Tower Hill over looks the Tower of London and historically it was the place of countless public executions. A plaque marks the site of the old scaffold, and there were several small plaques naming many of the famous people who lost their lives there.
Two persons listed were Sir Ralph and Sir Henry Vane, who are connected to the village where members of my Bell family lived for six hundred years. That is the wonderful thing about family history. You can find these small threads in the most unlikely places.
This website gives a wonderful history of the area including maps and illustrations of the progress of Trinity Gardens.
Here is an extract from the above-
“The Tower Hill area lagged behind the development to the areas of the City on London to the North and West and stood out as neglected compared with its surroundings. There were no defined roads and it was apparently used as a rubbish dump and even a quarry. At the turn of the 18th Century, local aldermen, residents and occupants of Tower Hill promoted a Parliamentary Bill for Paving, Lighting, watching, cleaning, watering, improving and keeping in repair Great Tower Hill and for removing and preventing nuisances and annoyance. An Act was passed in 1797 and included construction of a highway and the enclosure and laying out of Trinity Square Gardens. The work was led by the Corporation of Trinity House and the gardens designed by Samuel Wyatt. Wyatt was one of the greatest engineers of his age. Compared with his other accomplishments, including construction of Trinity House itself, Albion Mill (the most advanced industrial structure of its day) and lighthouses at Dungeness and Flamborough, the design of the Trinity House Gardens must have been a relatively trivial task.
The Act empowered the formation of the Tower Hill Trust to oversee the construction and management of Great Tower Hill and the Gardens. The Trust was entitled to levy a rate from all residents of the Square to pay for the works and their ongoing maintenance. The gardens were completed around 1797-8 and were laid out very simply in the form of an oval, and consisted of a central grassed area with small flowerbeds surrounded by a footpath, shrubbery and iron railings on stone plinths. The land to the south of the Gardens remained clear to the Tower and the river. Access to the gardens was controlled by the Gardener and the Trust laid down regulations for its use – which was restricted to subscribers and the residents of Tower Hill – there was no public access at this time.”
There is also a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial for the men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave, but the sea.
Wikipedia gives a brief description-
The memorial was designed by Edwin Lutyens with sculpture work by William Reid Dick.
The World War I memorial takes the form of a vaulted corridor, 21.5 metres long, 7 metres wide and 7 to 10 metres high. Inside are 12 bronze plaques engraved with 12,000 names.
The World War II memorial takes the form of a semi-circular sunken garden located behind the corridor, to its north. It contains the names of 24,000 British seamen and 50 Australian seamen, listed on the walls of the sunken garden. In the centre of the garden is a pool of bronze, engraved with a compass pointing north. Between the two memorials are two columns with statues representing an officer (western column) and a seaman (eastern).
The Second World War extension was designed by Edward Maufe with sculpture work by Charles Wheeler.
Not all Merchant Seamen who died during wartime, and have no known grave, are commemorated here – they may be commemorated elsewhere, for example, the Liverpool Naval Memorial.
The memorial was unveiled by Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 and the Second World War extension by Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.
We found this interesting as earlier in the month, we had taken a tour of the Australian battlefields of World War I, in France and Belgium, where we had seen numerous memorials, but hadn’t previously seen any in England recording Australian soldiers or seamen.
After we had wandered around the garden we went down to the Tower of London.
As we walked through the huge gate towers we were jostled by the crowds. Sure it was high summer and a fine hot day and all the tourist were out in force, but hundreds of years ago it was likely to have had similar crowds of people moving in and out of the castle complex, carrying on their daily lives. There is a whole ‘town’ squeezed within the walls with a number of buildings and palaces.
The building, which we know as the ‘Tower of London’ where a number of royals were held prisoner is just one huge building within the complex.
This Tower has an incredible history of over a thousand years, being build soon after 1066 when William the Conqueror landed in England, however London had been actually founded nearly a 1000 years before, about 50AD by the Romans.
There are numerous websites that can give lots of information about the site. I found the Museum of London one really worth looking at http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk
We took a tour with one of the ‘Beef-eaters’ or guards who entertained us with various stories of the history of the place. Again in many places you couldn’t take photos, but I did purchase a book on the history of the Tower, and took hundreds of photos of the areas we could take photos, such as ‘Traitors Gate’ and outside of the palace where the Royal Jewels are kept.
After our visit we decided to take the train back to the area of London where we were staying, and right near the entrance to the station, there were exposed ruins of the original ‘Postern gate’ for the walls of the Tower. Although I knew there were sections of the original walls of London could be found scattered through out the ‘city’, this was the first example we had come across. London is certainly an amazing place.