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London


We watched this carriage come down the Mall. The palace gates opened for it, and one man got out at the Queen's front door.

The carriagemen went back the same way they had come.

All of this happened in complete silence, except for the sound of the horse's hooves.



Changing of the Guard.





Queen Victoria Memorial
Thomas Brick, 1911

This gate guards Green Park, just north of the Mall, near Buckingham Palace.




Admiralty Arch.

The Palace of Westminster, or Houses of Parliament, and its Clock Tower. Big Ben is actually the name of the Clock Tower's Great Bell. It weighs 13.8 metric tons, and was first rung in 1859.

We didn't go inside the Clock Tower. I found the picture of the bell on the internet.


Whitehall, or Embassy Row.

The Queen's Horse Guard, is also in Whitehall.



These guys don't move, no matter what disgusting things tourists do to try to make them flinch. This one is only getting an innocent souvenir photo.



St. James Park, between Buckingham Palace and Parliament.




Many of Her Majesty's birds live in St. James Park, including this old Coot.

Piccadilly Circus. The name comes from pickadill, a ruffled collar worn by the dandies who once used this place as a promenade.

It's really a restaurant, not an embassy. There is a story about Texas sending an ambassador to England and France in the mid-19th century, but it's hard to see evidence of an embassy here.

It wouldn't do to visit London and miss a shot of a city bus, would it?



The Horses of Helios
Rudy Weller, 1992.

The Angel of Christian Charity
Alfred Gilbert, 1893.

This statue is one of the first in the world to be made of cast aluminum.

This is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.
Its statue is usually called simply Eros.


Trafalgar Square, home of the National Gallery.

This column commemorates Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805. This is considered the most significant naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars.


Street vendors sell pigeon food in Trafalgar Square. Yes, these people are here because they want pigeons on their heads. Nobody asked the lion if he wanted a pigeon on his head.


This palace is now a chain hotel, the Royal Horseguards Hotel.


We took a leisurely stroll along the Strand, which connects Trafalgar Square with Fleet Street.


Somerset House.
This 18th-century building houses the celebrated collections of the Coutauld Institute of Art, Gilbert Collection, and Heritage Rooms.


Royal Courts of Justice.



The Gryphon guards the western entrance to Fleet Street, the heart of London's financial district. This is the boundary between the Cities of Westminster and London.

 

Four churches dedicated to St. Paul rose and fell near the east end of Fleet Street after St. Augustine arrived in Kent in AD 596. The Stuart King Charles II appointed a favorite architect, Christopher Wren, to renovate the fifth. That work had barely begun when the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the fifth church along with nearly all of London.

Six days after the fire, Wren presented a bold plan for urban renewal. Charles liked it, but didn't have the money to fund it. By the time work might have started, Londoners had already started to rebuild along the lines that existed before the fire.

Wren's early designs for a new cathedral were rejected as too modern, too radical, too Catholic. He eventually submitted a plan that satisfied the church elders. Charles approved it, while granting the architect freedom to make "variations, rather ornamental than essential." This was obviously done with a wink and a nod, and Wren proceeded to change just about everything possible in the approved design. By the time the clergy realized what was happening, the construction was too far along to be changed.

Although Christopher Wren infuriated the church establishment, he produced a masterpiece of neo-classical architecture. He was eventually buried there, where the inscription on his tomb says Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice — "Reader, if you seek his memorial, look around you."

Queen Anne's statue graces the entrance to St. Paul's Cathedral. Christopher Wren began construction on his magnum opus in 1675 under James II, but the work was not finished until James's second daughter was on the throne.




The two-tone effect is the result of a facelift that was underway when we visited in 2000.

There has been a bridge across the Thames River for two thousand years. From time to time, it kept falling down.

The Romans built the first bridge in 43 AD, a sort of pontoon bridge that used planks laid across a row of anchored boats. There were a few other iterations until 1014, when King Æthelred the Unready allied with Norway's King Olaf to retake London from the invading Danes. As they sailed up the river, the Danes rained arrows on them, but they made cover from thatched roofs taken from nearby houses. They tied cables to the piles supporting the bridge and rowed away, pulling the bridge down.

A stone bridge was built here in 1176. People began building houses and shops on it, until it was hard to see the bridge for all the other stuff. There were a few disastrous fires, as in 1623 when a servant left some ashes under wooden stairs. Many houses were destroyed, and people in the sound houses started moving out. By 1657, all the houses had been razed.


© Aran Johnson

The bridge was repaired many times, and eventually replaced in 1825. More repairs followed over the years, until it was decided in 1962 that it was again time to start over. American developer Robert McCulloch bought the old bridge, numbered every brick while taking it apart, and reassembled it as a tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was said at the time that he thought he was buying the more picturesque Tower Bridge downstream, but Mr. McCulloch knew what he was doing.

The story of the Tower of London has been the story of English monarchy since William the Conqueror started building it in the eleventh century. He began with the White Tower, which is still the central building there. Part of its structure was the old Roman city wall.

Although the Tower could serve as a defensive base for London, its main purpose was to protect the royal family in times of civil disorder.

The Plantagenet years were marked with intense palace intrigue, accompanied by significant expansion of the Tower's buildings and defenses. The Wars of the Roses and the Tudor years brought more expansion. By the time Henry VIII died in 1547, the Tower of London looked pretty much as we see it today — an impenetrable fort surrounded by two curtain walls and a deep moat.

Henry's daughters made brutal use of the place. His only son died young, and Bloody Mary became queen. She imprisoned her half-sister Elizabeth, who narrowly escaped execution for treason. When it was her turn on the throne, Elizabeth I also kept prisoners there, notably including her favorite Sir Walter Raleigh.

King Charles I allowed Parliament to get control of the Tower, facilitating Oliver Cromwell's takeover. Cromwell installed a small military guard, which has been present ever since. Those are the guys in red coats and fur hats who watch over the Queen's House and Waterloo Barracks. They have also served in more practical uniforms in several overseas wars, including a disturbance in North America in the late 18th century.

Since the Restoration, the Tower has been home to the Crown Jewels, except for a short time during World War II, when they were kept safe in a location that has never been revealed. The jewels last left the Tower for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

The Royal Mint was here from the Middle Ages until it outgrew the space available in 1812. At that time, the Mint filled the whole space between the two curtain walls. Cotemporary with the Mint was the royal menagerie, which became the nucleus of the London Zoo in the early 1830s.

Bobby, an Indian Black Buck antelope, is the official mascot of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The Regiment was raised in the Tower of London in 1685 and its headquarters are still here.

There are always half a dozen ravens living at the Tower. Legend has it that if they are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it. Their flight feathers are clipped to encourage them to stay.



The Beefeaters speak, …


… but the military guards are silent and still.

Traitor's Gate, or the Watergate.

Many prisoners, including Queen Elizabeth I, arrived at the Tower via the River Thames.

The Roman city wall of London was built in the late second or early third century. A small turret on the inner side of the wall marked a change in its direction at this point. Later an external bastion replaced the inner turret. William the Conqueror used the Roman Wall here to form the eastern side of his castle. In the 12th century the Wardrobe Tower was built on the remains of the last Roman bastion. Subsequently a large medieval building was built running northwards enclosing a narrow courtyard between it and the White Tower.

The building was demolished in 1879.


Middle Tower, at the entrance from the street.

The White Tower is the original Norman castle, built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century. It was a bit over 900 years old at the time of our visit. There are several exhibits here, including the Crown Jewels.

The Imperial State Crown and the Crown of the Emperor of India.






Some other baubles.

In the Upper chamber on the first floor of the Wakefield Tower was the King's private bedchamber, off of which is a chapel separated by a painted wooden screen. It was here, on 21 May 1461, where tradition has it that Henry VI was murdered on the orders of his cousin Edward IV. It is said that Henry was quietly praying in the chapel at the time.

This octagonal room has large windows where the King could gaze out on the River Thames, a sizeable fireplace, and a high vaulted ceiling.

Today, the chamber is set out as it was at the time of Edward I, as a throne room. The newer St. Thomas's Tower opposite, built later between 1275 and 1279, provided the King with more spacious and comfortable accommodation.

On this site stood a scaffold on which were executed

Queen Anne Boleyn Second wife of Henry VIII 19 May 1536
Margaret, Countess of Salisbury Last Plantagenet Princess 27 May 1541
Queen Catherine Howard Fifth wife of Henry VIII 13 Feb 1542
Jane, Viscountess of Rochford Wife of Anne Boleyn's brother 13 Feb 1542
Lady Jane Grey Uncrowned Queen of 9 days 12 Feb 1554
Robert Deveraux Earl of Essex 25 Feb 1601

Lord Hastings was also beheaded near this spot in 1483.




The Queen's House.




Gin (L) and Beer (R) in the White Tower.

 

Rochester

We stayed in Rochester, about 30 miles east of London, because I didn't want to drive into London. Actually, I didn't want to park in London. And Rochester has a very convenient train station.

It's a lovely little city in its own right I wish we had been able to spend more time there. Charles Dickens also liked the place a lot. This is where he did a significant amount of his writing.

There are Dickens references all over town. Mr. Topes is a character in the author's last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The novel is unfinished, but the restaurant is not.

I wish we had the time to visit Rochester's well-preserved Norman castle. But the big city was too tempting.

The old city wall is now part of a restaurant.


The Dickens Garden was around the corner from our hotel.




Dickens had this horse-powered pump installed at a house in town in 1857. It was moved to this garden in 1975.

 


on to Canterbury

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