Next week, a fairly rare ceremony will take place in and around the Tower of London, and it’s even more special than usual this time.

Ceremony of the Constables Dues by HMS Liverpool 2012 (c) ianVisits

It’s the Ceremony of the Constable’s Dues, one of those ancient traditions that the UK is so damn good at, can be indirectly traced back at least 700 years, and is related to the Crown’s authority over the City of London.

However, what is usually a ceremonial march to the Tower and a ceremony inside will this time be far more spectacular — as a helicopter and three Royal Marine offshore raiding craft will be in action as well.

The ceremony owes its origins to centuries ago, when ships visiting London would have to pay a payment to the Constable of the Tower of London. What was once a hated tax on mariners is now an exciting ceremony performed very occasionally, usually when a naval vessel is visiting London. It’s a nice treat for the visiting sailors and a pretty special treat if you happen to be visiting the Tower on the day.

If you’re outside the Tower, you can watch the sailors and officers marching past, carrying their offering for the Constable — usually, but not always, a barrel of some fine alcoholic drink. If you’re inside the Tower, you can watch the formal handover ceremony.

Marching through the Tower in 2012 (c) ianVisits

But this time, it’s different

On Thursday 14th March, the river outside the Tower will be closed to traffic between 11:35am and 11:50am – and it’s expected that there will be three Royal Marine raiding craft and a low-flying Merlin helicopter in attendance.

The raiding craft will deliver the barrel to the river pier next to the Tower, where the Royal Marines, who will be lined up along Tower Wharf, will accompany the barrel into the Tower.

That can all be seen outside the Tower for free — although you may struggle to get a good view up close unless you arrive really early to be in front of the crowds.

If you’re inside the Tower, you won’t be able to see the landing craft delivering the barrel, but you will be able to watch the formal handing over of the barrel to the Constable, surrounded by all the attendants in full ceremonial uniforms.

So, depending which you prefer to see, be inside, or outside the Tower.

The ceremony itself is fairly brief but also quite rare, so something very special to look out for.

Tower Green handover in 2012 (c) ianVisits

If watching inside the Tower, you’d be strongly recommended to be at Tower Green with plenty of time to spare as the ceremony will likely take place at noon, so maybe by 11:30am, and to save time getting into the Tower, book tickets in advance from here.

A note, if you live in Tower Hamlets or claim some social security benefits you can visit for just £1, details at the bottom of this page.


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  1. Ron says:

    What day does this take place

  2. C g says:

    Ya, next week is not enough info

  3. HD says:

    *Tues 14th March* (PLA notice for the river closure has it listed for then). Hope that helps.

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