History / London

Royalty, Prisoners & Beasts at Tower of London

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 them from 2010 and they are impressive, and heavy guarded.  I decided enough time had passed since my last visit so David and I tagged along.

Gate Tower of London

I first visited the Tower back in 2010 when Jen visited.  Lindsay, Jen, are flatmates from university so you’ll probably hear about them regularly on the blog.  Jen had visited when she first came to London as a teen but didn’t visit the tower so suggested that we go.  I had a great time and I do recommend it as one of those main London attractions that is worth the money.

This trip we lucked out as we got summer weather with the sun 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.

The Raven Master leading our tour

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 wire animals dotted around the Tower.  There was an exhibit on detailing 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 London Zoo 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.

Nearest Tube: Tower Hill

Some excerpts taken from the latest edition of the Rough Guide to London.

10 thoughts on “Royalty, Prisoners & Beasts at Tower of London

  1. The tower was a site that I didn’t mind paying for, particularly as we got 2 for 1 entry with our train tickets. It’s really worth it to check the Days Out site before you go to an attraction as you can save a LOT. Strawberry Hill House is an example

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Yeah so happy that you’ve opened my eyes to how many deals there are in the city. I think Tower of London is worth the full price but it is always nice to cut sightseeing costs when possible.

    • Thanks! I’ve been wanting to simplify for ages but had to wait for word press to create a layout I liked. Same camera, but I’ve been playing with the features more. Since getting it fixed in August I’m much happier to stick with it and upgrade later.

  2. When Mum and I visited in January, we stayed at an appt that was literally less than 10 mins from the Tower. On our last day in the city, we did the Yeoman’s tour-our guide was awesome and I actually saw him used in ads for the Tower the next day. I think it’s so neat they live with their families there and was surprised to find out you had to have (I think it was) 25 years experience in the British Army to be eligible to become a Yeoman. The Crown Jewels were amazing but so guarded and you don’t really get the chance to appreciate them in the crowd. I would love to go back one day and spend more time-I didn’t even know we could go in some of the towers so definitely need to go back!

    • As popular as the Tower is I think it does fall by the wayside a lot when people visit so the knowledge of exactly what is open and what to do there isn’t talked about as much. So yes, another visit is warranted!

  3. I had no idea that the Yeoman Warders lived in the tower! Or that they each had duties. How fascinating. I love this post and your photos! You’ve definitely made me want to visit again soon!

    • Thanks! Yeah, we saw a ‘family member’ sunning themselves on the roof of one of the houses. I mean can you imagine living in there? Sleep overs at mine! You can do this on a 2 for 1 deal so take advantage of that.

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