Given how much we enjoy Horrible Histories and our love of castles, we weren’t going to let a trip to London pass by without visiting the infamous Tower.
As we approached the Tower of London, after braving a half-hour tube ride from the hotel, I was surprised at how big the site actually was. Rowan, however, was more excited about spying wire lions, the first of the animal sculptures we spotted during the day.
We arrived just a few minutes too late to join one of the Yeoman Warder tours, but not to worry – they run every 30 minutes. Instead, we took a little wander, quickly finding Traitors Gate, which provided access from the Thames. In years gone by, prisoners would find themselves entering the Tower this way, sailing by heads on spikes to really increase the feelings of dread.
After passing some sentries and watching as they changed over, we noticed a throng of photographers were gathering beside the lawn. It had been mentioned that a special guest was expected, so we joined the growing crowd of people, and after a short time, a procession of cars appeared, pulling up outside the Queen’s House. Prince Charles and Camilla had arrived, bearing cake, to celebrate the 535th anniversary of the formation of the Yeoman Warders.
They disappeared into the wooden framed building, and we continued our exploration, heading towards the Jewel House to check out the Crown Jewels. Photos are not allowed inside this building, but Rowan was offered the chance to hold a Beefeater’s sword; the Yeoman being careful to make sure that the boy didn’t get giddy and leg off with it.
When we left the Jewel House, a crowd of people were forming again, and on joining in, Rowan got a close-up view of Prince Charles. We later spotted his Harry Potter hat on the TV programme, Inside the Tower
Next on the list was the Royal Armouries and the Armoury in Action Experience, found in the White Tower. Built by William the Conqueror nearly 1,000 years ago, this formidable keep became the “White Tower” in 1240, when Henry III had the walls painted white. Formerly a prison, royal apartments and also where the skeletons of two children were found buried in a chest (possibly the two princes), the modern day White Tower has a lot to discover.
We found many sets of armour, including those of different kings and their horses.
An old loo and a magnificent dragon constructed from various weapons and amour.
In the Armouries in Action Experience, there were lots of hands-on activities, including dressing Henry VIII in his armour, slicing cabbages with a (pretend) sword, and inspecting canons and chainmail. (Our visit was pre-Covid – I am THAT slow at writing this up!)
Once we had seen everything we could in the White Tower, we headed back outside to join one of the Yeoman Warder tours. We heard lots of stories relating to the history of the Tower, and many facts we didn’t realise; for example, to become a Warder, you would need to have at least 22 years of military experience and have reached the rank of warrant officer, in addition to receiving a long service and good conduct medal. And they live on the grounds of the Tower of London, too! Rowan hung on to his every word and eagerly chased after him, like a little shadow, as we moved from place to place.
After the tour, we wandered round, taking in everything else the fortress had to offer. We found the Bloody Tower, home to Walter Raleigh during his imprisonment, and closely associated with the mystery of the two princes. We also spotted more animal sculptures – these animals once lived in the Tower.
In St Thomas’s Tower we found a replica of Edward I’s bedroom, complete with Edward I and his guests. Rowan chatted with the king – the serious look on his face as he told Edward his name and where he was from really made me chuckle.
To finish the day off, we visited the Torture Exhibition, where Rowan learned about the brutal ways in which prisoners were treated to extract information. We visited the chapel, the Tower Mint, found the ravens, and strolled along the battlements, getting a fantastic view of Tower Bridge.
There really is something to see round every corner at the Tower of London. We had a brilliant time and learned lots during our day out. If you’d like to visit, you can find more information here.