Is it worth the trouble and cost?
We were pleasantly surprised by the spacious and tranquil nature of the Tower complex (and really glad we got there at 9am! ), but also disappointed that it was not dark, dangerous and bloody. Although it’s obviously the real thing it’s been sanitised and organised to deal with the staggering number of tourists, so the real medieval feel has been lost and replaced with Disney stories and distant nightmares.
Also most of London’s magnificent museums and extensive art galleries are free to enter and easy to walk in without lining up, something you will probably have to do for the Tower or Buckingham Palace. In addition the entry fees for those two are pricey.
Furthermore, in these days of explicit slasher movies and vampire goths we expected something more visceral and scary. One of the most popular things to do in London these days for kids are dungeon and monster experiences where they scare the bejesus out of everybody. Head for London Bridge/Southwark area for a variety of nasty experiences that teens love, not far from London Bridge station up the South Bank.
Standing on a moving belt to ensure tourists don’t hang about.
Certainly it’s a fine collection of priceless jewelled Coronation ornaments hoarded since the 17th century – crowns, orbs, sceptres, rods, staffs and so on – but somehow we were not especially impressed. Massive diamonds behind glass passing at speed might just as well be imitations, which considering the value of this lot they may be.
Tower Green with two ravens and Tower Bridge on the left.
The Significance of Ravens
‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall, ‘ goes the legend, probably started by Charles II, so seven ravens now live in the Tower grounds and have one wing clipped to prevent a catastrophic emigration. Six is the vital number so there’s one to spare but they still disappear from time to time and the Ravenmaster has to quickly conjure up a new one. Raven George was fired recently for obsessively eating TV cables while Raven Grog did a flutter (a raven version of a runner) and was last seen frequenting a pub in the east end.
Do not try to feed the critters, they are bold, treacherous and don’t respect normal people, much like the kings that used to live in the Tower.
Yeomen Warders, sometimes known as Beefeaters.
Ex-soldiers all, Yeomen Warders have been Royal Bodyguards since 1509 and are called Beefeaters due to their envied access to beef from the king’s table.
A Yeoman guided tour to the left and the famous scaffold execution site on the right.
Free Yeoman Warder guided tours start every 30 minutes from near the main entrance and last 60 minutes. They will definitely be fascinating and probably hilarious so get close to your selected Beefie and stick with him (or in a rare case, her).
A few of those who were lucky enough to get the chop on Tower Green (really! the alternative was a down and dirty public execution with a careless, inexperienced or drunken axeman) are Sir Walter Raleigh and three queens of England: two of Henry VIII’s wives, Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard; Lady Jane Grey was queen for only nine days in 1553 at the age of 16 and was executed as a traitor.
Historic graffito by prisoners in Beauchamp Tower.
There are many beautifully carved graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower but few of them are inscribed by famous persons. This tower seems to have been the resting place for lesser people.
Famous Prisoners in the Tower of London
– George, Duke of Clarence was imprisoned in the Bowyer Tower and accidentally drowned in a cask of wine in 1477. Apparently he drank too much.
– The ‘Princes in the Tower’, young Edward and Richard, were ‘disappeared’ from the Bloody Tower in 1483, probably at the command of that charming Richard III.
– Anne Askew was housed in the Cradle Tower and later burned at the stake for her religious beliefs by Henry VIII in 1546.
– Sir Walter Raleigh, 13 years in the Bloody Tower for plotting against King James I. Beheaded in 1603.
– Sir Everett Digby, a few months in the Broad Arrow Tower for the Gunpowder Plot against King and Parliament in 1605. Hung, drawn and quartered.
A brilliant dragon made from medieval weapons and armour.
The Fit for a King free, permanent exhibition in the White Tower displays 500 years of the best royal armour and weapons, with plenty of dazzling, gem-encrusted swords and silver studded armour but also a fascinating series of hands-on games and quizzes related to survival in medieval times that will keep the older kids and younger adults busy.
Fun and educational displays on the best way to kill, crush or just maim a person.
Authentic armour, with the giant set reaching 2 metres high and the small one built for a very young prince.