Tower Hill review
Have you been inside the Tower of London yet?
If you have, then you've probably seen the spot where Henry VIII beheaded his troublesome wives on Tower Green. You might even have seen inside the chapel where he buried all of their headless bodies. But what happened to all of the non-Royal traitors? Plenty of lesser celebrities got sentenced to death as well, but they weren't allowed inside the grounds of the Royal palace. Their final goodbyes took place over the road on Tower Hill. (If they were a total nobody like you and me then they would have been hanged at Tyburn instead, near modern day Marble Arch.)
What you have to do is walk around to the north side of the Tower and cross over the main road to Trinity Square Gardens (to the west of Tower Hill station). It's only a little piece of green--which is probably why most people never bother to visit it--but have a look around and you'll find a plaque on the floor which lists the names of all the traitors. I'd tell you where it is, but I think half the fun is in trying to find it -- it's only a small little area so it shouldn't take you more than a few minutes.
Tower Hill doesn't look like much these days, and it's difficult to imagine how scary it must have been five hundred years ago -- but you've got to try and picture it without all the busy roads and concrete buildings behind. In those days it was just a chopping block or gallows looking down on the Tower. You'd be dragged up here and thousands of people would be crowding around for their bit of Saturday afternoon entertainment. They even had people selling cups of nuts and fruits, like they sell popcorn and smarties at the cinema.
If you were noble then you were lucky... because they'd hire an axeman to chop off your head. But if you were unlucky then it would be a thick hood and a scratchy rope looped tight around your neck.
I'm not sure that I'd want to die by hanging. Lots of suicidal people choose that way out but apparently it can take a few minutes if you mess it up (which I would). You just hang there writhing and spitting and fitting until the last breath gets squeezed out of your fat purple face.
When I die I want it to be fun. I have given this a lot of thought and I have decided that it must involve a boom followed by glitter. One minute we will be chatting quite happily and then I will say something like "hang on a minute, I don't feel very well", and then — KABOOM! I will vanish in a cloud of silver glitter. And you will be sitting there showered in the stuff wondering what the hell just happened. My reasoning for this is that God doesn't want people turning up at his front door with purple faces filled with blood, or with heads with big bullet holes blown out of them -- he would much rather see some shiny happy people covered in glitter. It's all about first impressions, isn't it. You don't want to turn up at the Pearly Gates all covered in blood because he won't let you in. So I am going to arrive all sparkly — that is my tip for you. Just think how difficult it is to get past a bouncer at the pub when you've got ripped jeans and a t-shirt on -- the Pearly Gates are going to be ten times as hard, so we need to look smart.
Apart from the little plaque on the floor there's not a lot else to see. A lot of the headless bodies were transferred over to All Hallows-by-the-Tower before being carted off elsewhere for interment, so there aren't even any graves nearby. You can still see a large part of the church though -- it's that big green spire over the road. That's about the only part of it that didn't fall down in the Blitz — the rest of it was rebuilt in the 1950s.
What always amazes me about places like Tower Hill is the way that London does its best to ignore them. For a lot of big cities this would be their absolute highlight, but we just give it a piddly little plaque and forget about it. We've got so much history in this town that we don't need to draw attention to it.
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