Category Archives: Tower Hamlets

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel

I’ve always said that any visitor to London should take a Boat trip from Westminster to Greenwich as it gives a fantastic view of the city from the river and ends up at one of my favourite areas of London. That said, there is an alternative way to get to Greenwich, and that is by way of the automated Docklands Light Railway which travels through Canary Wharf to Island Gardens, where you can use the foot tunnel to walk underneath the Thames to reach Greenwich on the other side.

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Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

London is undeniably one of the world’s most important financial centres, and although the City of London has traditionally been at the heart of London’s finance industry, Canary Wharf has today joined it as a place to come where fortunes can be made or lost at the press of a button.

It hasn’t always been like this of course. The area referred to as Canary Wharf is located on the Isle of Dogs and includes the former West India Dock, the first dock to be built in London.

Built purely to handle trade with the West Indies, it still has the same basic layout as when it was built in the early 19th century, but the name ‘Canary Wharf’ didn’t come into existence until 1937 when a warehouse was built at North Dock to handle fruit from the Canary Islands.

In 1802 the North (import) Dock was the first part of the West India Dock scheme to be built, followed 4 years later by the Middle (export) Dock. The South Dock was completed much later and was never really intended to be part of the set-up.

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The Tower of London Pt 5 – Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red

The Tower of London Pt 5 - Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I the Tower of London created an art installation called ‘Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red’.

From July to November 2014, the moat around the tower was covered with 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each of the British and Commonwealth personnel who were killed in the ‘War to end all Wars’.

The creator was Paul Cummins, with assistance from designer Tom Piper, and the idea was to sell all the poppies for £25 each with the proceeds going to service charities.

The poppies were hand made in Cummins’ factory in Derbyshire, where the unknown man who coined the words of the installation came from. In his will he wrote the words “The blood swept land and seas of red, where angels fear to tread”.

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The Tower of London Pt 4 – The Crown Jewels, Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and The Scaffold

Waterloo Barracks - Home of the Crown Jewels

The Tower of London Pt 4 - The Crown Jewels, The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and The Scaffold

The Crown Jewels were originally kept in Westminster Abbey, but after they were stolen in 1303 they were moved to the Tower of London. Although they were recovered, most of them didn’t survive Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. After Charles I’s execution, Cromwell ordered all the treasure to be “totally broken, and that they melt down all the gold and silver, and sell the jewels to the best advantage of the Commonwealth”, and so apart from three swords and the Coronation Spoon, everything on display originates from after the restoration of the monarchy.

For a while they were kept in the Martin Tower and nearly disappeared again in 1671 after Thomas Blood made off with them but was caught before he got past Tower Wharf.

During the 19th century the Duke of Wellington was Constable of the Tower and the Waterloo Barracks were built to provide accommodation for nearly a thousand soldiers, and this is where the Crown Jewels are now kept.

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The Tower of London Pt 3 – The Medieval Palace and the Bloody Tower

Traitor's Gate

The Tower of London Pt 3 - The Medieval Palace and the Bloody Tower

When King Stephen died in 1154, King Henry II became the first of the Plantagenet Kings that were to reign until 1485.

During this medieval period, moats, curtain walls and towers were added to bolster up the defences – not to keep out invading foreign armies – but to thwart any attack from the King’s subjects. King John, Henry III and Edward II all had trouble with their Barons and in 1381 the Peasant’s Revolt tested the young Richard II.

Although the Tower was never meant to be used as a palace, there were occasions when the King of the realm found it useful to hole up here for a while.

It was King Henry III and his son Edward I who built what is now called the Medieval Palace. In fact, it’s a combination of three towers – St Thomas’s, Wakefield and Lanthorn – that make up the royal apartments.

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The Tower of London Pt 2 – The White Tower

The White Tower from the Thames

The Tower of London Pt 2 - The White Tower

The Keep, known as the White Tower, is the oldest part of the Tower of London and therefore seems as good a starting point as any, both for this review, and for a tour of the Tower.

After William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of England in 1066 he needed to secure its most powerful city, and by building an intimidating fortress in a strategic position next to the River Thames, there was going to be no doubt as to who was the man now in charge.

Work started on the Keep around 1078 and wasn’t completed until 1100, 13 years after William’s death.

It would have been the most formidable stronghold in the land when it was built, and was never intended to be used as a palace.

The White Tower – given its nickname after Henry III had it whitewashed – became more of a place to store arms and munitions than anything else and this is reflected in what there is to see inside.

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The Tower of London Pt 1 – Planning a Visit

The Tower of London Pt 1 - Planning a Visit

With some 2.8 million visitors in 2017, the Tower of London is the most visited paid for attraction in the UK. It goes without saying therefore that a bit of planning before going there will help the visit go more smoothly.

Timing is always important of course, but with a steep entry price of £26.80 without donation for a full adult fare (Jan 2019), it pays to find out if you can reduce your admission costs. If, like me, you travel to London by train, then you can check out the 2for1 London offers available to passengers here

The offer, if it’s available, is based solely on the full price adult ticket including donation, which as of January 2019 is £29.50; in other words, a total of £29.50 for two people regardless of whether you qualify for a concession or not.

There are also reductions of 15% on the Tower of London website if you book in advance.

It may be worth considering a membership to the ‘Historic Royal Palaces’ which also covers Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House and Kew Palace (Kew Gardens are not included). The current individual cost is £52 a year for a Direct Debit membership (Jan 2019).

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