The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 33 The Tower and Tower Hill

Tower Hill

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Byward St. ends on the east at TOWER HILL, the open space, once more extensive, stretching to the north of the Tower. Immediately on our left opens Trinity Square. On Tower Hill stood the Scaffold where so many prisoners in the Tower met their fate in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its site is marked by the small square pavement seen within the gardens of Trinity Square, at their west end. William Penn (1644-1718) was born on the east side of Tower Hill. To the south, near the river and on a site straddling the line of the ancient city wall, rises the massive Tower of London, one of the most interesting buildings in the metropolis from its intimate connection with English history, the excellent preservation of its Norman and mediaeval buildings, and the many illustrious persons who have suffered within its walls. This ancient fortress, pentagonal in ground-plan, covers an area of nearly 13 acres. The outer wall is surrounded by a deep Moat (drained in 1843), on the outer slopes of which are public gardens. Between the outer wall and the inner wall, with its numerous towers, lies the narrow Outer Ward, and near the centre of the spacious Inner Ward rises the massive square White Tower, dwarfing the surrounding structures. The entrance is near the south-west corner, at the foot of Tower Hill. ADMISSION. The Tower is open daily (except Sunday) from 10 to 6 in summer (May-September), from 10 to 5 during the rest of the year, but the issue of tickets stops 1 hour before closing time. The charge for admission to the White Tower is 6d. (free on Saturday), to the Jewel House 6d., and to the Bloody Tower 6d. Visitors are not allowed to walk through the precincts without tickets. Parties, starting from the Byward Tower at 10.30, 11.15, 2, 2.45, and 3.30, are conducted by a warder to certain reserved parts of the Tower. The Sunday service in the chapel at 11 a.m. is open to the public without pass or ticket. Admission to the dungeons may be obtained on written application to the Resident Governor. Illustrated guide (1925), 2d. The Tower, in its day a fortress, a royal residence, and a state-prison, is still maintained as an arsenal, with a garrison, and during the Great War its former use as a prison was revived. The Constable of the Tower, always an officer of high dignity, is assisted by the Lieutenant; but their offices are now nominal and the duties of governor are performed by the Major of the Tower, who is Resident Governor. Quite distinct from the garrison are the Yeomen Warders ('honorary members of the King's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard'), a body of about 100 men chosen from time-expired warrant and non-commissioned officers of the army. These wear a quaint costume, said to date from the time of Henry VII. or Edward VI., and are familiarly known as 'Beefeaters,' a sobriquet probably derived from the rations anciently served to them. The Yeoman Gaoler, or chief warder, bears a curious old axe on state occasions. In olden days he escorted state-prisoners to trial at Westminster Hall, and on the return journey the sharp edge of the axe was turned towards the prisoner if he had been condemned. The warders still go through an ancient ceremony with 'the king's keys' at the shutting and opening of the gates night and morning.