The Tower of London - A Family Guide

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Travel  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short guide to the iconic landmark that is The Tower of London.

The Tower of London. 

A Family Guide to one of the Most Iconic Landmarks in London. 

Choosing where to go for a family day out is no easy task.  There are five of us; my husband and I, 11 year old Kieran, ten year old Erin and Freya whos five.  So deciding on somewhere that has a bit of everything is quite a challenge. 

However, the Tower of London fitted the bill perfectly. Theres always a risk when visiting historical places that the children will find it boring, old and dusty, but due to the very nature of the Towers gruesome and ghoulish past (will there be headless ghosts?) the children were keen to get going.  Do bear in mind though, that due to the nature of the building some parts are not easily accessible for wheelchair users, pushchairs or those with limited mobility.  Do speak to a member of staff who will help you plan your visit. 

A bit of advice at this point; London is busy ALL the time and even more so in school holidays, so it may be a good idea to a) book your tickets in advance and b) start early so you have all day to explore.  We did neither -arriving at 1pm and queuing for ½ an hour to purchase tickets!  Although, it was well worth the wait.  So the children collect their Practicing Princesses and Noble Knights activity packs (these are themed so may change during the course of a year) from the welcome centre and we head off into the past. 

It was William the Conqueror who in 1075 sent instruction to build a formidable fortress, set to dominate the London skyline and, as we cross the Lion Tower Drawbridge Pit, there is still that same sense of awe, at the power and commandment the Tower has. 

There are lots of activities aimed at families, ongoing throughout the year, so its advisable to check the Towers website or pick up a daily programme, if theres something you dont want to miss.  Alternatively you could join a guided tour hosted by one of the Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters as they are often called; it is not certain where this nickname originated, but its thought that it is derived from their position in the Royal Bodyguard, where they were allowed to eat as much beef as they wanted from the Kings table!.  These tours last about an hour and are at regular intervals during the day.  The tours are very entertaining, with stories of imprisonment, torture, executions and a ghost story or two! 

As a family, we all chose areas that we wanted to make a priority to visit, so that list included: the Bloody Tower (although Im sure this was partly so the children could say bloody!), the Ravens, the site of Anne Boleyns execution and of course the Crown Jewels. 

The Bloody Tower is said to be where Richard III murdered his nephews the Princes in the Tower in 1483.  Although there is no evidence this is what happened, the Princes disappearance still remains a mystery and adds to the intrigue of the almost 800 year old building.  In fact as we slowly ascend the narrow spiral staircase; I encourage the children to think about what it would have been like to have been imprisoned here.  Well in the case of Sir Walter Raleigh and King John the good of France, it was actually quite comfortable!But for most it would have been extremely harsh, with physical and mental torture, and the very real possibility of execution.  The Lower Wakefield Tower and Beauchamp Tower were also used as prisons; the latter even has numerous inscriptions on its walls, graffiti left behind by the ill fated prisoners. The children were starting to get hungry (again!), we had already had lunch, so we had a quick bite at the Ravens Kiosk, which is just right for refuelling with its hot drinks and sweet and savoury snacks.  If you prefer to eat inside you could visit the ArmouriesCafé, which offers sandwiches and salads as well as hot food.  Alternatively you could bring a picnic, there are plenty of benches dotted around, you may even get to watch a re-enactment if you time it right. 

After our pit stop, we head to Anne Boleyns execution site (Scaffold Site), we stop to admire a couple of Ravens on Tower Green.  Legend has it that the Kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave.  It appears no one is prepared to risk it, so the ravens have one wing (painlessly) clipped and are treated royally so they never want to leave (they even have their own graveyard!) 

Its surprisingly peaceful at the notorious execution site, despite the crowds nearby.  This is the place where not just Anne Boleyn, but nine others including Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey (who was only 16) were beheaded away from public gaze.  A memorial created by Brian Catling is positioned close by, a glass pillow set atop what appears to be water but is actually two glass circles engraved with words of remembrance.  It may have been hundreds of years ago, but it feels appropriate to pause and reflect how, being this close to such an appalling part of history feels.  The older children are quite intrigued too, particularly Kieran as he has been learning about Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives. 

Freya, meanwhile, is desperate to see the Princesses sparkles, so we obediently follow her to the Waterloo Barracks, where the Crown Jewels are kept.  The queue can be quite lengthy, so it may be an idea to go there first if youre an early visitor or, last if youre a late visitor, we went about ½ hour before closing and we only waited a couple of minutes.  This is quite a modern building in comparison (1845) and as we walk through there are numerous paintings and pictures of Kings and Queens in their full regalia, its easy to forget you are actually entering a vault!  When we finally reach the jewels, we are struck at how beautiful they are, there are whispers of admiration from all five of us.  Yes of course theyre showy, some may say gaudy, but the detail and craftsmanship that went into these magnificent pieces is amazing.  The children are in disbelief that no amount of money could by even the smallest tiara.  Besides the crowns, sceptres and orbs, other pieces to admire include items once used in the Coronation Banquette.Erin couldn’t believe the size of a punch bowl, declaring to anyone within earshot, that she could take a bath in it!  We were staggered to read it could hold 122 bottles of wine! 

As the Crown Jewels were our last place to visit, we were all quite exhausted at this stage.  Although we did manage to muster enough energy to pop into one of the several gift shops.  Here youll find a whole range of souvenirs; from a Beefeater teddy to an executioner model kit!  So laden with our goodies, we headed to the station for our return journey, a tired but very happy family. 

Submitted: January 26, 2017

© Copyright 2020 Nicola Macbeth. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Great guide! I hope to visit it sometime with my family.

Thu, January 26th, 2017 8:57pm


Thank you - it is an amazing place.

Fri, January 27th, 2017 2:06am

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