MOST people who have visited the capital know something about the iconic building that is The Tower of London and its fascinating 1,000 year history.
They might have heard its historical headlines. Twenty-two people were executed there; it served as a Royal Zoo for 600 years and was damaged in World War Two. Some may even be aware of the superstitions which continue to surround it. If the ravens leave, the kingdom will fall and it is also said to be home to seven ghosts.
Now a new book gives an all-access insight into the day-to-day running of this icon as it continues to remain relevant in modern London, serving as a home, a place of worship and the first European venue chosen to hold a premier of a season of Game of Thrones.
Over the period of a year, author and former hotelier Christopher West was allowed unprecedented access to the tower. By speaking to the people that live and work there he was able to gain a unique insight into the smooth running of a place which costs £10 million a year to run but does not cost the tax payer a penny.
He was also able to give a detailed account of ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, a poignant but to some, controversial, installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the Tower’s moat created to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Christopher, who lives near the Tower, In St Katharine Docks, said: ”I have called the book Poppies Pomp and People but I could just as easily have called it Ghosts, Guides and Games Of Thrones as it is a place with an amazing history, but also a very important and relevant future and so much more goes on there, especially behind the scenes than people would imagine.”
A fascinating part of the book focuses on the Yeomen Warders who work at the Tower, and are more popularly known as Beefeaters. To many they may appear to almost to be costumed guides but the book gives as insight into what it takes to be chosen as one of these exceptional former, senior military people.
Author Chris West, is also an acknowledged expert on Charles Dickens having spent many years giving talks about his life whilst dressed in character.
It is a tribute to his writing and the integrity of his research that the foreword to the book was written by General The Lord Dannatt, who was constable of the Tower when the book was researched.
From the foreword by General the Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower (2009-2016)
“Tower enthusiast Chris West… has recorded the events of that extraordinary period in this enchanting book. He has produced a one-man ‘fly on the wall’ documentary account of life in the Tower of London when Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red captured the Nation’s imagination, and heart.“
A few insights into today’s Tower of London:
Visited by nearby 3 million people each year
Receives on average 1,000 school children each day
Owned by the Nation, and run by Historic Royal Palaces, a charity dedicated to preserving national treasures and providing the best possible visitor experience
Has popular Sunday services in the Chapel Royal, which encourages worshippers to bring donations for East London Food Bank.
Is one of only 911 UNESCO World Heritage Sites worldwide. The Tower of London is included as it is one of the very few intact medieval buildings.
The book is on sale at Amazon and Ebay or can be bought direct from www.christopherwestlondon.com