Tower of London
To get a good overview of the Tower’s history and highlights, be sure to participate in one of the Yeoman Warder tours. Yeoman Warders are ceremonial guardians (and tour guides) of the Tower and they must be former non-commissioned officers in the British Army with at least 22 years of service. Try to take the 9.30 am tour because there could be quite a huge crowd for later guide sessions. Our guide was an interesting fellow, even requesting me to take one of his best pose (top left of the picture below).
Our guide shared with us the bloody history of the Tower – the many executions outside the Tower (for common criminals) and within the Tower (for nobility) – one of which involved James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth who was beheaded for rebelling against the crown. However, when it was found out that a portrait of him had yet been made (a custom back then for nobles due for execution), his head and body was sewn together and dressed in a princely attire for his official portrait.
Ravens (big crows) roamed freely around the Tower of London and they are looked after by a Ravenmaster who is also a Yeoman Warder. Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the monarchy and the entire kingdom would fall. During one of London’s darkest times – World War II, most of the Tower’s ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving only a sole survivor. No chances are taken with this legend – there are now 9 ravens (3 spare) in the Tower of London. Note the size difference between a normal bird (circled in blue) and a raven in the right picture.
The Beauchamp Tower showcases a number of intricate wall carvings done by prisoners incarcerated in this tower.
Other interesting buildings in the Tower of London (from left clockwise):
- Jewel House in the Waterloo Barracks – the Crown Jewels are stored and guarded by soldiers here (the crowd increases exponentially around 11:30 am so plan your visit to save time on queuing)
- Traitor’s Gate – Prisoners were brought by barge along the River Thames to the Tower through this gate.
- Queen’s House built in Tudor style architecture – these building now houses the Yeoman Warders and their families
- White Tower -a massive fortress built more to protect the original occupants from the people of City of London rather than outside invaders; it now houses the Royal Armories, showcasing the armor collection of royalty
Siege Machines at the Tower moat. This piece of land used to be filled with water from River Thames but due to poor drainage system the moat of water stank so bad that posed a health hazard to the people of London. It was then drained in 1830. Now siege machines are set up here to provide live demonstration of how they were used.
2 young soldiers planning their attack on the Tower.
Some random shots with the guardpost and the Paddington Bear
Seeing the symbol E II R in some of the pictures (Yeomen Warders’ uniform)? E II R stands for Elizabeth II Regina. It is a Royal Cypher – the King/Queen’s initials. R stands for Regina for Queen and Rex for King. Regina means that the Queen is reigning by her birthright not Queen Consort (wife of King). The right picture shows me with an old postbox in London which bears G R (King George V 1910-1936). The cypher signify the monarch under whose reign they were manufactured – so this postbox is more than 70 years old!
An interesting sidenote: Prince Charles’ full name is Charles Philip Arthur George so he can choose any of them when he becomes king – most likely King George VII
Tower Bridge (often mistaken for the London Bridge in nursery rhymes)
Ceremony of the Keys
The ceremony of the keys at the Tower of London has been a nightly event for the last 700 years. Every night the Tower is locked up by the Chief Yeoman Warder. Dressed in a scarlet coat, tudor bonnet, carrying a lantern and with foot guard escort, he makes his way to the gates from the Byward Tower at exactly 21:53.
He locks up the several gates, however, it is on approach to the archway of the Bloody Tower that the famous words are uttered:
A sentry challenges: ‘Halt! Who comes there?’
‘The keys’, comes the reply
‘Queen Elizabeth’s keys.’
‘Advance, Queen Elizabeth’s keys. All’s well’
Once all the Tower gates are locked, the last post is sounded by a trumpeter and the ceremony is concluded.
The ceremony of the keys lasts approximately 10 minutes and concludes at 22:05, after which visitors will be escorted to the exit.
Tickets are free, but you need to apply at least 2 months in advance (3 months for July – August) in writing to: The Ceremony of the Keys, Waterloo Block, HM Tower of London, London, England EC3N 4AB enclosing a stamped addressed envelope or a minimum of two International Reply Coupons (Coupon-responsé International), stating the date you would like and the names of the attendees. You can only apply for a maximum of 6 tickets during the summer (2 April – 31 October) and 15 during the winter (1 November – 1 April).
A video of this ceremony can been seen below:
Half-Price Tower of London Admission Ticket
Using a daysoutguide voucher with our day travelcard, we were able to enjoy a 2 for 1 offer for admission tickets to the Tower of London, effectively paying only £8.50 per person. Only Day Travelcard or tickets with National Rail logo is accepted for this offer.