graduate of my blog course who is celebrating over five years of publishing posts online. Follow A LONDON INHERITANCE, A Private History of a Public City

I am now taking bookings for the next course HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on November 9th & 10th. Come to Spitalfields and spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches from Leila’s Cafe, eat cakes baked to historic recipes by Townhouse and learn how to write your own blog. Click here for details

If you are graduate of my course and you would like me to feature your blog, please drop me a line.

The Crow Stone

This summer I finally visited two places I wanted to explore for years – locations that hold evidence of the City of London’s original jurisdiction over the River Thames, dating from when the City purchased it from Richard I in 1197. The exact powers of the City and their ability to apply them to the Thames and Medway were frequently in dispute, yet the City claimed control of the estuary until the nineteenth century.

A pair of stone obelisks were set up as a physical markers for a line crossing the river from west of Southend to Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain, marking the extent of the City’s legal powers. These stones are still in place, so I set out to visit both.

My first visit was to the Crow Stone on the north bank. It was easy. I walked over the embankment that forms the sea wall and, providing you have timed the tide correctly, the Crow Stone can be seen a short distance out from the beach.

The earliest evidence of a stone is from 1755, but the date on the current stone is 1836. Carved on the Crow Stone are the names of the Lord Mayor, Alderman and Sheriff who once demonstrated their control of the river by inspecting the condition of the stones, when such visits were a good excuse for a party, as the Illustrated London News describes –

“Thursday July 12th 1849, as Conservator of the River Thames, on behalf of the City of London, by prescription and usage from time immemorial, the Lord Mayor directed the Water Bailiff, as sub-conservator, to cause his name and the date of his visit to be inscribed on the boundary stone. The Lord Mayor then drank ‘God preserve the City of London’, the inscription on the ancient stone, and after distributing coins and wine to the spectators, the civic party returned to the steamer. The stone itself was in the water, so that it had to be reached in boats. The scramble for the money was a rumbustious affair.”

The earliest known boundary marker stone at Southend dates from 1755 and was removed from its original position next to the 1836 stone in 1950, when it was relocated to Priory Park in Southend. This stone really does look like it has spent two hundred years standing in the Thames Estuary, battered by the wind and the daily movement of the tides.

Next I wanted to see the London Stone on the south bank at Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain in Kent. Parts of the creek have now silted up so, while difficult to get to, the Isle of Grain is not strictly an island.

The London Stone is not easy to get to as there are no footpaths and to the east is a large danger area which was once a military firing range. My only route was to walk across Yantlet Creek at low tide, even if free time and tide times do not conspire to make life easy.

Yet the 4:00 am start was worth it because I arrived on the edge of Yantlet Creek at 6:15am. Low tide was just before 7:00am, so – hopefully – I had enough time to get across to the London Stone and return again before the tide started to rise in Yantlet Creek.

There is a bridleway that leads across flat pasture to where the land rises up to a footpath which runs along the top of the sea wall. As I walked, birds flew up from the surrounding grassland and their’s was a constant cry on the mud flats. Walking around to the edge of the Yantlet Creek, it was starting to look worryingly wide. Here I was able to find a way down the embankment, which was muddy, covered in seaweed and rather slippery, but I was able to cross over to the opposite shore.

It was just before low tide and water was running out from Yantlet Creek towards the estuary. I could see how deep the water would be when the tide came in again and the mud flats meant the tide came in rapidly and without warning.

The shore was sand and stone, providing a firm path to the London Stone which is a short distance out from the beach. It had been built on a platform with a raised stone pathway providing easy access without having to venture into the mud. Arriving at the London Stone at 6:45am as the sun rose over the Thames Estuary, in such an isolated location, was magical.

The City Press from September 1858 indicates the origin of the current stone – “During the past week, the Conservators of the River Thames visited the eastern limits of the Port of London. The ancient boundary stone near Yantlet Creek was found completely embedded in sand and shell. It is the intention of the Conservators, we understand, to place a new stone on the site of the ancient stone at Yantlet.”

I found it a wonderful experience, standing alone at the London Stone as the sun rose over the Thames Estuary. But it could have all been very different. If you decide to visit the London Stone, then do so at your own risk and do not use this post as a guide. The estuary is a dangerous place.

The location of the stones and the boundary line across the River Thames

The Crow Stone at Southend

Older version erected on the 25th August 1755 by the Lord Mayor, now preserved in a park in Southend

1849 visit to the Crow Stone by the Lord Mayor of London

First glimpse of the London Stone

Approaching the London Stone across the beach

The London Stone with navigational marker for Yantlet Creek


Text, film & photographs copyright © A London Inheritance



Spend a weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields and learn how to write a blog with The Gentle Author.

This course will examine the essential questions which need to be addressed if you wish to write a blog that people will want to read.

“Like those writers in fourteenth century Florence who discovered the sonnet but did not quite know what to do with it, we are presented with the new literary medium of the blog – which has quickly become omnipresent, with many millions writing online. For my own part, I respect this nascent literary form by seeking to explore its own unique qualities and potential.” – The Gentle Author


1. How to find a voice – When you write, who are you writing to and what is your relationship with the reader?
2. How to find a subject – Why is it necessary to write and what do you have to tell?
3. How to find the form – What is the ideal manifestation of your material and how can a good structure give you momentum?
4. The relationship of pictures and words – Which comes first, the pictures or the words? Creating a dynamic relationship between your text and images.
5. How to write a pen portrait – Drawing on The Gentle Author’s experience, different strategies in transforming a conversation into an effective written evocation of a personality.
6. What a blog can do – A consideration of how telling stories on the internet can affect the temporal world.


The course will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on 9th-10th November from 10am-5pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.

Lunch will be catered by Leila’s Cafe of Arnold Circus and tea, coffee & cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £300.

Accomodation at 5 Fournier St is available upon enquiry to Fiona Atkins

Email to book a place on the course.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. September 18, 2019

    I always enjoy visiting the London Inheritance Blog, the writer has a great eye and style. Valerie

  2. John Campbell permalink
    September 18, 2019

    A London Inheritance is a wonderful blog and a weekly delight I never miss. Much like this blog, it is extremely well researched and presented and sends us subscribers off on many new adventures. Happy Birthday and thank you for all your hard work and especially thanks to your father for his catalogue of photographs.

  3. September 18, 2019

    Incredible landscape and such tides.

  4. September 18, 2019

    How fascinatingly cool is that!! What a landscape! And I wonder how long it’s been since someone ventured out to the London Stone?! Brilliant piece.

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