London day 15 – part 1 (Tower of London)

Posted on: January 10, 2014

This particular day, I was SUPER EXCITED! Why? Because my husband agreed to dedicate one special day for us to explore the real Warner Brothers studio used in the making of Harry Potter movie! I will write in detail about where to book the ticket, how to get there, and most of the attractions later in part 2 of the post.

Our Harry Potter tour didn’t start until 4.30 pm, so we decided to visit Tower of London in the morning. To go there, we took the tube toward Tower Hill station. At the exit pointed to Tower of London attraction, there are some posters explaining the history of Tower of London. The ticket booths were noticeable by the crowds of tourists lining up. Here, we took advantage of our Travelcard 2-for-1 coupon (see London day 13 post for more info). We showed both of our Travelcards and we only paid £21.45 for 2 people (regular price is £21.45/person [ref]!). I felt good that my research for Travelcard was actually paid off! The cashier told us that the free tour was available near the entrance gate at the moat. Look for a tour sign before crossing the bridge above the moat. As I remember, the one hour free tour is available every hour. If you choose to explore the Tower by yourself, the audio guide is available for £4. We saw a lot of people already gathered around the sign, so we decided to join the tour. While waiting for the tour, I took a picture of London skyline against the sunny blue sky! We could see The Shard, the highest building in EU!

Tower London 1

Exit from Tower Hill tube & posters explaining the history of Tower of London

Tower London 2

London skyline view from Tower of London (R) and (L) The Shard

Tower of London is a silent witness of London evolution. Since it was built in 1066, it has been a fortress, a prison, an execution ground, a menagerie, and a royal residence. Presently, it is a museum in which the tourists can walk the same path as the King and Queen of England were once there. The tour was led by a Yeoman Warder wearing a unique uniform. He started the tour by explaining about the moat surrounding the Tower. In the past, the moat was filled with standing water to protect the fortress from the invaders. However, Londoners’ sewage ended up in the moat causing a foul smell. At later development, an engineer succeeded to flow the water from Thames river to the moat; hence it was possible to transport the prisoners to the Tower. During the Black Death in 1845, the water was drained to avoid the spread of the plague.  

Tower London 3

Tower of London and the moat

We walked under the Byward Tower as we entered the Tower of London. We walked straight up and stopped near St. Thomas’s Tower. The Traitor Gate is at the bottom of the tower and it is connected with the moat. This was used to transport the traitors, including Anne Boleyn, inside the tower. From here, we turned left and walked through a path where we could see a row of small houses, called Queen’s House on the lefthand side. In front of these houses, there is a small garden, called Tower Green. This green grass patch was the execution site for many people. The most famous one is Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, who was charged with adultery, incest, and treason. Her body was buried at Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula across the garden. The tour ended after we sit inside the Chapel to listen to history from the tour guide. 

Tower London 4

Top: White Tower; Queen’s Houses with Tower Green at the front
Bottom: ByWard Tower, St. Thomas’s Tower with Traitor Gate at the bottom (yep! that’s the Yeoman Warder with his uniform), Wakefield Tower

We then explored the area by ourselves. The first building we visited was the Waterloo Block. While waiting on the line, we saw the Queen’s Guard in front of this building. This is where the Crown Jewels exhibit was held. Unfortunately, NO pictures and video were permitted inside the exhibit. Inside, we saw up close the replica of the King and Queen crowns along with other precious jewel. There were lots of diamonds, rubies, gold, silver, etc and they were just extravagant!!!

Tower London 5

Waterloo Block guarded by Queen’s Guard at the front

After finish blinding our eyes with the jewels, we continued our tour to East Wall Walk (the entrance is at the farther corner of the Tower). East Wall Walk is a walking tour at the upper level of the Tower. Right after we walked up the stair, we could see the Tower Bridge outside. The first tower that we visit was the Salt Tower. On the wall of this tower, there are lots of graffiti from the prisoners. A piece of glass was placed above the graffiti to preserve them.

Tower London 6 - Salt Tower

Salt Tower; a piece of graffiti from the prisoners; some of the famous prisoners of the tower

Moving along, we arrived at the Broad Arrow Tower. This was used as a guard tower where the guards armed crossbows shot the invaders to protect the Tower during the war. In the 16th and 17th centuries, this tower was used as a prison. There was a real crossbow for the display and it was really heavy when I lifted up! The next tower was the Martin Tower where the Keeper of the Regalia (keeper of Crown Jewels) and his family lived. The furniture is still set as is and we quickly walked through the narrow hallways and stairs since there were lots of people inside.

Tower London 7 - Broad Arrow

Broad Arrow Tower & the iron figure depicting a guard with crossbow

The next stop was the Brick Tower where the Royal Beasts exhibition was held. In the exhibition, you can read the information of different kinds of animal that was held inside the Tower as Royal pets. They are ranging from monkeys, lions, tiger, elephants, and even polar bear (the polar bear was on leash at Thames river)! However, the most important animal is the ravens. It is believed that the ravens protect the kingdom and the Tower [ref]. Charles II gave an order to protect the ravens inside the Tower. As of today, there are 7 ravens that are well kept by the Ravenmaster inside the cages near the Wakefield Tower. They are fed with the best meat available although their wings are trimmed to prevent them to escape.

Tower London 8 - Animal

Brick Tower: The Royal Beasts Exhibition & The ravens cage near Wakefield Tower

Once we finished the East Wall Walk, we headed toward the White Tower located at the centre of the Tower. This is the first building built in 1070. Today, it is used to display the Royal Armouries. The armouries and weaponry were not really my cup of tea. But I was amazed by the details ornaments on the armour, helmet, sword, and guns. They even have armour for horses too! At the lower level of the White Tower, they have a display of old English coins and seals, cannons, and other related Tower of London paraphernalia, including the wood block and the axe used for execution.

Tower London 9 -Armour

Royal Armouries exhibit inside the White Tower

Tower London 10 - Coins

Coins, cannon, and execution axe

The Bloody Tower may be one of the famous towers inside the Tower of London. As expressed in its name, it is indeed the tower where lots of murder happened. The rumour is that this tower is haunted by the Princes in the Tower, the sons of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville. It is believed that they were killed by their own uncle, Richard the Duke of Gloucesterand so that Richard could fill the throne as the King of England.

Tower London 11 - Bloody Tower

The haunted Bloody Tower

Last tower that we visited was the Wakefield Tower. This is where the ancient torture tools are displayed.The Manacles, Scavenger’s Daughter, and torture Rack gave me chills as I imagined how the prisoners were tortured inside the tower.

Tower London 12 - Torture

Tortures tools exhibition at Wakefield Tower

We ended our visit by exiting from the east side of tower (the one that overlooks the Thames river). Here, we took a minute to take pictures of the iconic Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge

 Tower Bridge 

We didn’t expect to spend so much time to visit Tower of London. This site is where I get so much information about British history that I never know before. The free tour led by the Yeoman Warder was very pleasant since he was an informative and funny guy. From this visit, I become more curious about British monarchy history. Thankfully, Youtube is a powerful resource to feed my curiosity 🙂


Map of Tower of London 2013 [ref]

to be continued to London day 15 – part 2….


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