London

Inside the Tower of London

Last week’s post concentrated on the outside of the Tower of London; this week I will share some of the photos from the inside of the Tower.

The White Tower is home to the Royal Armouries collection, which includes the 350-year-old exhibition “Line of Kings”. In the collection you will find armour of Henry VIII, Charles I and James II. There are also interactive displays, one of which lets you shoot a longbow and arrow (virtual arrow that is).

Inside the Royal Armouries

Detail of the engraving on Henry VIII’s armour

The wall of breast plates in the background is quite something!

This is a recreation of the King’s private hall and gives a real feel for what this may have looked like in the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307). The bed is apparently constructed to be easily taken apart for when the King and his household would move to another castle.

Replica of King Edward I private hall

These modern sculptures can be found in the White Tower.

This throne, a replica copied from the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, stands in the upper chamber of the Wakefield Tower. This room was originally built to be a private chamber or bedchamber for Henry III (1216-1272). Under Edward I the room lost its original function and became an ante-room to the new chambers in St Thomas’s Tower. After Edward’s death the Wakefield Tower was abandoned as a residence.

Inside the Tower of London you come across a lot of narrow doors, hall ways, and stairs; some of them are unfortunately not accessible to the public. Our daughter actually commented on this and wished we could explore all those places that were cordoned off to us!

The portcullis of the Bloody Tower is apparently still working (so our Beefeater tour guide told us). They think it is originally medieval and was probably restored in the 16th century.

The portcullis of the Bloody Tower

And here is the bottom of the Bloody Tower portcullis.

 

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Impressions of the Tower of London

Whenever I get asked what my favourite part or attraction in London is, I don’t have to think about my answer; it has to be the Tower of London. Those that know me know that I am a history buff and my head is full of useful (some would say useless) historical info and facts (and not just about London). The history that is on show at the Tower has me spellbound every time, and each time I visit I discover something new.

In this post I want to share some photos I took back in May this year of some scenes of the Tower of London, all of which are outside (I will have to do a separate post for some of the inside impressions).

This first photo is one of my favourites. My daughter actually urged me to take this at the time. My husband served in the British Army for 24 years, so seeing a soldier always brings back memories of those years I spent being an Army wife.

A British soldier making his way through the Tower of London grounds

If you have ever visited the Tower you will have heard the story of the ravens. If you haven’t, here is a quick summary:

Legend has it that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. Apparently it was King Charles II who first insisted that the Tower’s ravens be protected. To ensure no ravens ever leave one of their wings is painlessly clipped. However, despite this some ravens do go absent without leave and others have even been given the sack. Raven George was dismissed for eating TV aerials and Raven Grog was last seen outside a pub in London’s East End. Today there are seven ravens at the Tower, one spare, just to be on the safe side. They can be seen all over the grounds of the Tower, but their lodgings are next to the Wakefield Tower.

One of the famous Tower ravens

This next photo is of the famous Traitors’ Gate, so named for the supposed traitors that have passed through here. The most famous of those that made their final journey through this gate were Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Moore.

Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London

Continuing with the theme of beheaded Queens, this is a memorial on the site where some famous prisoners were executed, among them Henry VIII’s second and fifth wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard), and Lady Jane Grey (also known as the Nine Day Queen).

A memorial to those executed at this site in the Tower grounds

This is my favourite part of the Tower, the White Tower. It is the oldest medieval building at the Tower, having been built in around 1078 by William the Conqueror. It was built to awe, subdue and terrify Londoners, and to deter foreign invaders. Inside are a number of exhibitions showing what life was like in this building throughout the years. It has undergone many renovations through the ages, as well as some additions, for instance, the ornate turrets date from the 16th century. The White Tower’s first prisoner was Ranulf Flabard in 1100 (on the order of King Henry I) and the last prisoners held here were the notorious Kray twins; they spent a few days here in 1952, imprisoned for failing to report for national service. Rudolf Hess is most commonly known to be the last prisoner held here in May 1941, but while he was the last state prisoner, he was not the very last prisoner.

The White Tower, almost 1,000 years of history

 

The Cradle Tower, seen here from the outside of the Tower walls. It was built in 1348 by King Edward III as a new watergate to his lodgings. This tower was later used as prison lodgings. In 1599 Father John Gerard and John Arden, both prisoners here, swung to freedom on a rope that stretched from the tower across the Moat, where friends were waiting in a boat.

The Cradle Tower

This view of London’s Tower Bridge is always worth a pause. In the foreground is Traitors’ Gate with the Tudor timber framing above it (although this building was restored in the 19th century).

Tower Bridge with Traitors’s Gate in the foreground.

There are so many more great views and stories to share and there are plenty of great books and websites out there, but for a somewhat shorter history please visit my previous post  from 2014.

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On Guard at the Tower of London

A sentry at the Jewel House at the Tower of London

The Tower of London is famous for its Beefeaters (also called Yeomen Warders) and their fabulous free tours of the Tower of London, however, a detachment of the regiment on guard at Buckingham Palace and St James’ Palace is also guarding parts of the Tower of London.

The Tower guard is made up of one officer, 6 NCO’s (Non-Commissioned Officers) and 15 soldiers. They have sentries posted outside the Jewel House and the Queen’s House.

Sentries are changed every two hours and you can see them being posted and receiving their orders. The Jewel House is your best option, as you get fairly close to the sentries.

On their way to the Queen’s House

The change over is accompanied by the usual stamping of feet and shouting of orders, however, not so at the Queen’s House. So as not to disturb the occupants (which is the Resident Governor of the Tower of London and his family) the sentry does not stamp his feet, and when an officer makes a tour of inspection the sentry will whisper his response “All’s Well”.

Sentry at the Queen’s House

The detachment is also involved in some other daily duties.

Each morning at 09:00hrs the Duty Yeoman Warder and a military escort ceremoniously open the Middle and Byward Towers. After this opening the public is allowed to enter the Tower of London.

This soldier has clearly been in position for some time!

At 15:00hrs the Officer of The Guard and his escort march to the Byward Tower to collect the Word. The Word is the password, which gets changed daily, for after-hours entry to the Tower of London. The Word is used by Tower staff, residents, and the soldiers on duty.

 

And the last duty is in conjunction with the Chief Yeoman Warder. Every night at 21:00hrs they take part in the Ceremony of the Keys, which is the locking of the Tower of London for the night. This ceremony has been performed every night for more than 900 years.

You can get free tickets to this event through the Tower of London website, but be warned, they sell out a year in advance. If you are lucky to get any tickets, please note that there is a small administration fee. No cameras are allowed at this event, you will need your ticket, and ID and there is a limit on the number of tickets you can book (depending on season). We did try to get tickets, but were not lucky enough; so another reason to go back to London!

A Yeoman Warder

 

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Discovering the Inns of Court in London

London’s Inns of Court offer lots of little streets to explore

 

Travel to London and your list of must-see attractions invariably includes places such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and many more well-known places. Understandably, if you are in London for only a few short days, you don’t want to miss these, but, if you find yourself in London for anything more than 3 days, it is worth looking for some alternatives that will still give a flavour of London and its history, but are perhaps not on most tourist trails.

Exiting out of Lincoln’s Inn Fields

With that in mind let me show you London’s Inns of Court. This is the heart of legal London and consists of four ancient Inns of Court; Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, and Inner Temple. Just take a tube to Temple, head North and start exploring from there. One thing to note is that any exploring needs to happen during the weekday as the inns are closed in the evenings and weekends.

Old Square in Lincoln’s Inn

The inns are where barristers first train and then later practice and are all located within the vicinity of the Royal Courts of Justice, at the boundary between the City of London and Westminster. The inns started in the Middle Ages, and even back then were devoted to the technical study of English law rather than Roman law, which was taught in the universities. The Inns of Court were set up as an answer to the problem of legal eduction, as by this time (the mid-13th century) the common law of the land had become extensive and intricate. All manuals and books for teaching were produced in French rather than Latin.

More views of the buildings in Old Square

As you can see, there is plenty of history in these streets in around the inns and plenty of little streets and corners to explore. Additionally, it is also where you will find the church of the Knights Templar, Temple Church (see my previous post for some information on this church). In the Middle Ages Inner and Middle Temple were part of the monastery of the Knights Templar. When the order was suppressed in 1312 most of the premises of Inner and Middle Temple were taken over by lawyers. Middle Temple Hall (on Middle Temple Lane) is famous for having the first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which took place on 2nd February 1601 (Candlemas).

The Old Curiosity Shop, made famous by Charles Dickens

In amongst all the inn buildings you will find something that looks rather out-of-place; the Old Curiosity Shop, which stands on Portsmouth Street, between the London School of Economics and Lincoln’s Inn Fields (London’s second largest square,Trafalgar Square being the largest). It is apparently the oldest shop in London and is said to be the original of Dickens’ eponymous novel.

The only original house left in Lincoln’s Inn Fields is now two houses, numbers 59 and 60. This is also were Spencer Perceval once lived; he was the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated (in 1812). Number 65 on the same street used to be the home of William Marsden, founder of both the Royal Free Hospital (so-called because treatment was free to all)  and Cancer Hospital, now called the Royal Marsden Hospital. Number 66 are the offices of the Queen’s solicitors, Farrer and Co.

There is very small pathway between these buildings

Amongst all the buildings you will find plenty of little gardens, some of which only open during lunch time, to explore and have your lunch, so bring a little picnic! Alternatively, there are plenty of pubs and sandwich shops around, but be warned, as lunch approaches these will all be very busy (the busier they are, the better their offering!).

Plenty of pubs in the Inns of Court for refreshments

So, next time you are in London with some free time give the Inns of Court a chance to take you back into time.

This is the old water pump which sits on Bedford Row at the entrance of Brownlow Street

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London Pub Signs – What’s in a name?

The White Lion, named after King Edward IV (reigned 1442-1483)

British pubs are famous the world over for their beer, their quirky looks and traditions (think last orders), their history and funny names, their atmosphere, their food, and the fact that most of them are still very family friendly.

When you ask for directions in the UK it will invariably include something like: “turn left at the Slug & Lettuce, continue on that road and then take a right at the Rose & Crown”. Pubs are an intrinsic part of the UK and its culture and people.

Each pub has its own history and every one is different, however, the names are not always unique. The most popular top 4 pub names in the UK are the Red Lion, Crown, Royal Oak, and White Hart; and there is a good reason for this, but first, why are there pub signs in the first place in the UK?

The Keys pub in the grounds of the Tower of London for the use of Yeoman Warders only

This all goes back to, yes, you guessed it, the Romans! Roman wine sellers used to hang vine leaves outside to show that they sold wine. When they came to Britain, that was no longer an option thanks to the British climate, so they used small evergreen bushes instead. Those who also sold beer would hang an ale stake out as well.

In the 12th century naming of inns and pubs became common, and as the majority of the population could neither read nor write, pub/inn signs were used instead. King Richard II passed an act in 1393 making it compulsory for pubs and inns to have a sign in order to identify them to the official Ale Tester, who would inspect the alcohol being sold at the establishment (apparently Ale Testers were paid in beer).

The Wellington, named after the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815

Since then pubs and inns have been named after monarchs, battles, prominent figures or some other local obscurity.

Red Lion pubs are said to be named after the badge used by John of Gaunt, who in the 14th century was the Duke of Lancaster and the 4th son of King Edward III and was, for a time, the most influential and powerful man in the country. However, there is another story that says Red Lion pubs are so-called because James VI of Scotland, on becoming James I of England, ordered that the heraldic red lion of Scotland be displayed on all buildings of importance, including pubs, so that his English subjects could be reminded that the Scots now held power in the South. One could also say that Red Lion pubs could be named after their local nobel family, as the red lion was part of many an English noble family’s coats of arms.

The Crown pubs are simply named thus to show their support of the monarchy, whichever that might be at any given time.

The Royal Oak pub name is derived from a true tale of a king on the run. Prince Charles was defeated in 1651 at the Battle of Worcester in the English Civil War and fled the scene with Cromwell’s troops hot on his heels. He reached Bishops Wood in Staffordshire, and climbed, what is now dubbed the Boscobel Oak, to hide in the tree for a day until his pursuers moved on. Charles then escaped to France and later returned as Charles II on the Restoration in 1660.

The White Hart is a rare pale/white red deer and was the heraldic badge of King Richard II (reigned 1377-1399) and is usually depicted with a chain and a golden collar or a crown around its neck.

Most pubs these days are tied to a brewery or pub company, which will dictate which beers can be sold in its pubs. Those without any ties are called Free Houses and can decide which brew they want to offer their clientele.

While I was in London earlier this year I came across a lot of these pub signs, some of which were less common than others.

This pub is funnily enough nowhere near the Bank of England. It sits on Fleet Street, next to the Royal Courts of Justice.

The Old Bell Tavern, also on Fleet Street, has a long history, having been a licensed tavern for more than 300 years. Built by Sir Christopher Wren, it housed his masons who were rebuilding St Bride’s Church after the Great Fire. Originally the tavern could only be reached via an alleyway from Fleet Street, known originally for being the street housing printing services and later the home of the UK press (although most of them have now moved). One of the first printing presses operated here around 1500.

Another Fleet Street pub which was rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of London in 1666. We actually stopped here for a drink and I can confirm that the interior is very dark, old looking and tiny. The pub is associated with literary figures Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, P. G. Wodehouse and Dr. Johnson, who are all said to have been ‘regulars’.

The tavern was opened in 1869 to celebrate the opening of the Holborn Viaduct. Opposite used to stand the notorious Newgate Prison, today the Old Bailey (the UK’s Central Criminal Court) stands in its place. It is said that the tavern’s cellar used to house 5 prison cells used by Newgate Prison.

On Ludgate Hill near St Paul’s Cathedral is this 18th century pub. It stands on the site of an old London Coffee House where all the leading people of the time would meet to debate all the new scientific and philosophical theories of the day, including Joseph Priestley and Benjamin Franklin.

This name is likely a pun and could mean a horse or a nagging woman.

On Villiers Street, near Charing Cross, this pub remembers the Queen that never was. The Princess of Wales was King George IV’s secret first wife. When still Prince Regent, he secretly married Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert in 1785. The marriage was declared illegal at his father’s behest, because George would have been ineligible to reign with a Catholic wife.

The Walrus and The Carpenter takes its name from a poem by Lewis Carroll. The verse is recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum in ‘Through The Looking Glass’. The pub stands in the shadow of history, in view of The Monument to commemorate the Great Fire of London.

 

 

 

 

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Summer of Love at the Globe Theatre

 

It is the Summer of Love at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London this Summer.

At the beginning of this year I found out that our daughter’s favourite Shakespeare play Romeo & Juliet was being performed at the Globe while we were visiting London. The excitement from our daughter was enormous, so obviously I had to ensure to get tickets! We were lucky enough to book seats on the Upper Gallery of the Globe right at the front, opposite of the stage, so no posts were hindering our view!

 

The stage at the Globe Theatre

Emma Rice, the Artistic Director (leaving after only 2 seasons in April 2018), has had some bad press , as her productions are modern and somewhat shocking, and many Shakespeare fans do not like to have their favourite plays changed like that. However, her different take on the traditional plays has brought in a more diverse audience, which can only be a good thing in my mind. So, with all that being said, we were not sure if we would like the modern take on this classic play; our daughter (then 18 years young) said she would probably prefer the original version, which she had previously viewed on DVD.

Boy were we wrong! We loved it, were totally mesmerized by the performances, and the end was so powerful it took our utmost willpower to not break out in tears! The modern take was just perfect, and from what we saw the rest of the audience agreed! It is a shame that Emma Rice felt she had to resign from her post at the Globe, as I think this new take really does change your perspective on the plays of Shakespeare.

If you ever get the chance to watch a play here, please take that chance. Even though this is a faithful recreation of the original theatre, it does feel very authentic. Be warned though, if you book a seat in any of the Galleries, it is cramped, as the following photo indicates. There is an interval to get up and stretch your legs; and do pay the couple of pounds for a seat cushion, unless of course you like the feeling of a numb bottom!

The seating at the Globe Theatre – a little tight!

For info on the Globe and its history, and to book tickets visit their website at http://www.shakespearsglobe.com.

We had a great time and I would book tickets again in a heartbeat.

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Something about London – a poem

Not a poem written by myself, but written for me by one of these two gentlemen.

Along Bankside in London, UK

We came across them on our way from the Tate Modern to Shakespear’s Globe on Bankside. The deal was that you gave them the title of the poem, they would type away on their typewriters and come up with the words, and then you would pay them whatever you thought fair.

This was the result, which I quite like and paid accordingly for:

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London Compilation

I spent the afternoon creating this, which is everything that says London to me. I have seen this sort of work on various platforms online and wanted to create my own take on it using my own photos.

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London’s little curious things – Wellington’s Horse Mounting Block

I love to discover the curious and little know facts about stuff, but I particularly like to discover them in London (honestly, my head is full of useless facts – just ask my long suffering husband!). There are so many of them, and each time I visit London I try to find some of them.

This one I discovered while reading the walking book I had purchased for my last trip to London with our daughter.

Let me introduce you to the horse mounting block of the Duke of Wellington.

The Duke of Wellington’s Horse Mounting Block

This little curious marvel can be found in Waterloo Place, which is up the Duke of York Steps just from The Mall. Towering at the top of the steps is the Duke of York on his column (he who had 10,000 men, marched them up a hill and marched them down again).

On The Mall looking towards the Duke of York Steps and his statue

Waterloo Place itself is worth a visit not just to see the horse mounting block, but also to see the many statues that line its sides, including Sir John Franklin, who was lost while searching for the then elusive north-west passge round Alaska, and Captain Scott, he of South Pole fame.

If you approach Waterloo Place from The Mall stay on the left hand side once you get to the top of the steps.

The mounting block is outside of the Athenaeum club which was founded in the 1820s, but not completed until 1830. The Duke of Wellington was a founding member and requested that this block be installed outside to help him mount his horse, possibly even his famouse charger Copenhagen.

 

 

 

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Temple Church

Temple Church at the Inner and Middle Temples

Temple Church in London became known to most people through Dan Brown’s book, and the subsequent movie, the Da Vinci Code, yet it is not easy to find.

The church sits between the Inner and Middle Temple of the Inns of Court, just off Fleet Street. If you visit the church during the weekend you will need to access it via Tudor Street as the Inns of Court are closed during the weekend and in the evenings. Check their website before you visit for their opening days and times.

The floor exhibit in the foreground dates from the 12th/13th century

800 years of history can be seen and felt here, which began in the 12th century with the Crusaders. The church was built by the Knights Templar, which was an order of crusading monks who protected pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem. The church was designed to recall the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world, the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The order of the Kights Templar was eventually abolished in 1307 by the Pope on the instigation of Philip IV King of France, at which point King Edward II took control of the temple. Eventually the temple was given to the Order of St John, the Knights Hospitaller, who had always worked with the Templars. It was at this point that the lawyers moved into the area. They were looking for a home in London in order to attend to the royal courts at Westminster and so the 2 colleges rented the temple and it became the Inner and Middle Temples. The colleges shared the church and to this day they maintain the church.

The inside of the church is full of history everywhere you look. As part of the entrance fee, which is small, you get to climb up some stairs to reach the upper exhibit. The views down into the main church are worth the little climb!

Stairs to the exhibit

Looking down into the church

An original floor design

Some of the Knights Templar

The beautiful ceiling

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