Postcard from London: The Tower of London

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Hi everyone,

Today, our third day in London, we visited the Tower of London, a Royal Castle that is nearly 1000 years old! Back then the castle was a key to controlling the country.

The Tower was also the most important royal prison in the country, famous for the Traitor’s Gate and the Beefeaters. It was also where Henry the Eighth imprisoned and had three of his six wives executed during his lifetime: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey. He sounds like a very scary king.

Have you heard of UNESCO? It’s an organization at the United Nations that has created a list of the most significant places in the world. The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visiting the Tower of London

The Tower of London
The Tower of London

Linda came here when she was a girl and she wanted me to see it. I’m glad we did. It’s really cool.

The building itself is really quite impressive. It is located along the Thames river in a part of London known as Tower Hill. Because it was on a hill it was a great place for the royal family to live safely. Inside is not only the palace, but also living quarters for the people of the time.

It may not appear very big to you but back in the day, waaay before all the skyscrapers were built, it looked massive.

Around 1189 to 1190 they built a moat around the castle to increase the protection. They also expanded the size under the direction of Richard the Lionhearted. You might have heard of him.

Moat around the Tower walls
Moat around the tower walls is now beautiful green grass

Lots of cool weapons

A replica catapult in the moat area.
A replica catapult in the moat area.

We enjoyed seeing some of the old weapons they used around the time they built this fort. They used many of them while standing at the top of the wall. If you ever hear someone talk about a “castellated wall” they are talking about that up-and-down border on top.

Standing in the moat – which is now filled with grass instead of water – we saw a replica of a catapult. Catapults were used to hurl heavy stones at buildings in order to break down doors and walls during battles, sort of like a giant slingshot.

We met a real Beefeater

Beefeater tour guide
Beefeater tour guide

We had a charming gentlemen act as our tour guide. He was one of the Yeomen Warders, more commonly known as the Beefeaters. Isn’t that a funny name? He entertained us with jokes while he was filling us with interesting facts about the Tower as we walked the grounds.

There are houses inside the Tower of London!

Homes inside the walls
tHomes inside the walls

I loved the half-timbered homes that were inside the Tower walls. These homes were laid out on a square with plenty of park grounds to sit for a rest or enjoy the festivities.

Waterloo Barracks

Courtyard along the tower.
Courtyard along Waterloo Barracks.
Changing of the guard.
Changing of the guard.

Within the walls and upon the central square is a beautiful building called Waterloo Barracks. This castellated neo-gothic style building was built to replace the original storehouse, which was destroyed by fire in 1841. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Wellington, who was a very important man at the time.

Linda liked the basement the best—where they keep the Royal Crown Jewels. We went down there to see the crown and scepter that the queen wears on royal occasions, as well as a lot of other amazing pieces of jewelry there. The basement is actually a massive safe, all very, VERY carefully guarded. 

Funnily enough, Linda read that the Queen doesn’t like to wear the crown too much because it’s really heavy and hard to balance on her head. She joked that she would like to try it on and see for herself just how uncomfortable it is, haha.

We stayed long enough for watch the British Royal Guards perform a ceremony in front of Waterloo Barracks. In their bright red uniforms and bear skin hats they marched along the barracks for all to watch. Lots of people were taking photos, including me!

Traitor’s Gate

Traitor's gate
The infamous Traitor’s Gate water entrance into the Tower of London

This is the infamous Traitor’s Gate entrance into the Tower of London. If you’re paying attention, you can see it during a Thames River cruise.

When Henry VIII sentenced Anne Boleyn to death, she entered the Tower of London complex via Traitor’s Gate. The gate forms part of St. Thomas’ Tower, which was originally built to provide additional royal accommodation. At least her last days were comfortable.

The gate doesn’t look too big in our photo, but that’s because the Thames was high when we took it. We were surprised to see how much the river actually rises and falls with the tide.

Yeah, it’s that close to the ocean.

Tower entertainment

Role players entertaining visitors.
Role players entertaining visitors.

On the other side of the central square, we watched a team of role playing entertainers making fun of the visitors. They tried to get the people watching to understand the lifestyle that took place within the walls in earlier times. They were quite funny

Roman relics

Original Roman wall within the complex.
Original Roman wall within the complex.

Another interesting discovery at the end of the tour: We saw part of a wall built during Roman times when the city was known as Londinium. William the Conqueror incorporated part of the wall into the tower defenses in the 11th century. Very resourceful!

Well, it’s been a long day. London sure deserves more time than we scheduled!

Best,

Dan & Linda

P.S. If you’re looking for a nice place to stay in London, take a look at the Park Grand Kensington Hotel. This four-star hotel is conveniently located just 500 feet from Earls Court Tube Station and a mere 5-minute walk from the famous Museum Mile.

Walls of the Tower of London.
Iconic guard standing duty.

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Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots.

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14 thoughts on “Postcard from London: The Tower of London”

    • I hope you do, because the Beefeater tour really gives a lot of good insights into English history. Besides, we’ve moved around enough to know that living with regrets about places you wished you’d visited afterwards is no fun.

  1. I love taking the visitors to the Tower of London! It’s got such fabulous history and exhibits. Even my son who has zero interest in bling was wowed by the Crown Jewels.

    • Shobha, you sure know how to take your visitors to the cool places. I’ve been there a few times and always make it a point to see the Crown Jewels. Funny thing is, if I ever wore a REAL gem that big, everyone would assume it was fake.

    • Thanks, Constance. Dan’s having a blast writing to them and sharing his photos … he won’t let me contribute much more than just my proofreading skills!

  2. Your photos are so pretty! It is a shame that I didn’t visit this place when I went to London. The walls do look impressive and I will like to see the timbered houses.

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