City & Town Overview
The capital of the United Kingdom can be divided into three distinct parts. The main commercial area is around The City, where Roman London was founded and where the medieval township grew up, dominated by the massive fortress of the Tower of London. Further west along the Thames lays Westminster, the centre of government and administration. The West End—running west from Covent Garden to Oxford Street—is the main shopping and entertainment area. Surrounding this core are districts such as Kensington, Chelsea, and Marylebone, that joined London in the 18th century, but retain a separate identity. London’s attraction is its cosmopolitanism, rivaling that of New York. An imperial capital in the 19th century, it has become a vibrant world city that is home to a fascinating mix of peoples.
One of the most famous Squares in the World – With Nelsons Column, the National Gallery and of course the pigeons. The Column itself is some 170 foot high, with the statue of Nelson himself being some 18 foot high. Though one would not think so viewing him from the ground. Admiral Nelson is buried in St Pauls Cathedral.
landseer lions -… Named after the Naval Battle of 1805, Trafalgar Square was completed by the mid 1840’s. Nelsons Column is surrounded by 4 bronze lions, on granite plinths, unveiled in 1868, sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer, and cast by Marocchetti. At the time Landseer was better known for his animal paintings. Fountains and statues, including one of Charles I on horseback, dating from the 17th century adorn the Square. Yet more sculptures in the form of bronze relief’s can be found at the base of the Column depicting scenes from four of Admiral Nelson’s Battles.
Bus-nelson.jpg On the North side of the Square is the National Gallery, housing masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Rebens. Alongside is the National Portrait Gallery.
… On the west side is Canada House, while in the North East corner is the Church of St Martins in the Fields. Off the Square , beyond Admiralty Arch are The Mall itself leading to Buckingham Palace. On the other side of The Square are The Strand and the start of London’s Theatre land.
At Christmas a Norway Spruce tree the gift of the people of Norway stands in The Square, whilst at New Years Eve a crowd numbered in hundreds of thousands see in the New Year.
pigeon.jpg Booths sell corn with which to feed the pigeons. Be warned if you hold the tub of food at arms length you will soon have pigeons galore perched on you, including most likely the top of your head.
The Tower of London
Dating from Roman times, indeed part of the Roman Walls are visible immediately outside the entrance to the nearby Tube Station. The Tower itself dates from the time of William the Conqueror. Castle, Prison, Royal Mint, Zoo and home of the Crown Jewels. Be dazzled by The Imperial State Crown, set with the 530 carat Culinan I, of the largest cut diamonds in the World.
The White Tower where Anne Boleyn, the 2nd of Henry VIII’s wives was imprisoned and then beheaded by sword on 19th May 1536. The Bloody Tower, dating from 1225. Where Walter Ralegh and his wife were incarcerated from 1603 to 1616, Ralegh was executed here on 29th October 1618. Climb the steps of the Beauchamp Tower, housing yet more important prisoners. The intricate detail of the stone carvings on the walls, by the prisoners, to help while away the years are most sobering. The Royal Armouries, the mounted horsemen are so grand.
The Beefeaters- Yeoman Warders Take an hour long guided tour led by a red tunic’d Beefeater. (More properly Yeoman Warders). Except if inclement weather. Have your photograph taken. Don’t forget to ask their permission first- it is rarely refused. At night see the locking up during the Ceremony of the Keys. Advance Ticket Only. View Traitors Gate from the footpath alongside the Thames.
The Ravens Wondering what those large black birds are? They are the Tower’s most famous inhabitants- the Ravens. Legend has it should they leave then the Monarchy will be no more. They do have their wings clipped as a precaution. Not only do these 8 very well cared for birds have their own Ravenmaster, but are given monthly health checks by a vet. Ravens mate for life, last Spring (2000) several eggs were laid, and hatched. ‘Hardy’ is now in his 25th year at the Tower.
Walk the Walls Walk the defensive walls, with great views along the River Thames, looking over the Moat, drained and backfilled in the 1830’s but for 500 years a vital part of the Castles defences. Some stairs and passageways are narrow or steep.
Nearest tube- Tower Hill. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing and New Years Days. Recorded Guides Also available. Wear sensible shoes.
Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is an enduring symbol of London.
Though river traffic is far less than a hundred years ago the twin bascules are still opened for river traffic several times a week. The London Bridge Experience offer a chance to climb the towers, and view the River from the glass sided walkways, some 140 feet above the Thames, as well as seeing the original steam engines powering the lifting mechanisms for raising the bascules.
Fine views across to Butlers Wharf and on the other bank the Tower of London and St Katherine’s Dock. In the early nineteenth century the
Dock would have been full of sailing ships from around the world, discharging their cargoes. Nowadays the Docks are a popular tourist destination in their own right with shops, and a display of sailing barges in the marina.
Tower of London Alongside the River on The South Bank is the well signed Silver Jubilee Walk, dotted along its length with information boards covering the sights and also the history of the River.