The Tower of London

March 20, 2024

I’ve been luck y enough to visit the tower of London a few times, the last of which was a “closed doors” event held for a charity. We were shown around by one of the beefies, witnessed the ceremony of the keys and spent a very enjoyable end of evening in “The Keys” pub.

The tower is a subject that comes up often when chatting with Americans, so I thought it would be fun to share a few little known facts about the Tower:

  1. Secret Underground Tunnels: Beneath the Tower of London lies a network of underground tunnels. These tunnels were used for various purposes over the centuries, including storage, prisoner transfer, and even secretive movements of royalty during times of unrest. Many of these tunnels remain unexplored and inaccessible to the public.
  2. Zoo Within the Tower: For over 600 years, the Tower of London housed a royal menagerie, making it one of the earliest known zoos in England. Exotic animals including lions, bears, and elephants were kept there as symbols of power and prestige. The menagerie was eventually moved to the London Zoo in the early 19th century.
  3. The Tower Ravens: The Tower of London is famously home to a group of ravens, and according to legend, if they ever leave, the kingdom will fall. To prevent this, their wings are clipped to ensure they stay within the tower grounds. Despite being a legend, this tradition is taken seriously, and the tower continues to house at least six ravens at all times.
  4. Royal Mint: The Tower of London housed the Royal Mint for over 500 years until the early 19th century. Coins were minted on-site, and the tower was heavily guarded to prevent theft and ensure the purity of the coinage. Today, the Royal Mint has moved to a different location, but the Tower’s legacy as a minting facility is still remembered.
  5. The Execution Site: While many know the Tower of London as a prison, it was also a site of numerous executions. Famous historical figures such as Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey were executed there. However, the majority of executions took place at Tower Hill, located just outside the tower’s walls. You can find a small plaque at this spot including the names of a few of the more famous people who paid the price of their disfavour.
  6. The White Tower’s Purpose: The White Tower, the central keep of the Tower of London, served various purposes throughout history. Apart from being a fortress and royal residence, it also housed a royal armory, with weapons and armor on display. Today, it houses the Royal Armouries, one of the world’s most extensive collections of arms and armor.
  7. Graffiti of Prisoners: Despite being a fortress, the Tower of London has also functioned as a prison for many high-profile individuals throughout history. Some of these prisoners left their mark by carving graffiti into the walls of their cells. This graffiti serves as a poignant reminder of the human stories behind the tower’s formidable exterior and is preserved as part of its historical legacy.

The tower is well worth a visit and the Beefies themselves are hugely entertaining; you can easily spend 3-4 hours there, but worth going early and making your way to the crown jewels first as it has the longest queues.

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