Over on Twitter earlier I ReTweeted a blog post by The Greenwich Phantom of some photos taken yesterday – the first day that the Greenwich Observatory had imposed a £10 admission fee.
A crowd trying to get their photo taken along the Meridian Line outside the enclosure on a very narrow path, and almost no one inside the paywall. If you want your photo taken alone on “the spot” then this could actually be quite a good thing.
Anyway, my Twitter comment was picked up – along with some wags sending copies to historian turned catapult MP Tristram Hunt who earlier this week argued that the smaller museums should be free and the funding coming from the big National Museums who should start charging for admission.
I do sort of see his point, especially as I tend to prefer smaller museums.
Several people commented on how expensive it is to visit the Tower of London – and frankly, at just under £20 per adult, plus £10 per short person, it is as a headline, damn expensive.
As a cash-poor person right now, there is no way that I could afford that, although living in Tower Hamlets does mean I could actually go in for a nominal fee.
I also dislike venues who take the proverbial when it comes to setting prices. The price the Greenwich Observatory has set is, in my opinion, at least double what the venue is worth.
But, and here is a shock – the Tower of London IS worth £20 per person.
I organised a group visit for a private tour and attend the Ceremony of the Keys a few years ago, and as that was an after-hours event, we decided to go in during the day as well to see the rest of the place.
Frankly, you can get away with spending a whole day inside the Tower as there really is a surprising amount to see in there. I bet people turning up in the afternoon regret it as they will have barely scratched the surface of the place before having to leave – which is, erm, what we had done.
I didn’t realise this at the time, but they offer an introductory tour of the main “tourist traps” which lasts about an hour – so before you have even started visiting any of the museums inside the place, you are already an hour or so into the visit.
Yes, there are the Crown Jewels, which you are whisked past on a travolator (although you can go around as many times as you like) and they really do have some almost otherworldly appearance. The totally dust free glass boxes cleverly designed so you can’t see any “light beams” make them almost glow from within.
The main White Tower, which is a decent museum in its own right is packed full of things to see on each level, in addition to the building itself.
There are loads of mini-museums dotted around the place – and obviously the Beefeaters, the Ravens, Traitors Gate etc.
The place is a bit like a TARDIS – impossible to appreciate just how much is inside what seems from the outside to be a modest sized castle.
So, while hardly a cheap day out – a visit to the Tower is genuinely a WHOLE DAY out, and it is one of the few times I would recommend paying quite a steep fee to go inside.
You’ll be kicking yourself afterwards for having put it off for so long. I certainly was.