Tower of London

So I’ve been to the Tower of London several times since I’ve been in London, but had never actually gone inside. The closest I got to going inside was when I volunteered at the poppy deinstallation, where I got to go into the moat. Otherwise, I had only passed by, either with family or with friends and just to take pictures of the exterior. That is, until Thursday, when my friend Siobhan and I finally found a good day to go!

We walked over from our residence, about a half hour stroll through the freezing cold wind and sleet/snow which was not a fun way to begin the day as I was basically perpetually numb until I went to bed that night, but I got in some good exercise since I was sore from the gym the day before!

We got there about 30 minutes after it opened and I am so glad we did because it was practically empty! We started off at the Crown Jewels, which we basically got to enjoy alone. Pictures weren’t allowed inside unfortunately because everything was so gorgeous. I’ve never seen so many jewels in my life. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gold. You name it, it was in the crowns and scepters and diadems and dining ware. Absolutely incredible. And the way they glimmered in the light as we moved past them was magical. So sparkly and bright!

After we left the crown jewels, we headed up to the Bloody Tower, where Richard III imprisoned the two rightful heirs to the throne, Edward V and Richard Duke of York in 1483. Shortly after their imprisonment, Richard III had them killed so he could claim the throne. In 1674, while workmen were refurbishing the staircase leading to the White Tower, the remains of two young boys were discovered. Their remains were reburied in Westminster but the tower is said to remain haunted. It was a really haunting small room that had an odd animated video that depicted what supposedly happened. It just felt really weird standing in there… On the floor below, Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned by James I, during which time he wrote his History of the World, four years before he was beheaded.

 

 

 

 

We then headed over to Beauchamp Tower, where all the prisoners were kept. It was built between 1275 and 1281. It was used as a defensive tower before it became a prison. In the tower you can see several instances of “graffiti” by the prisoners. I love ancient graffiti so it was really cool to see the different drawings by the prisoners. Some were absolutely incredible! Also, the majority of people imprisoned were named Thomas, which I found amusing. Unfortunately for us, about half of the room was cut off. However, for history’s sake I was okay with it: while they were refurbishing the room, they came across some painting over the fireplace which they believe is from the building of the tower. It was hidden underneath layers of plaster and they are working to conserve, document, and restore it. SO cool! They were working hard while we were in the room so I didn’t get to see it at all, but one day when I come back to the Tower, maybe I’ll see a cool medieval painting, newly restored!
Thomas Peverel, 1570

 

 

 

 

I might mention that the ravens at the Tower of London are absolutely giant. According to legend, Charles II ordered the ravens to be destroyed because they were bothering his astronomer but he heard a prophecy that stated that, in their absence, the Tower and hi kingdom would fall. So he changed his mind. Today the ravens still reside at the Tower and are handled by Yeoman Ravenmaster (no, I’m not making that up) and according to the sign, they eat a lot. 

 

One started making advances so we quickly hurried off into the White Tower, the largest part of the exhibition. We saw lots of suits of armour and lots of artefacts. I also learnt that the Tower of London was used as a royal mint until the early 19th century, a menagerie until 1835, a records office, an armory, barracks for troops and and a royal residence (until the 17th century). I’ve always just pictured the Tower of London as a prison and a royal residence so it was really cool learning that it was used for so many different things! It has also been open to visitors for centuries and in the early 19th century alterations were made specifically for visitors, including some falsifying of certain artefacts. This part of the Tower of London was much more kid-oriented, with hands-on exhibitions and what-not. It probably didn’t help that hoards of schoolchildren were running around and screaming.

 

 

 

 

 

A medieval toilet-the hole just drops straight down…

 

I love those doors

 

Mega book!

 

The last remaining Norman arch

 

 

 

 

We thought we were finished after that but discovered there were so many more places we could go into! After making friends with a beefeater who said he would be happy if a benign Hitler came into power (upon learning that I study government at LSE), we entered the Fusiliers’ museum.

 

 

Love the old wartime posters

 

Such a beautiful illustrated wartime journal!
This Bible saved a man’s life

 

 

 

We then went into the medieval palace and wall walks. Did you know that people in medieval times liked to sleep sitting up? We also ran into some larpers which was quite awkward. So much of the medieval palace reminded me of Musée Cluny, which I hope I’ll get to see this spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the Queen’s House was covered completely in scaffolding so we just looked at the adorable houses next door and their super cute turquoise doors!

After we finally finished at the Tower of London, we were exhausted and starving. Spending three hours walking up and down steep spiral staircases on very minimal breakfasts can be rather tiring so we hurried over to St. Catherine’s Docks for a delicious lunch at The Slug and Lettuce. It was my first time there and I had a sandwich and, since they do two for one desserts we couldn’t resist getting them! I had a sticky toffee pudding. So good and it definitely helped warm me up!

Tips for visiting:

  • Arrive as close to opening time as possible (and perhaps earlier if you’re here during the summer) so you beat the crowds and school groups!
  • Purchase your tickets online beforehand so you can head straight to the group ticket counter and pick up the tickets! All you’ll need is your credit card and the booking number.
  • Head to the Crown Jewels first so you can see them without the crowds/screaming children!
  • We spent about 3 hours there and probably could have stayed longer were we not exhausted and starving!

 

 

French in London!

 

 

 

 

The sunset was gorgeous as I walked to class :) You can’t see it but the rims of the clouds were pink from the sun!
London, Travels
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