"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on March 31, 2017 by Sioux under General
1 Comment


We were going to do the tour of The Tower so headed to the underground and got the tube to Westminster. First though was a walk down past Big Ben, and The Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster and on to Westminster Abbey and then the Jewel Tower. 

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The 3m high statue of George V, sculpted prior to WWII, was hidden in a quarry during the war years, and unveiled south of Westminster Abbey, opposite the House of Lords, in 1947. 

Richard Coeur de Lion is an equestrian statue of the 12th-century monarch Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart, who reigned from 1189–99. It stands on a granite pedestal in Old Palace Yard outside the Palace of Westminster. Installed in 1860, it took another 7 years before final completion. The statue narrowly escaped destruction during the WWII when a German bomb exploded a few metres away and peppered it with shrapnel. The pedestal and the horse’s tail were

damaged and Richard’s sword

was bent by the blast. In 2009 a

project was undertaken to

conserve and restore the statue. 

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                                                                                                                                                             Westminster Abbey is one of the

                                                                                                                                                             United Kingdom’s most notable

                                                                                                                                                             religious buildings and the

                                                            traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.

Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. However since 1560 the building held the status of a

Church of England “Royal Peculiar” — a church responsible directly to the sovereign. Construction of the present church

began in 1245 and since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, every English and British monarch was

crowned in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII. There have also been at least 16 royal

weddings at the abbey since 1100. The first mention of the abbey is based on a tradition claiming a young fisherman on

the River Thames saw a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to justify the gifts of salmon from Thames fishermen

that the abbey received in later years. Today, the Fishmonger’s Company still gives a salmon every year. The proven

origins are that in the 960’s or early 970’s, Saint Dunstan, assisted by King Edgar, installed a community of Benedictine monks here.

There was not much I could aim my camera at, as photography is not allowed in many areas of the Abbey. 

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Opposite the west entrance of Westminster Abbey is a tall marble and stone column, erected in 1861 which remembers former pupils of Westminster School who died in the Crimean War 1854-56 and the Indian Mutiny 1857-58. At the top is a figure of St George slaying the dragon. Four lions flank the base. 

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Built in 1905-11, the Methodist Central Hall (also known as Central Hall Westminster) is a multi-purpose venue and tourist attraction in City of Westminster, London. It serves primarily as a Methodist church and a conference centre, but also as an art gallery and an office building.  

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St Margaret’s Church was rebuilt from 1486 to 1523. Originally founded in the twelfth century by Benedictine monks, so that local people who lived in the area around the Abbey could worship separately at their own simpler parish church, it became the parish church of the Palace of Westminster in 1614. The blue sundial is one of four on the church tower.

                 The Jewel Tower is a 3-storey 14th-century building which                         was part of the royal Palace of Westminster. Built between                        1365 and 1366, its main function was to house the personal

treasure of Edward III, especially his silverware. The building was built in a secluded part of the palace and was protected by a moat linked to the River Thames. The ground floor featured elaborate carved vaulting, described by historians as “an architectural masterpiece”. The tower continued to be used for storing the monarch’s treasure and personal possessions until 1512, when a fire in the palace caused Henry VIII to relocate his court to Whitehall. From the end of the 16th century to

1938, the building was used either by The House of Lords or other 

                                          governmental departments, but thereafter was

                                                 abandoned for other premises. In 1948, 

                                                 extensive renovations were done to                                                               damage after WWII and the building was 

                                                opened to the public.  

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We again took advantage of a boat trip,

and sailed down The Thames to Tower

Bridge quay where we headed for the Tower of London. The boat trip took us past

a few popular tourist spots, one being Cleopatra’s Needle being one of them. The

‘needle’ was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and

Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories at the Battle of the Nile and

the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 21m

high, weighs about 224 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs.

It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose

III, around 1450 BC. Cleopatra’s Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes, cast in bronze which bear 

hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh, which translates as “the good god, Thuthmosis III                          given life”. These sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it, due to the sphinxes’ 

                   improper or backwards installation.  

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During the boat trip, we got up close and personal with the red pillars

which once formed part of the original railway bridge, built across the

Thames in 1864, when the London Chatham Dover Railway was

extended across the Thames to what was then St Paul’s Station. By 1923, suburban railway services began to terminate

at Waterloo and St Paul’s Bridge was rarely used and in 1985, the old bridge was declared too weak to support modern trains, and was removed — but the supports were left. They were used as platforms for equipment in the recent rebuilding of Blackfriars station. Originally there were rows of three pillars, the third in each row was as a support for the new bridge.

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The Shard

HMS Belfast

Officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the

Tower of London, it was built towards the end of the 1066, on the orders

of William the Conqueror.  Covering an area of 8 acres it is a complex of several buildings set

within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. The primary function of military stronghold of

the Tower didn’t change until the late 19th century. At least 6 ravens are kept at the Tower of London at all times, for superstitious

reasons. The flock of resident ravens even includes a ‘spare’! Each raven has a wing clipped to make sure they don’t fly too far from

home. The superstition is that if they leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall. During the 1200’s a zoo was founded and remained there for 600 years, filled with exotic animals such as polar bears, lions, kangaroos, ostriches and elephants during the time it was open. When the tower zoo closed down in 1835, all the animals where moved to the London Zoo in Regent’s Park, now all that remain are sculptures of the animals.

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The Crown Jewels are housed in The Tower and are said to be valued at an

                         estimated to exceed £20 billion. Although built as a luxury royal

                                                              residence, it was also used as a prison from

                                                                              1100 until 1952, and at least 22

                                                                             executions took place within the

                                                                             Tower of London, the last person was

                                                                            a German spy in 1941 after being

                                                                            caught parachuting into England. He

                                                                           was seated in a chair when he was

                                                                           shot and the chair is still preserved

                                                                          at the Royal Armouries’ artefacts store.

                                                                        During WWI, there was very little harm

                                                                       done to the Tower, but unfortunately, a

                                                                       lot of damage was done during WWII.

                                                                      All the damage was repaired at the end

                                                                      of the war.  

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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 who was the nurse of Prince Edward; and its said that even the ghost of a grizzly bear that once lived in the tower still roams the premises.

Traitor’s Gate at The Tower of London was built by Edward I, as a water gate entrance to the Tower. Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas More entered the Tower by Traitors’ Gate. 

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We went around the museum which hosts some magnificent examples of medieval armour and weaponry, both old and modern. Ryan had loads of fun in the museum shop with a 3-D screen, looking as if he was wearing a crown!

The Middle Tower is one of 21 towers built at The Tower of London, and was the centre tower of three, one of which no longer exists. 

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A tradition of displaying British military strength by creating trophies from masses of weapons including muskets, pistols and swords has existed at The Tower since the last 1700’s. Visitors to the Grand Storehouse were awed by the magnificent displays and models such as a massive serpent and a seven-headed hydra (a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology). Building on this tradition, this dragon was constructed using objects and materials that represent 10 institutions which were housed in the Tower.

We did the tour of Tower Bridge, which included a walk across the glass walkway at the top of the bridge. None of us could bring ourselves to walk on the glass, but Ryan managed it fine. The view across the city from the top of the bridge is magnificent.

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In 2015 the bridge opened 777 times, on average, twice a day,                                                                                                                                and during Tower Bridge’s opening year in 1894 it was raised 6,194 times, an average of 17 times per day. Back then,                                                                                                                                staff were on the lookout 24 hours a day for any ship ready to pass through and the bridge was opened as soon as                                                                                                                                 the road was cleared. Nowadays, ships must book a bridge lift a minimum of 24 hours in advance and staff are                                                                                                                                        scheduled in. The cost for opening Tower Bridge has remained the same though: completely free! Visiting the                                                                                                                                           Victorian Engine Rooms in the South Tower was a treat. The massive steam engines, furnaces that were once                                                                                                                                      used to power the raising of Tower Bridge’s ‘bascules’ are beautifully maintained and the ingenious technology used to keep the bridge in motion for over 120 years was fascinating. 

Spiral stairway leading up to the engine rooms

From Tower Bridge we walked to St Paul’s Cathedral but missed the cut off time for the last tour of the day. 

                                                                   The statue of Anne Queen of Great

                                                                   Britain, outside St Paul’s Cathedral,

                                                                    originally erected in 1712 to

                                                                    commemorate the completion of the rebuilding of

                      St Paul’s, after the 1666 Great Fire. Due to deterioration it was replaced in 1886.  The figures on the base represent England, Ireland, France and North America, all of which Queen Anne laid claim to during her reign. The original was purchased by a private collector and is housed at his former home, Holmhurst, in Baldslow, Sussex.  

Day 3 map
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The Black Friar pub was built in about 1875, on the site of a Dominican friary, and remodelled in about 1905. Jolly, smiling friars appear everywhere in the pub in sculptures, mosaics and reliefs.   

We walked over Millennium Bridge to Southbank, stopped for solid and liquid nourishment and strolled along The Thames path back to Westminster tube station and back to the hotel.


Another great day of exploring. 

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Millennium Bridge


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One response to “Family holiday fun time #6 – Day 3 in London town”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    Certainly seems like you ventured quite a bit. How many pairs of shoes have you gone through??

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