‚Äú The Tower of London is a dominating landmark in central London¬óin the London Borough of Tower Hamlets¬ó on the eastern border of the City of London, beside the northern bank of the River Thames. It is often identified with the White Tower, the original stark, square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078. However, the Tower as a whole is a complex of several buildings set within the outer defensive walls and moat. ‚Äě
This is a fabulous place to visit especially if you have a passion for history as I do. The imposing building is foreboding as you approach and you can easily become immersed in its brutal past. You can understand why there was such fear and dread surrounding the palace when you see the torture implements. There are many Yeomen warders (beef eaters) who have been serving the palace and monarch since Tudor times. All of the warders have long service and good conduct medals so therefore they are not simply tourist's attractions but distinguished service men and women. They wear very elaborate and traditional uniforms which have remained the same for centuries. They still perform many of the traditional ceremonies including the ceremony of the keys, which is done every night and is not a public ceremony. Keeping history and tradition alive which I believe incredibly important, what else do we have to pass on to our children? The yeomen and their families live in the palace grounds (how incredible would that be?). All the warders are extremely friendly and very happy to pose for photographs and give information and advice.
The crown jewels are now housed at the tower of London, in a huge vault and are viewed by stepping on moving pathway and you are able to view the jewels through specialist glass. The palace has had many uses over the centuries, having initially been constructed by the Normans shortly after the Norman Conquest. The palace has been a royal residence, an armoury and jail. It has homed exotic animals like tigers and has even been a mint. It has had so many uses and that makes its significance all that more important. There are many examples of historical armoury all very magnificent. You are able to venture into prison cells and there are chilling examples of graffiti etched into the soft stone. We were able to walk around the top of the palace through each miniature tower in turn. There are of course the famous ravens that are reputed to bring down the country should they leave the tower, and although this is simply legend, they clip the bird's wings to prevent them from leaving, just to be sure!!!
They also have historical characters that re-enact important historical events and often include the crow making history fun. My son had a marvellous time as one of the king's soldiers, and was very impressive at marching. It made his day!
The history surrounding the palace is immense but the most famous visitors to the `bloody tower` were the condemned wives of henry viii, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both were executed here. His daughter Elizabeth also spent time in the tower prior to her taking the thrown and becoming one of the most famous and powerful monarchs, when her sister Mary felt Elizabeth was a threat to her thrown. All of which would have entered through the infamous `traitors gate`.
Tuesday - Saturday 09:00 - 16:30
Sunday - Monday 10:00 - 16:30
Last admission is at 16:00.
Adults - ¬£19.80
Child (under 16) - ¬£10.45
Concessions (full time students or over 60) - ¬£17.05
Family (Up to 2 adults and up to 6 children) - ¬£55.00
Children under five are free.
An essential carer is admitted free with each disabled visitor which I think is wonderful. I used my Tesco vouchers to purchase tickets on the day but there are online options for a small discount and group entry also incurs a small discount.
Telephone bookings number is 0844 482 7799 (from the UK) or +44 (0)20 3166 6000 (from outside the UK)
The nearest underground station is Tower hill that are on the district and circle lines and is directly across the road from the tower and as you exit the tube station the tower is an impressive sight. There are also regular bus routes, routes 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1 all stop near the tower and the city sight- seeing bus also serves the tower. The riverboats also stop at the tower as do the docklands light railway.
You also get an impressive view of Tower Bridge and can see the HMS Belfast floating impressively in the Thames.
There are several eateries in the tower, several kiosks and restaurants serving snacks and drinks, and the restaurants serve hot meals, however these are quite expensive and I find that taking a picnic is a cheaper option. There are many wooden benches and archways that are perfect for picnics.
There are a few souvenir shops selling the normal tourist items, such as mugs and pens and also lovely tankards and china, all similarly priced to other London tourist attractions, which are usually quite expensive.
I would say that this is not the most accessible of buildings, as has many steps and narrow doorways not very practical for buggies or wheelchairs. There are areas for leaving your buggy at a cost of ¬£1.00 making it easier for you to move around, but for wheelchair users the palace is not very accessible, with no means of improvement.
I have been many time and it never fails to impress.
Last October it was my Dads birthday, my Mum asked him if there was anything special he wanted to do and after a lot of thought he decided that he would like a trip to the Tower of London, it was somewhere he had always wanted to go and loves anything to do with history it was right up his street, me and my husband also went along, my Mum wasn't keen on the idea as she's not really into that sort of thing but it was Dads choice so that's where we went, personally I enjoy going around things like that and would always go around castles with my Dad on holiday. When we arrived at The Tower I had no idea what to expect and imagined it to be like a big castle, however it was much larger than any of us expected and in the end actually took us the entire day to get around and be warned there is a huge amount of walking to do.
How it all Started
I am not going to go into full detail of the Tower of London's history as it is far too long, however I did discover a guide book my Dad had picked up whilst there which gives a quick guide to The Towers development. Basically the Tower of London began in the reign of William the Conqueror between 1066 and 1087 starting with what is known as The White Tower, this remained unchanged for about a century. However between 1190 and 1285 The White Tower was added to in the form of two towered curtain walls and a massive moat. After this there was only one more major enlargement of The Tower and this was a massive extension to the Wharf which was begun by Edward III and completed by Richard II. Over the years The Tower of London has expanded to the massive scale that it is today and even now its defences are basically unchanged, the only change is the draining of the moat.
When we arrived at The Tower of London we were lucky and managed to park in a multi story car park near by, it was literally a couple of minutes walk away, when we arrived at the entrance there were several gift shops selling Tower merchandise and my parents had to go to a large office/ shop building opposite to purchase tickets, we were actually using our Tesco Club card vouchers to buy tickets, however all tickets were brought from the same place. We arrived at the Tower early purely as we knew it was going to be busy and to avoid the traffic, even though we were there quite early it was packed, there were people everywhere ranging from tourists to school trips of quite young children. Once you have purchased your tickets you enter through Western Entrance, this has 2 kiosks which you hand your tickets through and just before you enter the tower there are security people there to search your handbags before you are allowed in. Personally I didn't think they searched them very well, I had quite a large bag with me and all they did was unzipped it peered inside and handed it back, I actually had needles in my handbag due to being diabetic and they didn't even discover these as they were in a separate pocket, however I had nothing to hide. Once past security you are free to wonder around the large area and enjoy the various exhibitions.
There are a variety of tickets you can choose from, we just went for 4 adult tickets and paid for them with our Tesco Vouchers, however there is something to suit most people including
*Adults - ¬£19.80
*Child (under 16) - ¬£10.45
*Child (under 5) - Free
*Concessions (full time students or over 60) - ¬£17.05 (ID is needed for this)
*Family (Up to 2 adults and up to 6 children) - ¬£55.00
These are the individual rates which can be purchased on the day when you visit The Tower, however online tickets are also available and these do work out a little bit cheaper and include the following rates
*Adult - ¬£17.00
*Child (Under 16) - ¬£9.00
*Concessions - ¬£14.50
*Family - ¬£47.00
You can also purchase an annual ticket which gives you unlimited access to up to 5 palaces, this costs ¬£47.00. All tickets which are purchased either at The Tower or over the telephone includes a voluntary donation this goes towards the up keep of the tower, I'm assuming you can refuse to pay this donation but personally we did as it only worked out at just over ¬£1.00 each.
Exploring the Tower
Basically The Tower is made up of several different buildings and exhibitions to look around so I will start with the entrance into the tower
When entering The Tower you are basically taking the same route as all the visitors which came into The Tower all the years ago, you walk in over a large stone bridge which crosses part of the moat. Once inside it is almost like you are in a little village within The Tower walls. You pass towers such as The Middle Tower and The Byward Tower, all various defence systems when The Tower was in use, the part which looks almost like a small street is known as Water Lane which Edward I reclaimed from the River Thames, there is also Mint Lane which originally is where the coinage of the realm was manufactured however if you visit The Tower today it is now where the Yeoman Warder and their families live, this surprised me that the Yeoman and soldiers actually live within the tower, around the edges are little houses which all look very modern but within keeping of the tower, these are actually cordoned off and not accessible to the public but they are actually where the staff live, personally I would not want to live within The Tower and would find it a bit too creepy especially at night, however the houses did look very pretty and were all immaculacy kept. You can also have a look at Traitors Gate, this is another entrance to The Tower but the one where the prisoners were brought by boat, the gate was actually shut when we were there and you can view it from the path way, there is no way of getting up close to it as there is still water in this area.
The Medieval Palace
When we decided to investigate The Medieval Palace we discovered that this was made up of 3 towers The Wakefield Tower, The St Thomas's Tower and the Lanthorn Tower, these are at the heart of what was the residential part of The Tower. Looking around the Medieval Palace was basically like looking around where the monarchs would have lived, including Henry II and Edward I.
*St Thomas's Tower - When visiting this part of the palace we could watch a short film on how the monarchs used the tower in different ways, personally we didn't stop and watch all of this and just wandered around the different exhibitions including Edward It's bedchamber, made up of replica furniture and set out in the way in which it is believed he would have had it, this even included part of the original fireplace
*The Wakefield Tower - This was Henry III private quarters and shows the private entrance as well as a small chapel. All features have been restored to imitate how they would have been, I was quite impressed with the way in which this had been done as even small details have not been overlooked. This area even included a large throne with canopies and luxury materials surrounding it.
*The Lanthorn Tower - This was part of Henry III's queens lodgings and includes an exhibitions of objects designed to show the lifestyle of Henry and Edward.
Inside of these Towers which make up The Medieval Palace every effort has been made to keep them as they would have been, obviously renovation has been done however the floors are all old wooden floorboards, these can be a bit uneven in places so you do need to take care, inside these towers there are a of stairs all of which are narrow stone spiral stair cases, usually with either a banisters or a rope banister on one side, I found going up the stairs was fine, however I did feel a little unstable coming down. This can make access limited to disabled visitors and also small children who may struggle with these stair cases.
The White Tower
This is actually one of the main parts of The Tower of London and I have since found out it is one of the most famous Keeps Castle in the world. The White Tower is quite a large area to look around, you enter up a large wooden stair case on the outside of The Tower and are taken into a room which contains a exhibition of various armouries, these are all in large glass cases with a description of what each one is underneath, this is not boring at all, I did wonder if this would be more one for the men, however it was quite interesting looking at the different armouries and who wore which one, the information you are given is enough for you to know what's what but not so over the top you get fed up reading it. The' Fit for a King' exhibition also include Henry VIII famous silvered armour. There is also a joining smaller room which includes The Line of Kings exhibition, this is made up of a line of the kings horses and various armoured mounted figures, again information is provided as to who is who, all of the exhibitions are cordoned off so you cannot touch anything but you are allowed close enough to get a good look and are also allowed to take pictures. The White Tower also includes the First Floor which contains St Johns Chapel, this was really quite a pretty little chapel, however you were kept well back from the front of it and could only look from a distance which was a shame. We then made our way up to the Second Floor which contained a Hand on History Exhibition, this included different activities you could do including archery and various other activities whilst teaching you about the various kings and so on. I think this was actually more aimed at Children however we all had a go at the different things on offer as were most of the other adults there. You exit the White Tower via the Basement and in here there are various models to look at showing how the Tower has changed over the years. Personally I enjoyed The White Tower as there was a lot to look at, most of it was armoury however I found it interesting without there being too much reading to do, again there was quite a lot of spiral staircases to go up and down so access my be limited for some people. We visited the White Tower half way through the day and were feeling a bit tired by then, however there are places to sit should you want a bit of a rest.
The Crown Jewels
This was the first exhibition we went too purely because if you do not get there early it will literally take you several hours to get round due to the sheer number of people wanting to see them, this is one of the most popular exhibitions at The Tower of London. We entered the building which the crown jewels are kept in and wondered through several rooms which included various short films and pieces of writing about the exhibition, you had to weave in and out of barriers in all the rooms this is the queuing area for when the exhibition is busy, apparently by lunch time this area is completely full and it can take a couple of hours just to get to where the jewels are. The rooms were quite dark that we walked through however we eventually got to the main area which had a large glass case down the middle of the room containing various different jewels including crowns, rings, bracelets Swords, spurs and many more, literally thousands of jewels made up this collection and they are actually the real thing not replicas. I really enjoyed this part getting to see all of the pretty gems and jewels, although some were a little over the top.
In order to keep people moving you have to stand on a moving floor either side this slowly takes you past all of the jewels, you can go down either side so that you get a full view of everything, when we visited it was quiet as we had got there early so we actually did a couple of laps of this part. If I had any compliant about this it would be that I would have preferred that there wasn't a moving floor and I would have liked to have walked along at my own pace, however it wasn't too bad as we could go round as much as we wanted as there were not too many people around. We then walked through a few more rooms, again containing glass cabinets of different jewels, robes and various other elaborate and sparkly items. When exiting this exhibition you walked through very large vault doors into a gift shop, the size of these doors was quite impressive they were huge, and obviously designed to keep the jewels safe. This is definitely a must when visiting The Tower of London in my opinion although do try and go there first to beat the crowds as we did otherwise it will take up a large chunk of your day and you will not have time to get round everything else there is to look at.
There are various exhibitions and references to the prisoners at the Tower of London. In the main Green of the Tower, situated more of less in the middle is a glass monument type thins, this actually lists the 10 people beheaded on the Green during the Towers history, 3 of which were queens, there is actually a seating area here and it is also surrounded by the houses of the beefeaters and their families. Other prisoner exhibitions include the various rooms where prisoners were held, not dungeons as you would imagine but prisoners would have held captive in rooms fit for their status this includes The Bloody Tower where the princes were imprisoned and said to be murdered by their uncle. The rooms had all be reconstructed and some looked quite luxurious for rooms where prisoners were held. There were of cause dungeons for prisoner with no status. A further exhibition also included various torture methods and execution methods, there were some replicas along with genuine articles which were used along with a description of how they worked, the though of these was quite horrible but at the same time it was very interesting to read about. I think my Dad and Husband were the most interested in these areas, but they are men and they seem to like things like this.
Another of the main attractions at The Tower of London are the ravens, the legend says that if the 6 resident ravens ever leave The Tower the kingdom and the Tower will fall. There are actually 7 resident ravens at The Tower, the required 6 plus a spare one. To keep the ravens at the tower they have one wing clipped, however this doesn't always stop them going walk about or even being sacked, there is information at The Tower about 'Raven George' who was sacked for eating television wires and also 'Raven Grog' who was last seen outside an east end pub, this is why there is always a spare raven if needed. The Ravens live next to the Wakefield Tower although they do wander around the grounds, it is advised that you do not feed them as they are fed on several kilos of raw meat a day as well as blood soaked bird biscuits. When we were at the Tower we had a sit down in the green area to rest our aching feet after several hours of wandering around The Tower and the ravens were sitting on the railings around the grass close to where the visitors were, although its best not to approach them, I was surprised at how big they were they are massive and have very long sharp looking claws, I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of one. The ravens actually appeared quite popular and were having their picture taken my most of the visitors.
Food and Drink
Throughout the area of The Tower there are plenty of places to eat and drink whether you require a sit down and some lunch or just a quick snack and a drink whilst on the move there is something for everyone. We actually stopped for lunch in one of the cafes and there was plenty of choice ranging from sandwiches and cold snacks to hot meals. The food we had was very nice we opted for sandwiches and a cake which were all freshly made. It was a bit on the expensive side however you do expect that when visiting somewhere like this and the food was of good quality so we didn't mind paying. There was plenty to cater for children as well. There were also little gift shops dotted around the grounds these also sold various snacks and sweets if you required as well as many Tower of London souvenirs. Personally I didn't buy anything from the gift shops, however my Dad did and the items seems averagely priced. Again there was something for everyone whether you were buying a gift for a adult or a child.
*You can go on various tours throughout the tower most of which are taken by the Beefeaters around the Tower, we were going to go on one of these ourselves however it rained on and off for most of the day when we were there and it was cancelled. However as well as the regular tours they also do sign language tours should you require. Disabled visitors can also get into The Tower on a concessions ticket as a lot of the streets are cobbled and a lot of the areas are accessible by stairs only making access difficult for some visitors, one area which is accessible to all visitors are the crown jewels, however a lot of the various towers are not.
*There are various places to sit throughout The Tower grounds, we found this very handy as it was a long day and out feet really were aching towards the end of it. My Mum also suffers with Lupus and cannot walk for too long at a time and my Dad has had a knee replacement just over a year ago and in time will require the other doing so he also finds walking around for long periods of time difficult so having plenty of seating areas was useful as it meant we could sit down when required and have a rest and a drink, however it is a long way to walk for anyone as were there literally the whole day in order to cover everything there was to view.
*The whole area is extremely clean and tidy, there are plenty of litter bins around and I didn't see one piece of litter on the floor, The Tower really is kept immaculate. There are plenty of toilets around The Tower as well, again necessary as you do not want to get to one side and have to walk all the way back to the other to go to the loo, again these were spotless with not a thing out of place. I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the whole area, it really is kept in perfect condition.
There are two sets of opening times at The Tower of London including
SUMMER HOURS (1st March to 31st October)
* Tuesday to Saturday - 9:00am to 5:30pm
* Sunday to Monday - 10:00am to 5:30pm
* Latest Entry - 5:00pm
WINTER HOURS (1st November to 29th February)
* Tuesday to Saturday - 9:00am - 4:30pm
* Sunday to Monday - 10:00am - 4:40pm
* Latest Entry - 4:00pm
Overall I would highly recommend the Tower of London it is an excellent day out, and you really do get your moneys worth, whilst the tickets aren't overly cheap to purchase you get a full day out once you are there. There is so much to look at which is very interesting whether you like history or not. As I have mentioned my Mum isn't really into this sort of thing but we all really enjoyed it and had an excellent day. There is something for everyone here whether it is for children or adults, some of the things may be a bit too complicated for the children but there is always something in the exhibitions to include them. If I had any disadvantages it would be the accessibility for some visitors, there is a massive amount of stairs to climb along with uneven floors and cobbled streets which wouldn't be suitable for everyone, however this is an extremely old building so this is to be expected and it these original features that gives it its charm. If you get fed up with looking around the exhibitions and want a bit of a break you can even take a short walk around the tower walls, this is very safe for children and adults and you literally get to walk around the walls of the tower with a lovely view of the Themes, however again this may not be accessible to everyone, we did this right at the end of the day and even my Dad who hates heights enjoyed this, its is certainly worth doing. If you are going to visit The Tower of London make sure you put the whole day aside as you really will need it. It is a long tiring day out but well worth it and despite it being very busy there was little or no queuing!
Nearly 1000 years ago William the Conqueror started building what is now the Tower of London.
It's featured strongly in the political life of the country's capital, brutal executions, ghastly incarcerations and many have gone in via the Traitors Gate,never to come out alive.
Sir Walter Raliegh lived his last years there, in the company of his family and with special privileges, two little royal brothers went in and history records no further knowledge of them; and hundreds of others suffered ghastly fates in The Tower of London.
Nowadays it is a complete, living history of some gouhlish acts but it also has the most stunning collection of Crown Jewels in the Jewel House.
You may well have to queue for a while there but if you do there are information panels as you weave your way along; by the time you get to the extremely well guarded and thick vault, you know plenty about what you are going to see.
There is an impressivea array of court gear, gilden and jewelled swords, orbs and other fabulous pieces.
People movers make sure you don't tarry long as you go beside the treasures, then you go into the vault to see most fantastic jewels, gold and silver tableware and generally the best in gilded craftsmanship of jewels I have ever seen.
Security here is understandably heavy, big-time. I couldn't help wondering what a headache it would be to protect the pieces if any of the royal family fancied wearing something from the collection.
In the White Tower there are several floors of weaponry and heavy armoury, as well as some ghastly torture stuff to turn the stomach.
All around the Tower of London you'll meet and be able to talk to the Beefeaters or Yeoman Warders. They live in a section on the outer wall of the fortress.
I guess they will be one of the most photographed 'culture' icons of London. They are pretty impressive.
The Tower of London is known for its political intrigue, it's been the most secure and feared prison, it's seen three queens incarcerated there.
In fact, an interesting royal story: the black ravens are actually protected here. There is a saying that if there are less than six black ravens living at The Tower of London the monarchy will fall.
Now to ensure such a fate doesn't come upon the house of Windsor, the ravens have a warder specially assigned to make sure they are fed well, protected and generally don't mind living life with their wings clipped!
The Tower of London is nearby Tower Bridge, on the banks of the Thames, it is easy to get to using the tube and buses.
When I went the second time, ealier this year, I think the entrance fees were: GBP14.50 adults,GBP9.50 children, GBP11 seniors and students, GBP41 families - 2 adults and 3 children.
If you go to http://www.hrp.org.uk/webcode.home.asp you will find booking on line is cheaper. Once in the site,click on Planning your Visit and you will find opening times, and all entry fees are listed.
The Tower of London is a place which I have been to 3 times and each time I learn and find new things I missed the other times.
I'm pleased to say I left with my head.... lots haven't.