Posted By Claire on May 22, 2013
The Tower of London is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, being jam-packed with history and historical artefacts, but there’s nothing quite like visiting it on 19th May, the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution, and I was lucky to be able to go this year with Tim and our children.
We started our day by visiting the Church of All Hallows by the Tower, which is the oldest church in the City of London and, as the name suggests, is right by the Tower of London. Its proximity to the Tower led to it being used as a temporary burial place for execution victims such as Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. It is also linked to other historical characters:
- Lancelot Andrewes, the English Bishop and scholar, was baptised there in 1555.
- William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised there in 1644.
- Samuel Pepys watched the 1666 Great Fire of London from the church tower.
- George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys, James II’s Lord Chancellor and a man known as “The Hanging Judge”, married Sarah Neesham there in 1667.
- John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States, married Louisa Catherine Johnson there in 1797.
All Hallows by the Tower photos:
We had quick look round the church before their Sunday service started and then made our way to the London Wall, a surviving section of the Roman city wall which was built around 200AD. The fragment we visited is situated right by Tower Hill Underground Station and has a statue of Emperor Trajan standing in front of it.
After that, we moved on to the Tower Hill scaffold site, the site where a permanent scaffold was erected in 1485 and which now acts as a memorial to those beheaded on the spot. It has plaques naming some of those who died on the spot, including Edward Stafford (Duke of Buckingham), Thomas More, John Fisher, Thomas Cromwell, Edward Seymour, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, Thomas Howard (4th Duke of Norfolk) and the Duke of Monmouth, and a plaque which reads:
“To commemorate the tragic history and in many cases the martyrdom of those who for the sake of their faith, country or ideals staked their lives and lost. On this site more than 125 were put to death, the names of some of whom are recorded here.”
I paused for a minute and paid my respects to George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and William Brereton, who were executed there on 17th May 1536.
It was then time for the Tower. Before entering the Tower, we walked around to the river side of it to see Tower Bridge and also to take photos of the Court Gate of the Byward Tower, the gate by which Anne Boleyn entered the Tower in 1533, after her coronation river procession, and in 1536 following her arrest. We then entered the Tower.
It was impossible to visit the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the morning because church services were taking place, so we took the children around the wall walk, through the medieval palace, on to the White Tower and Beauchamp Tower. I’ll never tire of browsing the Tudor “grafitti” (stone carvings) in the Beauchamp Tower and looking for Anne Boleyn’s uncrowned falcon, which is thought to have been carved by a Boleyn supporter in 1536. It was then time for a spot of lunch sitting by the glass memorial on Tower Green. It was there that I was greeted by Victoria from Toronto who recognised me from my photo on The Anne Boleyn Files. We had a lovely chat.
While we were eating, the church service ended and people started leaving the chapel. One member of the congregation was actor David Suchet (Hercule Poirot)! We tagged on the end of a Yeoman Warder’s tour so that we could visit the Chapel and it was lovely to see Anne’s memorial tile covered in flowers, including the traditional, annual basket of red roses. The Yeoman Warder explained to the tour group that it was the anniversary of Anne’s execution, so that was good. In the chapel, I met a couple of other Anne Boleyn Files visitors – Katie Downing and her Mum – so we had a bit of a chat before I met up with Clare Cherry and her partner, David, to go and see the play Fallen in Love: The Secret Heart of Anne Boleyn – click here to read my review of the play. At the play, I met another Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Sharon Bishop, a lady who I’ve corresponded with over the past couple of years. It’s so nice to put faces to names!
Sorry if I missed anyone at the Tower, but I hope that those of you who visited had a lovely time there.
Here is a slideshow of photos from our day at the Tower – thanks Tim! There aren’t any of Anne’s tile because photography is not allowed in the chapel.
You can read more about Anne Boleyn and the Tower in the following articles: