A peek inside the Tower of London

I lived a five-minute walk from the Tower of London for five years before I ever ventured inside. It’s really expensive, and I told myself I got the best of it by being able to walk past it every day on my way to work.

How wrong I was.

A couple of years ago I found out that residents of the London borough Tower Hamlets could get in for 1 pound. So Smarty Pants and I went, and we were completely blown away.

Last week I took my parents there, and though I had to pay full price this time it was still totally worth it.

Mom and me on the Tower wall, in front of the White Tower
Mom and me on the Tower wall, in front of the White Tower – built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century

The first thing hits you when you pass over the drawbridge and into the Tower complex is the size. It looks big from the outside, but you really have no idea until you get inside how huge it is. It’s a village.

And it’s so full of stories that it’s a fertile place for writers, readers and anyone with an imagination. Even the birds have a story. Legend has it that the kingdom will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower, so the Tower is required to keep six ravens at all times. Right now they have eight, just in case.

Inside the Tower of London
View of Tower Bridge and the Olympic rings from inside the grounds of the Tower of London.
Inside the Tower of London
View of part of the Tower’s grounds, with the ravens’ coops in the foreground and Tudor buildings in the back. Anne Boleyn was executed just to the right of the green patch of grass.

The best part of the Tower is the tour by one of the Yeoman Warders, aka Beefeaters. They keep the Tower running. The guy who showed us around was the Ravenmaster – the ravens’ primary carer (he said, “I’m the only man in the world who can whistle and get eight birds into bed at once.”). It’s a job he can do because he lives there.

BeefeaterThat’s right. He lives in the Tower of London. In fact, all of the Yeoman Warders do.

Forty-five families live within the Tower’s walls. They are their own community. They have their own clubhouse. And every night at 10pm, they’re locked inside the grounds of the Tower, just as their predecessors have been for centuries. Our Beefeater joked, “At 10pm every night, I know exactly where my 17-year-old son is. He loves it.”

To become a Yeoman Warder, you have to have been in the British military with a good record for at least 22 years. So all of the guards are former soldiers.

Even with all of the fascinating historical stories of famous and gruesome executions I heard at the Tower, and even with the exhibitions of the Crown Jewels and historical armor, the story I was most interested in was of the Yeoman Warders and their families.

I would love to read a book about them. Anyone know of one?

Residences inside the outer wall of the Tower of London
Residences inside the outer wall of the Tower of London
Residences inside the outer wall of the Tower of London
A home inside the outer wall of the Tower of London. I love the flag with the Queen’s photo on it.

Have you been to the Tower of London? What did you enjoy most about it? Do you know of any books about the Yeoman Warders?

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14 thoughts on “A peek inside the Tower of London

  1. I was always a huge English history fan, so the first time I went to the Tower, I was completely overwhelmed. I could feel that weight of all that history pressing down upon me. I remember just staring at the steps that lead up from the river, picturing a teenage Elizabeth I sitting there in the rain, waiting for them to open the gate so that she could enter and be imprisoned.

    1. *shivers* A lot of the most gruesome stories are told for entertainment value, but it’s not hard to picture how terrifying the Tower would’ve been for anyone imprisoned there, or what a frightening icon it would’ve been to anyone out of favor with the monarch. It truly does bring history to life.

  2. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and the fun, interesting facts about the Tower. I had no idea people lived there. I would love that job!

  3. I was lucky enough to visit but it’s been about 35 years. I remember the Crown Jewels the most. We weren’t on a tour so we probably missed a lot. There also had been some bombings in London at the time so not everything was available. I would love to go back.

    1. There must’ve been a lot of extra security at the Tower during the Troubles, catslady. It was probably a much different experience. Hope you get to go back!

  4. This is so cool. I will definitely have to see this if I ever get to London. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and photos.

  5. Hi Kat! Thanks for the beautiful pictures and the interesting stories about the Tower of London. I have never been to England, but I love to read about it’s history. The Yeoman Warders, aka Beefeaters, was very interesting, as well as the fact that 45 families live there and it is locked down at 10:00 every night.

    1. I thought that was really interesting, too. Can you imagine being locked in every night with all of your co-workers and their kids?? I can’t!

  6. Thanks for sharing, Kat! I had no idea about the Beefeaters. I’ll be sure to go when I get back to London (she writes hopefully 😉 I hope you’ll share if you find a book about them–I bet there must be some fascinating stories!

  7. Oh, I love the Tower! We spent a whole day in there and enjoyed every minute of it! Admittedly, the best is to have sunny warm weather to enjoy it the most. Our beefeater told us that his son once ordered pizza and the guy on the phone didn’t believe him when he told him the address and hung up on him. Only after the third call did he finally take the order!
    I loved the view from the tower walls towards the Tower Bridge. Absolutely beautiful!

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