As I’m missing travelling so much, especially to great historic places I decided to start re-visiting the guides I have purchased from many Museums around the globe. I am a bad Museum visitor in many ways as I do not read all of the text the curators and exhibition designers have spent so long writing. Instead I only read what attracts me and I purchase the guide book at the end so I can take it home and read about what I’d seen in my own time. For this reason I have a lot of guide books so I’ve decided to start reading through them again and reminiscing.
The first book I randomly grabbed off my shelf was “Experience the Tower of London Souvenir Guidebook” (Historic Royal Places, 2007).
(Pictured here is my copy of the guidebook with the pages from my 2008 travel scrapbook of my Tower visit, as you can see admission cost me £14 - it has gone up considerably since then I think)!
I first visited the Tower of London in 2008 and I did the tourist thing. I went room to room and site to site making sure to check off everything I wanted to see without really taking the time to absorb and take in what I was looking at.
Possibly for this reason my memory of this first visit isn’t great. The things I remember most are the crowds, the convey belt you ride around the crown jewels on and the armoury. Of all exhibits the place I remember the most is the armoury! I have no interest in weapons and yet I remember this so well! On reflection I think this may have been because it was the place with the least number of visitors so we were really able to move around and take it in. Plus, I remember a guide giving us a bit of a run down which made us stay in there more than we would normally have.
I made this first trip with a childhood friend, and we were so keen to see the crown jewels most of all. We did get to see them, but the crowds were insane! For this reason, there was a convey belt that took people around the jewels which meant that the crowd did keep moving but still I vividly remember the crowds!
I don’t have many photographs from this first visit and those that I have are stuck in my scrapbook (these are what you can see above here). I laugh when I see the photos from my early travels as I was such a novice! It was about seeing as much as I could on a budget, not really experiencing things. I have been to London several times since 2008 with different people and one of my memories of the Tower is actually enjoying a relaxing pub lunch across the road after a hectic morning exploring London. It is these experiences that I realise I never allowed time for in my early travels. I also really enjoy driving over Tower Brigade, it is just such a beautiful bridge and coming across the river with the Tower on your left always sets a perfect historical scene.
Sitting down one sunny afternoon recently to read this guidebook from my bookshelf, it took me straight back to London and made me really nostalgic for travel (its that thing where you have to get in a aeroplane). While I knew a lot of the content in the book there were a few things I didn’t know.
For example, did you know that people still live in the Tower site? For around 700 years the Yeoman warders and their families have lived in apartments in the tower! Imagine living there, I think that would be pretty amazing!
I also never realised how dramatically the tower was extended and altered by previous kings so that was also fascinating. I knew it would have changed over time but to see the diagrams helped me to understand this better.
The things I knew most about was the famous prisoners, but I didn’t know about the menagerie! In 1252 it was a polar bear that the sources reference! A polar bear, that swam in the Thames, in London! How fascinating! Even if I didn't 100% believe this in the guidebook I came across it on the official Tower website so it must be true!
Following on from my reading I headed over to the Tower’s website and it is filled with some great historical content as part of the Historic Royal Palaces Group. Most of the content of the guidebook can be found on the website plus much more! I must also admit it has a very awesome gift shop and my cart was filled very quickly until I saw the cost of postage to Australia!
To read more I suggest you visit the website: https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.b4llvg
I may have also followed some of the recommend reading and purchased a book or two…or three or four… (it is lockdown, if 10 boxes arrive tomorrow with a Polar Bear I wouldn’t be surprised)!
I hope to continue sharing some great historic tid bits from places around the world!