Mr Bradshaw sets the scene for a visit to the Tower of London: ‘..The very streets that introduce us to the spot, remind us of the city in its olden days, before gaslights and the new police had made the ways clear and the paths safe – when each house had its sign [wonderful article] dangling in the palpable obscure of after-dark, their outlines ever and anon rendered more distinctly by the smoky glare of the linkboy’s light as he piloted some bibbing [what a splendid word!] citizen to his domicile, or the sudden assemblage of the swinging lanterns of horn, at the familiar cry of Watch..’. (Ripon, and here)
Well, the murky atmosphere and crush of small streets has gone, replaced by wider roads filled with noise and traffic. The Tower site is clean, tidy, and filled with tourists and school children, even on a bitterly cold winter’s day. The Tower of London is described in considerable detail on its own site, and here, and so I will just leave you with a few images.
The displays of armour and weapons inside the White Tower were remarkable, if somewhat sparse, and there was certainly a lot of information about the functioning of the whole of the Tower of London over the centuries. It was a king’s palace; the home of the Royal Ordnance (and the place where the Ordnance Survey maps started life); the Mint; the Public Record Office; a menagerie of wild beasts before the zoo of London; a ‘safe’ for the Royal jewels; and of course a prison.
But what I loved most of all was this Chapel –
Trinity House, dating from 1793-6, still stands opposite the Tower, and remains responsible for ‘..The safety of shipping, and the well being of seafarers..’. The company was granted a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1514 and today is responsible for lighthouses; safety, welfare and training of mariners; and the training of deep sea pilots.
And in Trinity Square is now a memorial to those who died at sea in WWII
And a garden.
The Royal Mint opposite the Tower to which Bradshaw refers was the building by Smirke, built in 1809, but rebuilt in 1880. The last coin was minted at the site in 1975 and the buildings are now commercial offices.
Mr Bradshaw stood by the tall dock walls of St Katharine’s Dock and looked out on the Pool of London where ‘..Ten thousand masts [stretching] tapering to the sky in token of England’s commerce with each corner of the globe..’.
It was the wharves along the Thames which were important; by 1899 there were more than 300 working wharves – the docks were built further down river when the wharves could no longer handle the volume of goods. And the wharves could continue to trade because the lighters were able to ferry goods from the large ships in the docks to the wharves, and the wharf owners, rather than the docks, would be paid by the ship owners. The picture below shows the lighters.