|Start: The main gate of the Tower of London||Duration: 2 Hours|
|Best of Times: Daytime.||Worst of Times: Evenings when the Tower is closed.|
|There is an admission charge for the Tower.||Opening Times and Costs|
IMPORTANT:- Remember you will need to purchase a ticket for admission before you enter the Tower of London.
Grim, grey and awe-inspiring, the Tower has dominated the London landscape and the pages of history since its construction by William the Conqueror in 1078, in the wake of the Norman invasion. Over the next five hundred years it evolved into a magnificent Royal Palace, and was home to successive monarchs.
But it is its sinister reputation that brings the visitors flocking in their millions to hear tales of imprisonment, torture and execution.
The names of those who passed through Traitors Gate to be thereafter lost to the world read like a who's who of English history. Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Guy Fawkes, Sir Walter Raleigh and many others spent their final days, months or even years incarcerated here. We can only guess at their suffering. Few left written accounts and often only the cold stone bore silent witness to their torment.
So it comes as little surprise to discover that this building, with its gruesome and often tragic history, is the most haunted building in England, and its ghosts among the most illustrious.
This walk is a journey for your imagination where the urban landscape bears little resemblance to the eastern quarter of the city that Dickens wrote of.
But the section that passes through Spitalfields, with its 18th-century weaver’s houses and memories of the varied groups of immigrants that have settled here, is genuinely enthralling.
The area was once renowned for its dire poverty, where children grew up surrounded by squalor and vice.
Dickens was all too familiar with the dreadful conditions that prevailed in the crowded slums and warned his readers that they ignored the dangers posed by this sordid underbelly at their peril. "Turn that dog’s descendants loose," he wrote, "and in a very few years they will so degenerate that they will lose… their bark – but not their bite."
His prophesy appeared to have been realized when, 18 years after his death, this area became Jack the Ripper's murderous hunting ground.
Having cleared the security checks, pass beneath the Middle Tower (c.1280), where ghostly footsteps have been heard pacing backwards and forwards across the battlements.
In the 1980s a Yeoman Warder, working here in the early hours of one morning, looked up and was astonished to see two Beefeaters, dressed in the style of a much earlier period, standing on either side of the fireplace, smoking pipes and deep in conversation.
As he stared at them, one of them suddenly turned, stared back and then both vanished.
Spooky, or what!
Walk through the Byward Tower, past the bookshop, and turn right up the stairs marked "Medieval Palace and South Wall Walk".
These take you into:-
In 1240 King Henry III ordered the construction of a watergate to fortify the Tower's riverside defences.
Because it was built on marshland, setting the foundations was a difficult task and the edifice twice collapsed into the river. Noting that on each occasion this had happened on St George's Day, Henry asked the builders to account for the miraculous coincidence. Not wishing to admit incompetence, they invented a supernatural explanation – that, on both occasions, the ghost of Thomas a Becket had appeared and demolished the almost completed tower with his crosier.
Desperate to placate the spectral cleric, whose murder had been the result of the rash words of King Henry II, his own grandfather, Henry III ordered that a chapel dedicated to St Thomas must also be built.
The structure was then completed without further ghostly interference, and has survived for nearly seven hundred years supported by little more than marshland and superstition.
Before it opened to the public, the building previously provided accommodation for the families of Tower officials, several of whom were troubled by the appearance of a ghostly monk whose sandals would be heard slapping on the stone floors.
The monk occasionally shared his lonely vigil with the ghost of an unseen child whose heart-rending sobs were, to say the least, somewhat distressing for those who lived here.
Pass through two rooms and you'll notice an eerie aura, with the feeling of isolation and coldness increasing as you turn left.
Continue through a series of twisting staircases and arrive at:-
That most tragic of monarchs, the unfortunate Henry VI, was imprisoned here. His weak and ineffectual reign ended with his imprisonment and murder before midnight on 21 May, 1471, as he knelt at the small window altar.
It has been suggested, though by no means proven, that the dagger with which he was "stikked full of deadly holes", was wielded by none other than the Duke of Gloucester (later the infamous Richard III).
On the anniversary of his death, as the clock ticks towards midnight, Henry's pale and mournful wraith is aid to appear and pace fitfully around the room, until, as the last stroke of midnight chimes, he fades slowly into the stone and rests peacefully for another year.
Go through the door to the left of the altar (noting first the plaque commemorating the murder), up the winding staircase, and step from the shadows to emerge, blinking, into daylight.
Continue along the battlements (the views of the Thames and Tower Bridge to your right are spectacular), pass through the Lanthorn Tower, go down the stairs and turn right to reach:-
This grim building was once the Tower's darkest, dankest dungeon, used in the 16th century for the incarceration of Jesuit priests who bravely flouted the law of Henry VIII and continued to propagate the Catholic cause.
Go up the stone staircase to the first floor, noting the huge and disproportionate fireplace. Note, also, the graffiti chiseled into the bare walls by prisoners such as Henry Walpole, The Jesuit Priest, whose name can be seen in the alcove to the left of the fireplace.
Imprisoned here in 1593, Walpole bravely resisted the horrendous torture inflicted upon him as the authorities attempted to extract the names of his Catholic contacts.
But, in the silent hours spent waiting for his next bout on the rack, he prayed to the saints to give him courage, and carved their names on the wall, where they can still be seen today.
Some visitors, finding themselves alone here, have been surprised by a mysterious yellow glow that gets brighter and brighter and fills the room. They hear a low whispered murmuring like a voice at prayer, then suddenly feel the touch of ice-cold fingers on the back of the neck.
Continue up the staircase and along the battlements, through the Broad Arrow and Constable Towers.
To your right, modern office and leisure complexes surround St Katharine's dock. Below you the traffic moves across Tower Bridge but, separated by the moat and high walls, you feel centuries removed from it.
The walk brings you to:-
One October night, in 1817, the keeper of the Crown Jewels, Lenthal Swifte, had just sat down to dinner here, when his wife suddenly exclaimed, "Good God! What is that?"
A glass cylinder filled with a bluish-white fluid had appeared and was floating around the table.
Swifte watched dumbstruck as it drifted behind his wife.
"Christ, it has seized me!" she screamed.
Her terror moved the keeper to action and, leaping to his feet, he flung his chair at the apparition.
It moved towards the window and vanished.
Leave the Martin Tower, taking extra care, since many visitors have complained of unseen hands pushing them as they descend the stairs.
Go left and cross to:-
A "White Lady’ who once stood at a window waving to a group of children and whose wraith now drifts silently around the rooms, is just one of its many spectres seen inside this imposing structure.
Perhaps it is her cheap perfume that has been smelt around the entrance to St John's Chapel, causing many a Custody Guard to retch at its pungent aroma?
Guards passing from the chapel into the gallery containing Henry VIII's armour have spoken of a terrible crushing sensation that suddenly descends upon them, but which lifts the moment they stagger shaking from the room.
One guard patrolling through here in the early hours of a stormy winter morning got a sudden and unnerving sensation that a black cloak had been flung over his head. As he struggled, the cloak was seized from behind by his phantom assailant and pulled tight around his throat. When he arrived at the guard room, after freeing himself, gasping and choking, the marks on his neck bore vivid testimony to his brush with the unseen horror.
Another guard, Mr Arthur Crick, decided to rest for a moment one night as he made his rounds. Sitting on a ledge he slipped off his right shoe when a voice behind him whispered, 'There’s only you and I here," eliciting from Arthur the very earthly response, "Just let me get this bloody shoe on and there’ll be only you."
Leave the White Tower and walk left to the grassy area lined with huge plane trees and patrolled by sinister-looking ravens.
There is an old prophecy that, if the ravens leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. These proud territorial birds are, therefore, protected by Royal Decree, and the future of the monarchy is assured by the clipping of the ravens. wings.
Leave the Martin Tower, taking extra care, since many visitors have complained of unseen hands pushing them as they descend the stairs.
Go to the plaque marking the site of:-
You are standing upon the spot where a number of illustrious historical figures ended their days on the headsman's block. Many of them are buried in the church you are facing – St Peter Ad Vincula.
One execution, however, stands out as more shameful and gruesome than all the others, that of seventy-two-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.
Her crime was nothing more than the fact that she was the mother of Cardinal Pole, who from his safe haven in France had vilified Henry VIII’s claim as head of the Church in England.
Unable to punish the Cardinal, Henry opted to exact savage retribution by sentencing his mother to death.
On 27th May, 1541, she stepped onto the scaffold and stared contemptuously at the executioner.
When told to place her head on the block she refused. "So should traitors do and I am none."
The executioner raised his axe, took a swing at her, and then chased the screaming countess around the scaffold and hacked her to death.
Her last moments have been played out on the anniversary of the shameful event ever since, as her screaming phantom attempts to escape from a ghostly executioner.
With your back to the block, walk along the pathway to the left of the lawn, pause by the final plane tree and look across to the dark brick house with the blue front door.
Here another tragic resident, Lady Jane Grey, "The Nine Day Queen", was kept prisoner.
On 12 February, 1554, she watched from an upstairs window as her husband, Guildford Dudley, was led, sobbing, to his execution.
Later that same day, the sixteen-year-old girl, who had been pushed onto the throne by an ambitious father-in-law, walked bravely to her own death.
Ever since, her ghost has appeared on the anniversary of her execution as a white shimmering figure that floats from the rolling river mists, strolls sadly around the green or glides along the battlements, then withers slowly away.
The black-and-white timbered building to the left, known as the Queen's House, dates from 1530 and is the lodging of the Governor of the Tower of London.
There was once a tradition, now discounted, that it was here that Anne Boleyn spent the days prior to her execution on 19th May, 1536.
However, no one seems to have informed her ghost of this historical inaccuracy, for it is here that her wraith reputedly returns – often with alarming consequences.
In 1864 a sentry was astonished by a headless figure, dressed in white, that suddenly came at him from the darkness.
When his challenge failed to "HALT" failed to check the spectre's advance, he raised his bayonet and charged. The weapon went straight through the figure, and the poor sentry fainted from sheer terror.
Found by his commanding officer, he was court-martialled for dereliction of duty, but was saved from disciplinary action by two witnesses who testified that they had seen the entire episode from their nearby window.
Continue past the lawn and go straight into:-
The exhibition inside the Bloody Tower commemorates the imprisonment here of Sir Walter Raleigh, and his ghost seems to appreciate the fact, as it has been seen here on more than one occasion.
But it is the little princes, Richard and Edward, whose tragic tale has given the Bloody Tower its sinister reputation.
The boys were sent to the tower by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in 1483 when he became Richard III, both boys mysteriously disappeared.
It was always assumed that they had been murdered on Richard's instructions and their bodies buried somewhere within the grim fortress.
When two skeletons were uncovered beneath a staircase of the White Tower in 1674 they were presumed to be the remains of the little princes and afforded royal burial in Westminster Abbey.
But their whimpering ghosts, wearing white nightgowns and clutching each other in terror, often return to the dim rooms of their imprisonment. Witnesses are moved to pity, longing to reach out and console the spectral boys. But, if they do, the trembling wraiths back slowly towards the wall and fade into the fabric.
Leave the Bloody Tower and descend the staircase marked ";Exit".
Turn right, go under the Bloody Tower and you will see:-
Kings, queens, lords, ladies, clerics and commoners would have taken their last look at the outside world from the top of those steps.
The Tower of London has been no respecter of birthright or rank. So offer a prayer for their repose as you shake the dust of history from your shoes and leave this grim fortress to its memories and shadows.