If you took the virtual boat trip last week, you might like to stop off at the Tower of London this week. Maybe you have no choice, and are destined for imprisonment. Of course you could be just visiting to see the animals. Do you want to be one of the very few who actually get to watch them lock up for the night? If so, read on...
If you'd arrived with the Normans in 1066, you wouldn't have even see a Tower. London was a walled city. William the Conqueror ordered that it should be built just outside the walls, to remind the people of Royal power. Then it was often used as a prison. Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and Sir Walter Raleigh were here at some time. In 1941 it was used to keep Rudolph Hess.
If you walk around the Tower these days, on the West Side... near the river... you might just notice a small brick construction with a door. This is the entrance to the subway under the Thames. If you are visiting in 1870 then have your fare ready for the cable car ride: 2d first class or 1d second. If you miss this period of time, then you can walk through. If you arrive after the bridge has been built, however, then you will have to use that instead. The tunnel carries phone and TV cables now... maybe even your connection to this site!
Which entrance are you using to go into the Tower? If it is through Traitors Gate by boat, then I don't think much to your hopes of getting out, unless you have a good disguise. If you're coming in through a more conventional entrance, then welcome. Can you see a raven? Each one has a name, and they are all that's left from the vast amount of animals that have lived here. James 1st particularly enjoyed watching staged animal fights, including one that was held here between a lion and two mastiff dogs. (Little tip, don't put your money on the dogs).
Let a friendly yeoman be your guide. Take time to look around at the newer buildings added over the years. Each one has a story to tell you. If you have come to see the crown jewels, then go early or late in your visit, when the queues are shorter.
If you want to be there after hours, the Ceremony of the Keys is performed at 22.00 every night, when the fortress is officially locked up until morning. You can apply for tickets in writing to: Ceremony of the Keys, HM Tower of London, London EC3 N4AB, United Kingdom. The names and addresses of everyone wanting to attend must be given for security reasons: you must also submit three alternative dates for the Tower authorities to select.
If you can't actually visit, why not keep an eye on the area from a web cam?
It has very fast streaming, and it is possible to visit the deck of the Belfast, phone a friend and wave to them, wherever in the world they are. That sounds like an idea for an h2g2 meet up if ever there was one. If you can't be there in person, you'll get a wave!