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Tower of London and Tower Hill

London

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The Tower of London is an imposing structure from both the land and water and looks to be highly fortified. We were very excited to visit this historical monument and walk in the footsteps of Kings and Queens that has played such a large part in English history.

As you enter the tower you walk past the moat that forms a u shape around the building and in its hey day captured all the filth and waste from the tower. The architect designed the moat to be flushed by the River Thames at high tide, however his design was flawed and the moat was dug too deep never washing out the filth as the tides change. We were told that no one ever attempted to breach the tower via the moat and you can imagine the years worth of build up in the soil around the tower. The moat was drained to form the lovely lawn that is there today.

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Like most fortified places the tower has outer and inner walls, defences and time has seen both the river and land evolve. There is still one fully operational defence porticullus for the inner courtyard. Our first stop was to see the Crown Jewels on display before the crowds and there is numerous crowns, ceremonial items, swords and treasure on display. Also on site there is the Chapel of St Peter and Vincula which is still used for worship and is the final resting place of some of the Queens of Henry VIII and other nobility.

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The tower runs free Beefeater tours every thirty minutes and we joined Jimmy’s tour along with about fifty others from across the world, mostly Americans. The information provided spans 900 years of snippets of history, including its use as a mint, wartime training grounds, royalty in all its grandeur and gory history and is interactive and at times takes the mickey out of various cultures, for us we were asked was our visit linked to leisure or parole and were welcomed home.

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Our tour ended in the inner courtyard, Tower Green and opposite a small monument to the few people mostly female and Queens, such as Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey wives of Henry VIII who were beheaded at the tower. We also enjoyed seeing the Traitors Gate that passed directly under the Medieval Palace built by Henry III and expanded by successive monarchs including his son, Edward I. The building remains and there is some reconstruction to provide insight into what comprised the royal lodgings.

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After lunch at the cafe, we headed to the White Tower the oldest building which commenced construction in the 11th century and now houses various exhibits including the line of the Kings with amazing pieces of armour and weaponry including some from Henry VIII. Not much of the original components within the building remain a few garderobes (toilets) and fireplaces. This building has had many uses including a home for royalty, storage of armour and goods, a prison and the study of astronomy. Within the building the Chapel of St John, the King’s private chapel also remains.

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The tower housed a menagerie of exotic animals from around the world including baboons, elephants, snakes, crocodiles, ostrich, a polar bear that was chained but had free reign on the chain to fish in the River Thames and the most prized lions and lionesses. As a commoner back in the day it would have been like magic to see strange animals and a not so subtle reminder of royal power. There is also ravens at the Tower and in earlier times there were many ravens at the tower and they were becoming a pest so they were culling them until Charles 1 was reminded of a legend that said the kingdom would fall if there was no ravens around. After surviving the plague followed by the great fire of London and also being highly superstitious, Charles I ceased the full and granted six ravens to stay. Today, they still have six roaming the tower and two on the bench, just in case. We were also lucky enough and a little excited to see our first “wild” squirrel here on the path.

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There are rooms through out the tower that were used as prisons and hold the graffiti of those interned some of these are connected with the embattlements of the tower. The walk around the embattlements and a view of some of the instruments of torture used at the tower ended our day at the Tower of London.

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After leaving the Tower of London, we headed up and across the road to Tower Hill where there is a park where the public executions took place. A small square monument marks the site. On our Beefeater tour we were told about the most gruesome beheading of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth who was an illegitimate son of Charles II and was imprisoned after announcing his claim to the throne (noting that there were 21 illegitimate children). The executioner, Jack Ketch was a butcher who was drunk all the time, borrowed some ones axe and was more specialised in hangings not beheadings. After several failed attempts the crowd was baying for the executioners blood and he ended up finishing the job with his butchers utensils.

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A day well spent and we felt we had truly immersed ourselves in the Tower of London’s history.

Posted by bonne vie 07:48 Archived in United Kingdom

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