A significant marker appears that makes me realise that my surroundings are soon going to become very urban. I am passing under the worlds biggest car park; the M25. This is it then, I am in London as defined by the big blue line on the road map.
There are other markers to tell me I am in the big city. A white iron post by the towpath is a “coal post”, warning merchants that beyond this point they are liable to a levy on coal under an act passed in 1831. It must be an early forerunner of Cuddly Ken’s much-hated congestion charge. The post seems to shout “Go past this point and we will have some money off you!”
The third marker is a replica of the original “Staines Stone” that marked the upstream limit of the authority of the City of London.
The stone at Staines is a significant marker on the River Thames. In the familiar fashion that we have seen elsewhere on this journey, such markers are all about power and ownership, coupled with restricting powers and ownerships from the general hoi-polloi.
Until 1350 the English Crown held the right to fish all of the rivers in England and charged for licenses for people to trap the fish. Some of the rights, however, had already been sold well before this time. Richard I was in desperate need to finance his part of the Third Crusade and in 1197 he sold the rights to fish all of the lower tidal reaches of the Thames to the City of London in perpetuity. The Staines Marker Stone was erected in 1285 to mark the upstream limits of these rights. Every year until the beginning of the 20th century the Lord Mayor would lead a procession upstream to touch the stone with his sword to re-affirm the fishing rights of the City of London.
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