London Day 7 – Koh-i-Noor

Aug 22, 2018

We had planned on doing the Tower of London walk on Sunday (19th), but couldn’t as we decided to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning with Piyank and his family. The walk happens on Wednesdays as well so we decided to do it on the 22nd. The tour guide was Brian again (he had conducted the “Ancient London” walk on the 19th) and we were happy to see him and hopefully he was too.

Interestingly, another tourist from the US who was part of the earlier walk was also part of this one and when we chatted, we realised that she works in Libertyville, that’s really close to Lincolnshire where Hewitt’s offices are. Small world indeed.

This tour too started with a detailed description of the gory past of the Trinity square park in front of the Tower Hill station. This time we went and saw the graves of the known names at this place in the memorial that has been setup. Romans founded London in 43 AD. They brought new vegetables like Turnip, carrots etc with them and these had been assimilated in the English diet by the time they left in 410 AD when the Saxons came from Germany. The last Anglo Saxon King – Edward rebuilt the Westminster Abbey and was buried there.

In 1066 after winning the Battle of Hastings, William becomes the King, but the people of London are reluctant to accept him. The Anglo Saxons called him the bastard while he wanted to be known as William the Conqueror.
In order to please the people of London, he built three towers. Tower of London was one of the towers built by him. The Tower of London has been a Royal observatory, the Royal Mint and a prison. Interesting fact – Sir Isaac Newton was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint in the spring of 1696 and worked out of the Tower of London.

Another interesting new information was shared by Brian that the City of Mumbai was gifted to King Charles by his Portuguese wife Catherine Braganza. I checked wikipedia and indeed the City of Bombay was part of her dowry!! Also now I understand why some of our Mumbai Christians have their last name as Braganza. Ah, the things you learn and the dots you connect when you hear a part of the history of your country from a foreigner. Krishnan and I had a healthy discussion with Brian on the ownership of the “Koh-i-Noor” diamond … more on that later.

The sluice gates of the moat around the Tower was closed off when the tide receded thereby holding the water in … and all sorts of garbage was emptied into it. Till Joseph Bazalgette was given the job of creating the now famous London Sewerage system in 1858 – all rivers and especially the Thames were basically carrying sewerage and London was stinking besides the outbreak of diseases.

We walked into the Tower of London and Brian explained the “bloody” history of not just the Tower but of the British Monarchy – which is not very different from monarchies anywhere in the world. For e.g King Henry VIII killed 72000 people – utterly cruel but am sure we will find parallels in the Mughal empire in India.

Currently there are 350 people working in the Tower of London and the Crown jewels are kept here. At the end of the tour, we went to see the Koh-i-noor which was a gift to the East India company by a 10-year old Sikh King … as if a 10-year old would know what to gift and what not to. Anyway, like Krishnan said, the ownership doesn’t change the origin and the Koh-i-Noor was mined in the now defunct Golconda diamond mines. As part of the crown jewels we also saw the Cullinan diamond, the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.08 g) it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. What a beauty! We had visited the mine in South Africa where this diamond had been found in 2011 and so this was special in a different way.

Some of the pictures from our trip inside the Tower of London.

A view with the now dried out Moat.

A HUGE well-fed Raven

A Magpie?
The gate at which boats docked as the prisoners were brought in

The house where the Resident Governor of the Tower of London resides – and that Beefeater (red suit wearing guard) is a real person and not a wax figure as I initially thought !!
The (in)famous Tower Bridge – where several suicides happened

After our walk we ate lunch and headed off towards the Sky Garden at 20, Fenchurch Road, hoping they would allow walk-ins. Well, they didn’t. We just sat outside for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful vertical garden at the entrance and then headed back towards the Tower Hill station. The Sky Garden is high up on the walkie-talkie building with three floors of landscaped gardens and stunning views of the city of London. The visit is free but has to be booked a week in advance. We have to come back to London to see this one !!

The walkie-talkie building, so named for its shape which has the Sky Garden

We reached home just before 6 pm and Ganesh and Nivedita were able to come over. We enjoyed catching up with each other and Nivedita has agreed to visit the Sky Garden and send me some pictures till we are able to see it for ourselves. Nivedita and Vidya also found common friends so a great meet-up. I just couldn’t stay awake to say goodbye so Krishnan had to do the honours, but Ganesh and Nivedita are family so its ok.

A great trip to London thus came to an end with both Krishnan and I deciding to come back for another visit because there is so much more to see !!


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