7 London mysteries that might never be solved

23rd August 2016

There’s nothing like a good mystery to get those brains ticking! So, to celebrate our upcoming Deduction: A Mystery Solving Street Game  on Saturday 17th September, we’ve rounded up seven London mysteries that not even Holmes himself would be able to crack…

 1. What is the London stone?

The London Stone in Cannon Street

Image credit: Tom / Flickr

Some say the London Stone was a druidic altar for human sacrifice; Christopher Wren suggested that it was a Roman marker for the centre of the city; others say it’s the slab in which Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, was embedded.

Another theory rests on the saying, “so long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish” referencing Brutus, the legendary founder of Britain, who allegedly brought it from the sack of Troy. Both Shakespeare and Dickens thought fit to mention it. The jury’s out: we know the London Stone is special, we just don’t know why.

2. Why did an innocent man confess to starting the Great Fire of London?

Great Fire of London, 1666

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

It’s widely accepted that the Great Fire was started by accident at the King’s bakery in Pudding Lane. But why did Robert Hubert – a French Watchmaker who had no connection to said bakery and was at sea at the time of the fire – confess to starting it and accept the punishment of execution by hanging?

Was Hubert convinced to become a scapegoat by Londoners, who were eager to blame another country for the disaster? Or was it an act of suicide?

3. Why are there bits of the Tower of London in a garden in Chelsea?

Chelsea Physic Garden, London

Image credit: Andy Sedg / Flickr

Buried in the rockery at the Chelsea Physic Garden are stones that are thought to have come from the Tower of London. No one really knows why they’re there, or who added them to the Grade II-listed structure.

4. What happened to the Princes in the Tower?

Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Probably the most infamous mystery in our list, the disappearance of the 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard in 1483 continues to incite debate and controversy. The boys disappeared shortly after their incarceration in the Tower of London, but were they murdered? If so, who killed them?

Did their uncle the Duke of Gloucester – who escorted the boys to the Tower and then declared them illegitimate – kill them to clear the way to make himself Richard III? Or was it Richard’s successor, the paranoid and brutal Henry VII, who later married the boys’ sister Elizabeth of York to strengthen his weak claim to the throne?

5. Did Elizabeth I really ride her horse up the stairs of a hunting lodge in Epping?

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Image credit: Andrea Vail / Flickr

According to legend, Elizabeth I celebrated defeat over the Spanish Armada by riding on horseback up the stairs of what is now called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest. The legend was given further credit in the 1800s when a newspaper claimed that an anonymous ‘sporting celebrity’ had won a bet by successfully ‘riding an untrained pony up the assigned route of her Tudor Majesty’.

Did Elizabeth I even visit the lodge? Why would she have chosen this spot to celebrate in such dramatic style? And was the newspaper reporting a load of poppycock? It’s a mystery…

6. Why do the railings of Westminster Bridge do this?

Phallic shadows on Westminster Bridge

Image credit: Alex Brown / Flickr

Not much explanation required here. Was it a prank by the designers, or just a coincidence with phallic consequences? Who knows.

7. Why was a walrus buried in St Pancras Church?


Image credit: Russell Wall / Flickr

You’d think someone would have made a note of a walrus having been brought to King’s Cross, especially in the early 19th century, but not so. In 2013, archaeologists working during renovations at St Pancras station found the remains of a four-metre-long walrus dating back to around 1822. The animal’s bones were found in the same coffin as the remains of eight humans, alongside 1,500 other bodies in the churchyard of St Pancras Church.

It’s thought that the animal could have been brought to King’s Cross for medical research; what’s not clear is why there’s no record of it being there, or why it was interred in the same coffin as human remains in a churchyard.

Love mysteries? Sherlock needs your help this Saturday!

Deduction: A Sherlock Holmes treasure hunt

Sherlock and Watson need your help.

There’s been a grisly murder at Cloo Manor and Dr. Grey is the victim. His discarded body has been discovered in the coal cellar, but who is the perpetrator and what is the weapon? A mystery waiting to be solved.

Six suspects, six possible murder weapons and nine possible locations. Sound familiar?

Try Thinking Bob today