This portion of the web doesn't cover current events. The four characters (N.E.W.S.) represents the compass points: North, East, West and South. Here you will find information about various world-wide destinations. This page is updated with facts and images on a number of destinations. Previous themes and topics have been moved to the ARCHIVE section of the web.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” - James Michener
Visit this web page next month when we'll offer up new locations and adventures in travel. And be sure to visit the Archives page for a look at past NEWS features.
If You Go:
The Tower of London
The sites proper name is Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, but it is commonly known simply as the Tower of London. It has a great deal of notoriety associated with it, no doubt because of the times when it became a place where prisoners and enemies of the realm were routinely tortured and executed. However, few of us are unaware that for most of its life as a prison it catered to the nobility, who were often treated more as guests, with many of the conveniences of home including invitations to take part in the hunt.
The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. This month we’ll look at this famous London destination and landmark. Home to the crown jewels, the Beefeaters, and the fabled ravens of the Tower, it gave its name as well to the famous bridge nearby - the picturesque Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London was built in 1078 by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, following his victory over the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings. The original tower, known as the White Tower, the central building of the existing site, is the earliest stone keep in England and gives the site its name. The remaining walls, additional towers, and support building were added during several phases of expansion primarily done during the rule of Kings Richard the Lionhearted, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Construction on the White Tower was probably completed by 1100, intended to be used as the residence of the king. However it soon became prison to Bishop Flambard that year, who was loathed by the English for his harsh taxes. While he was the Tower’s first recorded prisoner, he was also the first to escape the Tower by hosting a banquet for his captors, who he got drunk by serving them wine. He lowered himself out of the tower on a smuggled rope. His escape came as such a surprise to his captors, that the bishop was accused of witchcraft.
And so began the towers reputation as a prison. Generally, only the high ranking could be imprisoned here, and the tower became the most important royal prison in the country, although not a very secure one. Many prisoners easily escaped by bribing the guards. From 1321 until 1322 the tower was home to its first woman prisoner, Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmer, who was jailed for denying Queen Isabella of France entrance to Leeds Castle and ordering an armed assault on the queen and her entourage.
The tower saw its peak as a prison during the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the towers more famous prisoners include William Wallace, Thomas More, Ann Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Guy Fawkes. Of the executions that awaited many of the towers prisoners, only seven were actually held within the Tower. Most were held at Tower Hill to the north of the castle.
The tower is also the site of a disappearance and murder mystery. In 1483 two young brothers - Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewbury (known as the Princes in the Tower) - were sent to the tower by their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester in 1483 after the death of their father, King Edward IV. While they were sighted playing on the tower grounds, they suddenly and inexplicably disappeared in the summer of that year. It was rumored that their uncle had them murdered to clear his path to the crown and become King Richard III and buried the bodies in a secret location. In 1674 workmen remodeling the White Tower discovered a box with the skeletal remains of two children, which are believed to be those of the young princes.
The tower has also been often spoken of as a place of torture. Although in truth, there were only 48 recorded cases of the use of torture between 1540 and 1640, during the peak period of imprisonment at the tower. While this may be considerably less than many of us may have thought occured, they were still some of the most hideous means of attempts to extract information - or a confession - from the prisoner.
Since the Elizabethan period the tower has been a popular tourist attractions. During that period, its most popular display was the Royal Menagerie (i.e., zoo), which is first referenced during the reign of Henry III (1207 - 1272). When it was first opened to the public, admission cost three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions. The menagerie closed in 1835 with the wildlife relocated to Regents Park. Today the only animals on the tower grounds are (at least) six ravens. According to the belief, if the ravens ever leave the tower, the kingdom will fall. They are under the care of the Yeoman Warders - Beefeaters - who also provide guided tours around the Tower, including the Jewel House for a viewing of the Crown Jewels, which have been on public display since 1669. (To insure that the ravens don’t leave, they have their wings clipped.)
During the Second World War, the Tower once again was used as a prison for Rudolf Hess, who was moved to a more secure location after spending four days there. The last person executed at the tower was German spy Josef Jakobs (August 14, 1941).
But some of those who met their demise don’t rest in peace, and the sighting of ghosts have been reported. Anne Boleyn allegedly haunts the chapel where she is buried and has been seen walking around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm. Other famous ghosts include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, and the Princes of the Tower.
According to Historic Royal Palaces, over 2.4 million people visited the Tower of London in the year to March 2011.
Today the Tower of London, cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces, is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. In 1988 it was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Also found nearby is Londons most famous bridge, Tower Bridge, which got its name from its close proximity to the famous castle.
You can easily spend the better part of half a day taking the guided tour and wandering the grounds, the museum, and viewing the Crown Jewels, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet.
If you can, take one of the tour boats that plys the Thames from Parlament to the Tower. You'll have a historical narration of the sights along the way including Greenich Observatory and the tall ship Cutty Sark.
While England has been considered a locale of rain and fog, it does have it's share of sunshine, and during the summer you should wear a hat and use sunscreen. As always, drink plenty of water if you do much walking.
Ticket costs change and may include a "voluntary donation", so check with the Royal Historic Palaces website (www.hrp.org.uk) for the latest prices. The best deal is to purchase tickets online, however tickets purched online are good for only seven days from the date of purchase.
And finally, take the guided tour hosted by one of the Yeoman Warder. Also carry some British coinage with you to the tower. Tradition has it that at the end of the tour you present your guide with a £1 (one British pound) coin.