10 Reasons Why The Tower of London Is Totally Cool
On the 16th June 2017, the world’s biggest writing competition for kids, lands at the Tower of London in a spectacular extravaganza. There’ll be live music, superstar celebrities and sensational stories. The 500 Words Final could be the red carpet premiere of your very own story.
Here are 10 reasons why the Tower of London is awesome – and why you need to be there.
1. It Used To Be A Zoo
800 years ago, King John was ruling the land and decided he wanted he wanted a bit of entertainment, so he got a pet…lion.
This grew into quite a collection of animals, which became known as the Menagerie. Visitors could pay to see the creatures…or if they didn’t have a penny to spare, they could bring a live animal along to feed to the lions. Gruesome stuff!
When the animals started misbehaving, the Constable at the Tower sent them packing…off to Regent’s Park, where they formed London Zoo.
2. #BestJobEver: Feeding The Polar Bear
In this Menagerie, lived a polar bear gifted from the King of Norway to Henry III in 1252. It was one chap’s job to take the polar down to the River Thames each day to catch his dinner. The warden would have to loop a strong cord over the animal’s head, then walk the beast down to Thameside, release it into the river and hope that he would jump back onto the land once he was done!
3. It’s Super Spooky
If you believe that things go bump in the night…then there’ll be plenty of spectres for you to spot at the Final. It’s believed that King Henry VIII’s ghost inhabits his old suit of armour, while Anne Boleyn haunts the site where she had her head chopped off. There have been reports from visitors of cries of animals, including lions and monkeys. It’s even been claimed that a spectral bear charged at a guard.
4. It’s Got The Biggest Diamond In The World
If you prefer sparkles to spectres, you’ll be pleased to hear that the most precious diamonds in the world are held at the Tower of London, set into our Queen’s crown jewels. The diamonds, called Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, 530.2 carats (106.04 g), and the Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa, 317.4 carats (63.48 g), are very sparkly indeed. If you win a ticket to the 500 Words Final, you’ll be able to see them for yourself!
5. There Are Loads of Cool Escape Stories
Many of them involve getting the guards drunk. The first prisoner of the Tower of London, Ranulf Flambard, actually escaped! He made his daring departure in 1101 when a rope was smuggled to him in a gallon of wine. Priest John Gerard employed orange juice as invisible ink, a canon and a lot of Catholics to make his daring escape. Lord Nithsdale took a different approach and dressed as a woman.
6. A Chap, Actually Called Colonel Blood, Stole The Crown Jewels…
Making friends with the jewel-keeper, Colonel Blood’s audacious attempt at stealing the crown jewels involved squashing the crown, shoving it into a bag and legging it. He got arrested, but for some reason, the then king Charles II decided to spare his head and even gifted him some land!
7. There’s A Secret Hand In The Tower
Not many people know this, but there’s a (presumably) fake hand set into glass in the wall of the Byward Tower. It was put there initially as a joke to scare visitors but has been bricked in and is now a permanent feature.
8. The Ravens Can Be Sacked
You’ll find at least six ravens at the Tower at all times. Legend has it that if they ever leave the fortress, both the tower — and the monarchy — will fall. To this day the Ravenmaster keeps a spare raven at the Tower, just in case!
Occasionally ravens have to be dismissed for bad behaviour. This happened to a raven called George who received his marching orders in 1986 after he developed an unhealthy taste for TV aerials.
The ravens are also quite particular about their bedtime routines. The ravens get sung a lullaby each night as they’re put to bed and one even has a special tiny ladder up to their bed in the Queen’s Tower.
9. There’s A Secret Pub Inside The Tower
Tucked inside the Tower, there’s a pub which you can only access if you’ve been given a special invite. Obviously, they serve Beefeater Bitter beer and Beefeater gin. There’s an area by the bar which, encased in glass, displays some items dug up from the moat: such as soldiers’ discarded clay pipes, a cannonball, and some mouse skeletons.
10. The Moat Used To Be A HUGE Toilet.
In olden times, sometimes it was easiest to chuck it out the window… so the moat became a huge cesspit. We’ll provide nicer toilets for you at the Final!
If you want to be in with a chance of winning tickets to the 500 Words Final and making it to the Tower of London, submit your story by 7pm, Thursday 23rd February.