January 24, 2017
Bucket List Part III – The Tower of London
I have to admit, before visiting the Tower of London, I thought it was just a tower…boy was I wrong – with a capital ‘W.’ What a place, what history, and what a learning experience! Since I am now more educated having visited the Tower, I figure I can educate you, too. The Tower of London is one of the city’s most famous historical landmarks, and has a fascinating history. Here are some Tower of London facts that I learned:
1. It was built as a royal palace and a defense system
The Tower was founded by William the Conqueror in 1066. The primary function of the Tower – military stronghold – didn’t change until the late 19th century.
2. The Tower is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO
There are 911 World Heritage Sites worldwide. The Tower of London is included as it is one of the few medieval buildings still intact in the world.
3. “If the ravens leave the Tower the Kingdom will fall…”
For superstitious reasons, at least 6 ravens are kept in the Tower of London at all time. The flock of resident ravens even includes a ‘spare!’ Also, each raven has a wing clipped to make sure they don’t fly too far from home.
4. Today, it is home to over 23,500 jewels
The Crown Jewels were moved to the Martin Tower after the Jewel House was demolished. The total value of the jewels is estimated to exceed $20 billion!
5. 22 executions took place within the Tower of London
The last person to be executed at the Tower of London was German spy Josef Jakobs on August 15th 1941, after being caught parachuting into England. The chair he was executed in is preserved today in the Royal Armories’ artifacts store.
6. During the 1200’s a royal zoo was founded at the Tower of London and remained there for 600 years
It was filled with exotic animals such as polar bears, lions, kangaroos, ostriches, and elephants. When the tower zoo closed down in 1835, all the animals where moved to the new London Zoo in Regent’s Park. But you can still see these animals at the Tower today, however now they are merely sculptures.
7. Someone, somewhere has a spare key!
In November 2012, the key to the internal lock of the Tower was stolen. Don’t fret, the lock was immediately replaced.
8. The building and grounds were damaged in World War II
During the First World War, there was very little harm done to the Tower. Unfortunately, that was not the case during the Second World War, thankfully the extensive damaged missed the white tower. At the end of the war, the damage was repaired and the Tower reopened to the public.
9. It’s a haunted house…
Several ghosts are said to be residents at the tower of London including Henry VI, Catherine (the fifth wife of King Henry VIII), Dame Sybil (nurse of Prince Edward), and even a grizzly bear that once lived in the tower.
If those fascinating tidbits don’t make you want to leave for London and tour the Tower immediately, I don’t know what will!
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