Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tenth Day in London - Mother's Day at the Tower of London!

Mother's Day or 'Mothering Sunday' was celebrated in England on March 15th, but Lori and I were celebrating it together on Sunday, May 10th.

The first place on our itinerary to visit that day was the Tower of London - rated #8 on the list of London's most popular tourist attractions, and a World Heritage Site.  You could easily spend a day at the Tower if you went to all the sites inside the fortress.


It was built in the 1070's by William the Conqueror - a few years before Windsor Castle was built. Both fortresses are massive and intimidating, which was the intent!  ;-)

~ Welcome center building where tickets are purchased for Tower tours ~



~ Photos taken from outside the fortress near the Welcome Center ~  



~ With ticket in hand, we were ready to enter the fortress ~



We entered the Tower by the same route as those who rode over drawbridges from the late 13th century and onwards.




 ~ Thomas More ~


Below is a close up of the sign above.  I found it interesting that Henry VIII had Thomas More executed at the Tower for refusing to recognize his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and two years later he had Anne Boleyn beheaded at the Tower too.  In 1542 he also had his 5th wife, Catherine Howard, beheaded at the Tower.  Henry was quite a guy!  ;-)


 ~ The Tower was bustling with tourists. ~


The White Tower [below] was the first building built, completed by 1100.  It was protected by Roman walls and moats 11 ft deep by 25 ft. wide, which were surrounded by fences. By 1350, a series of separate building campaigns transformed the Tower into the fortress that exists today. The Tower has a lengthy list of purposes.



~ A guard by the Queen's House since the Tower is an official Royal residence ~


The Tower of London has a team of 37 Yeoman Warders who are ceremonial guardians, with long-term military service. They work shifts to cover various duties, including looking after visitor safety, and conducting guided tours. They live on the premises with their families, and liken it to a little village with their own church, pub, and clubs.

I wondered why Yeoman are sometimes called "Beefeaters", and discovered the nickname originated from when they were paid part of their salary with chunks of beef - a practice that was in effect up until the 1800's.  


The ravens are a famous sight at the Tower.  They are said to be guardians of the Tower dating back to the reign of Charles II who believed that if the ravens were ever to leave, the fortress and the kingdom would fall.  They reside next to the Wakefield Tower under the supervision and care of a Ravenmaster.

There are seven raven residents [six required and one spare] with clipped wings to ensure they stay at the Tower.  Each has a different colored band on one leg to identify them individually, as well as a given name.  Their daily diet is carefully maintained consisting of fresh fruit [apples and grapes], cheese, 6 oz. raw meat [liver, lamb, beef, and chicken], bird biscuits soaked in blood from the meat, and vitamins and other supplements.  Once a week they enjoy an egg.  Some of the ravens have had lifespans of over 40 years, 


 ~ A raven on Tower Green ~


~ Queen's House, which is currently under renovation ~


Ladies and Gents dressed in period costume add charm to the Tower, and pose for photos with tourists.


~ Tower Bridge ~


~ Waterloo Barracks where the Crown Jewels are kept ~


There was a long queue waiting to go inside to see the Crown Jewels, and we waited with them.


~ No photographs from this point on ~


The crowns, orbs, rods, and sceptres - all known as the Coronation Regalia - are beautiful to see.

After viewing the Crown Jewels, but before leaving the Waterloo Barracks, we watched an interesting video about the Duke of Wellington, who among many other important roles, was the Constable of the Tower for a time.

Upon exiting Waterloo Barracks we walked the North Wall.


Life-size monkey sculptures pictured on the wall below.  Exotic animals [royal gifts] were once housed at the Tower.


 Yeoman living quarters seen from the wall walk, and the City of London in the distance.


A bonus was getting to see a Red Arrows 'Flypast' while we were on the wall walk, commemorating the 70th Anniversary of VE Day [although at that moment we didn't realize what the special occasion was].  Below is an Internet photo since I wasn't quick enough with my camera.


When entering and exiting the tower you can see the moat that the Duke of Wellington had drained in 1845.  It's now a grassy area where tourists can walk or sit on benches.



We exited the Tower the same way we entered. Seeing the Tower compound was very interesting and worthwhile, and I'm glad we included it in our itinerary.



5 comments:

  1. The Tower is another of my favorite places to visit in London. I'm thoroughly enjoying your trip with Lori.

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  2. I enjoyed taking this tour with you!

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  3. Historical, educational and TEA!

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  4. What a towering structure! Impressive!

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  5. Never been there, but it's on my bucket list! Thanks for such a thorough report ... it's much more than I had imagined!

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