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  • London, Tower

Walk Description

Put the Tower of London at the top of your list of things to do in London and discover this historic fortress. Our walk, led by a historian, uses the Tower as backdrop for understanding and discussing British history, the political intrigues of kings and queens, and the daily life of commoners. Our conversation will include the role of the Tower as prison and site of execution that witnessed the beheading of two of Henry VIII's wives. With a history that spans nearly 1,000 years there is much more than this to explore and discover. This is one of our most popular walks in London.

  • Led by a scholar of British history.
  • Small walking groups of no more than six people.
  • Uncover the history and architecture of the Tower as it relates to power and authority.

On the walk

We will begin with a walk outside the tower and consider the oldest part of the structure, which was built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s. We will think about the strategic advantages to its location by the River Thames on the edge of the wealthy City of London and its role as a reminder to Londoners of the power and military might of the king. On entering, we will discuss the architectural developments of the Tower of London as a castle and a royal residence in relation to the political and social presence of the ruling monarch and the various messages of power that it conveyed.

At the execution site, we will remember those who were executed and imprisoned here on charges of treason and we will explore the question of why private rather than public executions were chosen and the political implications each sentence held. In hearing of famous prisoners like Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605, as well as in seeing examples of torture instruments from the past, we will discuss questions of imprisonment, torture, and execution.

An in-depth approach

On our tour we will also see the Yeoman Warders, or the Beefeaters as they are more commonly known, who are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower; the ravens that have been at the tower for over 300 years and the legend surrounding them; and the Crown Jewels, used in the coronation ceremony of each new monarch, which symbolise the divine right of kings. We will discuss these in relation to the authority conferred by tradition and to the narrative within the story of the tower. We will further explore this in relation to the Victorians and the many narratives they constructed, specifically looking at Traitor's Gate and the execution site, and in relation to contemporary narratives spun by the guides.

Then, depending on your preference and continuing along with the themes of power and authority, we can enter the White Tower, the oldest part of the Tower of London constructed in the 1070s, and explore the state-of-the-art Norman fortress and royal palace. We will see spectacular examples of Henry VIII's armour and discuss the functions of the medieval tournament and its chivalric ideals. Alternatively, we can explore the many other towers, perhaps seeing the graffiti carved into the walls by prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower (also known as the Bloody Tower), where two young princes were said to have been murdered in 1483.

For help in planning your trip, please see our guide on how to tour the Tower of London.

For a full range of options see our entire list of history tours in London.

Duration: 3 hours
Category: History
Venues: Tower of London
Additional Costs:
  • Tower of London Tickets - $35
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    Sarah Ciacci

    Sarah Ciacci has lived and worked in London all her life, but pops over to Rome fairly often. After completing her MA in History of Art at University College London, specialising in late 19th Century French Painting and mid 20th Century Art, she has worked in different areas of the contemporary art world in both London and Rome, before deciding to focus on gallery education. This necessitated a far greater knoweldge base, so Sarah trained to be a guide and qualified as a City of London Guide and as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide in 2008. She now works as a guide, specialising in Museums and Galleries as well as tours for children and young people, she teaches courses in art history and the history of London at the University of Richmond and works as a gallery educator at the National Portrait Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, specialising in tours for older people and people with Dementia.

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    Sue King

    Sue King was born a Londoner and has lived in several other cities including Seoul, Berlin and Washington DC. Since returning to London, she has spent the last three years studying its art, architecture, literature and history.
    Sue holds a research MPhil in History of Art from the Barber Institute, Birmingham University and has specialist knowledge of Victorian Britain through her study of its painting and literature. Her thesis, on symbolism in Victorian Art, focused on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and she has also made studies in 20th Century American art.
    Sue is fascinated by London's history and is most interested in the artists and writers who have helped to define it. She loves to recount stories of their lives and works, and their connections with each other and the city.

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    Philippa Owen

    Philippa is an Oxford educated historian with specialist training in Art History. A qualified teacher with over 15 years experience as a resident guide and teacher at Dulwich Picture Gallery. For the last two years she has been on an intensive course learning about this great city. A Londoner all her adult life, she enjoys all aspects of the city, from the architecture to the food markets, from the parks and riverside walks to the galleries and city churches. Her particular interests are the quirkier, less well-known places which only a long standing Londoner gets to know.

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    Ruth Shlovsky

    Born in London, Ruth has also lived in Israel for many years.
    She trained at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, where she studied Voice and Piano and received a degree in performance in both instruments.
    She is also a qualified Music teacher and for many years taught Music to children and adults of all ages.
    Returning to London in 2000, Ruth undertook a number of intensive courses learning about the History of this great City which she loves. She recently earned an MA in Art History and just enrolled in a PhD program.

    Ruth has a particular interest in Jewish London and loves taking people round the atmospheric markets, little alleyways and old synagogues bringing the sometimes turbulent history of the old Jewish quarter to life.
    She also has a keen interest in the Artistic and Musical history of London and has created walks which illustrate the musical and artistic diversity of this city through Handel and Jimmy Hendrix, to 2000 year old Roman archeology and 21st C modern art.

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    Clare McCoy

    Clare has lived and worked in London for over 25 years. After graduating with a Degree in Geography and a Masters Degree in Environmental Planning from Nottingham University, she worked as a town planner and urban designer in one of the most dynamic, diverse and probably most challenging cities on earth - London! Employed in both the public and the private sector, she specialised in regeneration policy guidance and the conservation and renewal of protected buildings and historic areas in several of London’s Boroughs. Before starting a family in the 1990’s, she travelled extensively throughout Africa and Madagascar, working as a volunteer on several self-help community projects.

    She has spent two years training to guide around London and now has the pleasure of telling London’s fascinating planning and architectural story to visitors, bringing her own personal insight into many of the city’s landmarks!

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    Vivienne Haxby

    Viv has a degree in English Language and Medieval Literature from Durham University. She spends part of each year in France, but for the past 25years London has been home. Following two years of intense training she qualified as a Blue Badge Guide, coming top in her year.
    She particularly enjoys giving individuals and families in-depth tours of London focusing as much on the hidden and unfamiliar as the well-known - she concentrates as much on the here-and-now as the past. The City's fringes - Bankside and Spitalfields - hold as much appeal as Westminster and St James's. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for London's C18 and C19 history and her detailed knowledge of the city's royal connections. She has a particular interest in the great aristocratic landholdings of London, and has created walks around the 'villages' of London such as Chelsea, Bloomsbury and Spitalfields.
    Viv also works as a volunteer marshal, or 'Green Gown' at Westminster Abbey.

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    Eileen Cox

    Eileen is a Londoner, with Scots/Irish roots, who is passionate about literature and history and has “a quote for all seasons” to bring London to life, (as well as a detailed knowledge of the hidden alleyways and courtyards off the beaten track). Eileen earned her Master's in Politics and Philosophy at Oxford, and holds the Blue Badge qualification for the city of London.

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    Sarah Jane Kitching

    Sarah-Jane Kitching recently ceased practicing medicine in order to pursue her love of history and of London in particular. She is passionate about her wonderful city and loves to share it's fascinating past and present with others. She earned a Blue Badge Guide of the Year 2012 award.

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    Catherine Cartwright

    Catherine is a Londoner. She spent four years studying its history, training to be a City of London, City of Westminster, and Blue Badge Guide. She has an undergraduate degree in Drama (Bristol) and a Masters in History of Art (Birkbeck). Her art specialisms are contemporary war art and Victorian social realism.
    In-between studying the humanities, Catherine worked for over seven years in the City of London in an investment bank.
    With experience working on both sides of the track, she enjoys looking at all her subjects (arts or business) with a rounded and 'birds eye' view.
    Catherine spends her spare time dancing, creating podcasts that tell the story of characters and institutions in and around London. She is also a counsellor a mentor for young people in the East End.

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    Tony Anderson

    Tony Anderson was born and grew up in London, and has lived there since university. He has a great wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm about his “home town”, particularly since qualifying as a Blue Badge guide in 2002. His speciality is the extraordinary history and development of London both as a royal city, a place of government and as a centre of enterprise and culture, through its palaces, churches, museums and galleries. He now works full time in guiding, and loves to share his fascination for the enormous variety of interests and experiences on offer in London and South East England.

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    David Thompson

    Although raised in the quintessential English picture postcard village, David has lived in London for over half of his life, and now considers himself very much a ‘City Slicker’. Fine Art trained and a former magazine art editor, David brings together all previous experience into guiding the quirky, beautiful, mysterious and thought-provoking within London. A life-long love and understanding of buildings enables David to offer specialist tours of both historic and contemporary architecture. The urban fabric of our multifaceted capital, and how it came to be, provides David with endless fascination, surprise and delight, and is his passion in guiding visitors.

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    mark king

    Born and raised a Londoner, Mark has been fortunate to live also in Oxford and Dorset, as well as to work overseas in France, United States of America, Czech Republic and Russia. He has enjoyed visiting or living in several great cities but nothing compares with London - quite simply, this is the world's most fascinating city! His personal interests range from the history of the City, to Jewish history, transport and multicultural London.