Another of the London Open House events that needed pre-booking, and this was a visit to the White Tower inside the Tower of London.

Unlike the tourists who were a) paying and b) going inside the Tower, we a) didn’t pay and b) were to be allowed to climb up the outside of the building via the scaffolding that surrounds some of it during an ongoing restoration job.

After registering my arrival, a brief chat about heights ensued and my own slight issue with heights was debated. I am semi-OK with heights, but some-things do worry me at times, and sadly scaffolding is one of them! This might prove to be a challenge.

After donning the ubiquitous high-vis jackets and hard hats and a health & safety message was read out, we started up a staircase.

A few flights up, we stopped to be shown the base of what is basically an open-air sewer outlet. I guess you wouldn’t want to be walking past at ground level when someone was using the loo inside the tower.

Up a few more floors, and taken round to see an odd bit of stone that doesn’t belong where it is – not just because the stone is the wrong sort, but also because it has writing carved into the surface. No one really understands why it is there, and there is a bit of a debate about what, if anything should be done to preserve it.

More stairs.

Another few flights up, and now to look at an example of poor quality preservation from the past where an iron clamp was used to hold a window stone in place. The iron rusted, expanded and dutifully split the stone so the whole piece has to be replaced now.

About here, thanks to a few wooden floor planks that seemed to be a bit less solid and more bouncy than others, I did have a bit of a heights wobble and had to calm myself down for a moment.

Up close to the wall

A lot of chat about the grouting work – which the Victorians re-pointed with hard concrete and how has to be painstakingly removed and replaced with a lime based mortar as concrete is damaging the stone work.

More stairs.

At last at the top – and we can see finished stonework along with some fine views over the top of the Tower from an angle that visitors would never see (Google Maps excepted).

The roof of the White Tower - 1

As we started coming down, the lead archaeologist who took us around pointed out a raven sitting proudly at the top of the tower. Presumably not one of the famous ones who have their wings clipped to stop them flying away. You know, just in case.

Back down on the ground, a talk from a stone mason and grouter about their work. A question about using a slurry based grout to fill deep holes lead off on a tangent to talk about an odd period in the Tower’s history where clocks were mounted into one of the turrets. No one really knows much about this, and a b&w photo was produced that shows the clocks in situ, which even the two stone workers hadn’t seen before.

An interesting visit by our group, and by accident, also interesting for the restoration staff as well.

More photos as usual over at Flickr.

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  1. M@

    This sounds wonderful. Kudos to Open House and the Tower for arranging such an unusual site opening.

    I suspect the raven is actually a crow. I don’t think ravens are indigenous to the south-east, and certainly not in inner London.

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