Why is the Tower of London so important?The Tower of London is one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings standing in London today. The White Tower (which the rest of the building is named after) was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and in its 900-year history has been a fortress, a prison, a palace, and a site of some of the most famous executions in English history. Whether you’re interested in the Normans, the Tudors (especially the deaths of the Princes in the Tower, Anne Boleyn, or Lady Jane Grey), the English Civil War, or World War I and II (when spies were imprisoned at interrogated at the Tower), there’s something to discover at the Tower of London. The Tower has also been a site attracting tourists for centuries, although today it no longer houses a menagerie - the last animals were taken to ZSL London Zoo in 1835.
What’s included in the ticket price?Tickets for the Tower of London include entry to see the Crown Jewels and all public areas and exhibitions within the White Tower, Bloody Tower, and battlements. Tickets also include any children’s activities and trails, plus the opportunity to join a tour with a Yeoman Warder. The Yeoman Warder tours begin every 30 minutes from 10 am (from Tuesday to Saturday) or 10.30 am (Sunday and Monday), and leave from the main entrance. Tours take 1 hour, and in poor weather conditions or due to events in the Tower, certain areas of the castle may not be included.
Who are the Yeoman Warders?The Yeoman Warders, also known as the Beefeaters, have formed the Royal Bodyguard since at least 1509, but they’ve been in existence since at least the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483 CE). To be a Yeoman Warder you have to have served in the armed forces for at least 22 years, have reached at least the rank of warrant officer, and have been awarded medals for long service and good conduct. Their uniform is one of London’s iconic images, and their tours tend to be as full of dry, British humor as they are with information.
What’s the deal with the ravens?The ravens at the Tower of London are famous! Their antics have been documented since at least the 16th century when the tower’s ravens were silent at the execution of Anne Boleyn, and there have been captive ravens at the Tower since at least 1883. Today there are 7 ravens who are carefully looked after by the Ravenmaster, and they’ve been known to live as long as 40 years. Their wings are clipped on one side to make sure they can’t fly long distances because if the ravens ever leave the Tower, according to legend, ‘the Crown will fall and Britain with it’. Guests are asked not to feed the ravens - they get plenty of treats from the Ravenmaster and might bite if visitors get too close to them.
What’s the Ceremony of the Keys?The Ceremony of the Keys is the nightly ritual of locking up the Tower of London. Every night for over 700 years the Chief Yeoman Warder walks to the Traitor’s Gate, keys and candle lantern in hand, locks the gates, and returns to the tower where he is quizzed by the sentry. Once the Chief Yeoman Warder is readmitted the ‘Duty Drummer’ plays The Last Post before the keys are returned to the Queen’s House and the Guard is dismissed. Groups of 40 to 50 visitors are allowed to watch the ceremony each evening at 9.30 pm sharp, but the free tickets sell out 12-18 months in advance so you have to be really sharp to get any!
Is the Tower of London haunted?Visitors and night employees at the Tower of London have reported several sightings of ghosts at the Tower of London, though cases are few and far between. Famous faces people claim to have seen include Anne Boleyn in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula (where she’s buried), and in the White Tower - she’s usually seen carrying her own head under her arm. Plus there’s Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey (who was queen for 9 days), Margaret Pole (executed by Henry VIII, and made a Catholic saint in 1886), and a bear.