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The Tower of London - things you didn't know

JULIA Stuart’s new novel, Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo, is about a Beefeater who is told to look after the Royal Menagerie when it is reinstated in the Tower of London to boost visitor numbers.

Julia’s research took her to the Tower after hours and it was then that she talked to Beefeaters, finding out what it’s really like to live inside the walls in the 21st century.

She also discovered some fascinating facts about the Tower that she’d like to share with you:

East End gangsters the Kray twins where held overnight in the twin turrets of the Tower’s Waterloo Barracks in 1952 after being called up for national service and failing to report for duty.

Every large Royal Navy ship that visits the port of London delivers a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower on Tower Green in a ceremony know as the Constable’s Dues. This happens around once a year.

Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess was interrogated at the Tower for four days following his solo flight from Bavaria to Scotland in 1941.

The Tower of London has its own private bar. On its walls is a framed signature of Rudolf Hess, which he gave to one of his guards.

The last execution at the Tower took place in 1941. Josef Jakobs, a sergeant of the German Meteorological Service, was shot as a spy in the rifle range.

The Beefeaters were responsible for carrying out torture in the 16th and 17th centuries, under the command of the Lieutenant of the Tower.

There has been the occasional raven escapee – ‘Grog’ made it as far as an East End pub called the Rose and Punchbowl in 1981.

A polar bear – resident of the Tower menagerie – used to fish for salmon in the Thames. The Menagerie began during the reign of King John, and became a popular tourist attraction during Elizabethan times before it was moved to Regent’s Park in the 19th century (under health and safety). Other animals included elephants and leopards.

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower three times. During his second stay – 13 years in the Bloody Tower – he was allowed to grow tobacco in a garden and brew herbal medicines in a converted hen house.

The Beefeaters live at the Tower with their families. There is also a resident doctor and chaplain.

NB: Julia Stuart’s novel Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo is published by HarperPress on March 8, 2010 and is priced £7.99.
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