Rarely do these three things mix but apparently they did at the Tower of London. The Crown Jewels were one of the things on Lindsay’s list of things to see while in town. I remember seeing them in 2010 and they are impressive…and heavy guarded. I decided enough time had passed since my last visit so David and I tagged along.
I first visited the Tower back in 2010 when Jen visited. Lindsay, Jen, and I all lived together (with others) during university so you’ll probably hear about them a lot on this blog. Jen had visited when she first came to London as a teen and suggested we go. I had such a great time I do recommend it as one of those attractions that is worth the money.
We lucked out as we got actual summer weather and the sun was blazing. Last time I went it was March and very chilly. I suggested doing the free tour with the Yeoman Warders or as you may better know them – Beefeaters. We unfortunately did not get the same warder that Jen and I got years ago. Instead we got the warder who also doubles as the Raven Master. This was new information for me, that all the Beefeaters also have special duties and his is to take care of the ravens that live in the tower. They also live in the tower with their families. I’d love to see inside one of these properties.
Royalty: The tower began as a simple watchtower, built by William the Conqueror to keep an eye on the City, the Tower had evolved into a palace-fortress by 1100. The inner curtain wall and towers were built by Henry III, while outer fortifications, and an even wider moat, were added by Edward I, on his return from the Crusades, which means that most of what’s visible today was already in place by 1307, the year of Edward’s death.
Prisoners: The Tower’s first prisoner, the Bishop of Durham, arrived in 1101, imprisoned by Henry I, and promptly escaped from the window of his cell by a rope, having gotten the guards drunk. Gruffyd ap Llywelyn Fawr (say that 10 times fast), heir to the Welsh throne, attempted a similar feat from the White Tower in 1244, with less success and horrific results. His head and neck were crushed between his shoulders. After his attempt the window he used was bricked up and can still be seen on the south side of the Tower. I still have not yet gone inside the White Tower, for some reason I keep missing it. So clearly a third visit beckons.
Beasts: I noticed on this visit that there were many wire animals around the Tower. There is an exhibit which details the history of exotic animals being kept in the Tower. It was essentially the first zoo in London and after many mishaps (a young royal being attacked by a monkey I believe) the animals were shipped off to where London Zoo currently is in Regents Park. I really like this addition to the Tower as it brings the history to life.
Finally, if you are lucky you will see guards marching around the Tower. Some how I missed this when I was here last. When I went to see the Changing of the Guard with my mum last year it was difficult to get pictures of them a) close up and b) without hordes of tourists in the shots. So if you, like me, love to take photos you should have plenty of opportunity to capture the guards.
Tip: The donation to the Tower that is added to the ticket price is voluntary, i.e you can volunteer to not pay it.
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill
Excerpts taken from the latest edition of the Rough Guide to London.