Tours, we usually don't do them, but here at the Tower of London, it is a MUST DO!
We had some time to wait for the tour, eventually the hour came, and so did our Beef-Eater, or proper term is "Yeoman Warder."
We had a great guide, a very funny and informative man. First, we learnt it was because of their position in the Royal Bodyguard, which permitted them to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king's table. Now I know how they got their name!
No microphone needed for our man, he had a big booming voice which we all could hear, and was pretty good with jokes too! He had served in the Army, a requisite they served in the armed forces with an honourable record for at least 22 years. I learnt and saw there are woman Beef - Eaters.
By doing this tour, I learnt so much that I wouldn't have known if I had been walking around on my own.
The tours run every 30 mins, starting at the main entrance and finishing an hour later
My visit to the Tower of London was one of the highlights of my London sightseeing.
Before walking too far, I saw the life-size sculptures of some of the Tower’s royal beasts. Three Lions, sculptured from wire mesh were crouching by the ruins of what was once the Lion Tower, situated at the main entrance. Further on, sitting on one of the walls, were wire mesh apes.
These were scattered around the Tower, as during the reign of King John in the early 1200s, animals lived at the Tower for over 600 years. Exotic animals were given as royal gifts.
The animals were kept at the Royal Menagerie for the entertainment and curiosity of the court.
The first royal beasts to arrive at the Tower - the lions, polar bear and elephant - came from Europe and North Africa, later Elephants, Tigers, Kangaroos and Ostriches lived in the Royal Menagerie.
I didn't find anymore sculptures, there maybe more though!
Our Beef-Eater told us the story of the Ravens.
They are here because of a Legend stating that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. It was Charles II, who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected.
Despite their having one wing clipped, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave. After the tour, I did manage to see the seven ravens at the Tower (the required six plus one spare!). They are situated next to the Wakefield Tower.
Last visit July 2011, got 2 for 1 entry with a valid travelcard
The Tower of London is my #1 must see attraction, I have visited at least 5 times now on different trips to London and still find it fascinating. The Tower has a long, intriguing, sometimes bloody history, full of colorful characters from the 9 day Queen Jane Grey, the two Princes killed and buried in the Tower by their evil uncle, King Henry VIII and his 6 wives, two of which were beheaded inside it's walls.
The best time to visit the Tower is first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive. On our most recent visit we got there around 10am, there was a short line to get tickets and no line to see the Crown Jewels but later in the day there was a huge line for them so go see the Crown Jewels first so you can spend as much time gawking at the baubles as you please. You can then double back to the entrance and take one of the amusing and informative beefeater tours, not to be missed. That was also crowded but the beefeaters have loud voices.
Several of the buildings are open to visitors, the White Tower has the armoury and the Hands on History Exhibit which is an interactive section for kids, you can walk along the walls and visit some of the towers, visit the Medieval Palace and check out the ravens, legend has it that the kingdom would fall if the ravens ever left so they've ensured a few stick around by clipping their wings and having understudies!
Be sure to check out the visit planner on the attached website and check to see if there's anything special going on while you are there, we almost missed the siege weapons demostration in the moat that is exclusive to the summertime and only performed a couple of times during the day. We spent about 4-5 hours here and saw everything, we ended up eating lunch at the Tower as well. You can also bring a picnic lunch, I wish we had thought of it.
The Tower of London, usually known as the Tower, is a building in London, situated on the River Thames. Over the centuries it served as a fortress, royal palace, state prison, mint, garrison, museum and armory. The nearby Tower Bridge gets its name from this complex, which since 1988 on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The "Tower of London" is controlled by the "Constable of the Tower." This is usually a higher military. His task is to manage the buildings, staff and under the "Tower of London". He also manages the crown and other royal objects during state occasions. He is appointed for a period of five years.
Most of us educated in the UK were at some time or other taken on a school trip to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. That was my first and last visit although I would walk or drive past the place at least once a week during my 50 years living in England.
However now living overseas I was keen to show these buildings to my Canadain family so made it to the last tour of the day around the Tower during the third week of August 2011.
It was a very interesting trip but with twin 5 year old grandchildren and with the warm day, it became too much for them so it turned out to be more of an endurance test for their Dad and myself to carry the children round on the tour. that apart it was very interesting made so by a Beefeater who clearly missed his vocation as a comedy act.
Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, England will fall. And, given that the closest that England has been to succumbing to invasion since 1066 was during the Second World War (during which the Tower's raven population plummeted to one), there may just be some truth to his legend!
The author Boria Sax came to the conclusion that, "the ravens were originally brought in to dramatise the alleged site of executions at the Tower".
Now that there is no longer a supply of freshly executed heads for the ravens to subsist on, they are fed a combination of meat, eggs, rabbit fur and kitchen scraps. The Tower's website also provides the following fascinating raven-related trivia (based on April 2011):
"Nobody knows when ravens first came to the Tower of London, but they've been associated with the Tower for centuries. Legend dictates that, if the ravens ever leave, the Tower will fall and the Kingdom will fall, so Charles II decreed that there must always be at least six ravens at the Tower. That tradition has been honored for more than 300 years.
* Seven ravens currently live at the Tower. Three are females; four are males.
* To keep the birds from flying away, the Raven Master clips their lifting feathers. The procedure doesn't hurt them in any way; it simply unbalances their flight so they won't stray from the Tower.
*Ravens have escaped occasionally. Grog was last seen outside an East End pub called the Rose and Punchbowl in 198 after living at the tower for 21 years (seven years longer than Sir Walter Raleigh).
* Occasionally, birds are dismissed for bad behavior. George was exiled to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in 1986 after developing an unhealthy taste for TV antennas, while two other ravens were banished in 1996 for "conduct unbecoming Tower residents."
* Ravens can live to a ripe old age. The oldest raven to live at the Tower was Jim Crow, who died at the age of 44. The oldest raven curently living at the Tower is Hardey, who is 26 years old.
Ravens are well fed: Each bird's daily ration includes 6 ounces of meat and bird-formula biscuits soaked in blood. Once a week the birds enjoy an egg, and they're occasionally given a rabbit (the fur is good for them). The ravens also enjoy scraps from the Tower's mess kitchen."
The photo is one of the very first postcards I ever bought. This was memento of a primary school trip to the Tower of London in the very early 1970s when I was about eight: my overwhelming memory of the event is one of hunger as my orange squash bottle leaked and soaked my sandwiches beyond redemption!
There were not only heraldic lions at the Tower of London but also real ones!
In 1251 King Henry III was keeping a polar bear. There were leopards and even an elephant. Later there were six lions kept in a barbican called Lion Tower. The royal collection was increased by diplomatic gifts and became a public attraction during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Begin of the 19th c. the menagerie was open to the public at six pence the entry.
On a board of the Royal Beasts exhibition in the newly-opened Brick Tower, is written that visitors bringing a live dog or cat to feed the beasts would not pay the entry. Should we believe this?!
There was even a Monkey Room with monkeys living in a furnished room to amuse the visitors. In 1831 the 32 animals were moved to the zoo of Regents Park.
This 6 centuries old Menagerie explains why there are a number of animal sculptures at the Tower.
First built by William the Conqueror in early 1080s and this fortification has been added through the years since.
You'll find the Crown Jewels under armed guard in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.
They are the greatest working collection of Crown Jewels in the world and priceless symbols of British monarchy.
This gallery of 10 wooden horses from about 1690 belongs to a display of Kings in armour mounted on these carved horses.
The Line of Kings as it is called started with 10 figures to which during the centuries were added more monarchs. The heads of the monarchs were sculptured; the figures were dressed with armours and seated on the life size sculptured horses.
The Line of Kings was on display in the New Armouries of the Tower already in the 17th c.
Ten of the wooden horses have been brought together and restored but without the Kings in armour. Each horse has the armour of the corresponding King alongside the wall and the names of the monarchs are displayed on the red banners above each horse.
It seems that replicas in fiberglass of the armours will be made. The helmets will contain the original carved and painted heads of the Kings so that they will appear like they were on display around 1800
It's very special and I think unique.
This exhibition, open since April 2010, shows five hundred years of royal armour.
Visitors who have been at the Tower a few decades ago will observe that presently the part of spectacles has been markedly increased aiming at a younger public of visitors.
The display of the royal armour inside the White Tower is also spectacular. Lights moving from bleu to red and green reflect on the armours and are somewhat excessive because they mask the real colours or gilded decoration.
More spectacular is the choice of the armours, mainly those of King Henri VIII. For obvious reasons everybody stops at this field and tournament armour from 1540 on my photo 1.
Henri VIII was 49 when this armour was made for him in Greenwich. It is unlikely he competed in tournament.
The other magnificent silvered and engraved armour was also made in Greenwich around 1515 for Henry VIII at the time of his marriage with Katherine of Aragon; the horse armor was made in Brussels (photo 2 - photos were difficult due to the terrible lights).
My photo 3 is that of a field armour garniture and half shaffron from the Earl of Worcester (1570). It has the latest technical advances but weighs 59 kg, the heaviest armour of that time!
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