This blog post was written and shared by Friend, Jim Scott.
A slight breeze blew across Tower Hill as our friends gathered in the shadows of All Hallows Church. One of the oldest churches in London, dating back to 675, All Hallows Church has an interesting history of being a temporary burial site for beheading victims of the Tower; while also having ties to the United States, as William Penn worshiped here and President John Quincy Adams was married there. This was to be a special evening for our travelers as Jim Read had secured tickets almost a year in advanced for the “Ceremony of the Keys”, a tradition that has been going on every night for over 700 years.
To enter the tower ground’s, we had to be at the gates around 9:30pm, but with high anticipation, we arrived early and decided to have some libations at the Hung Drawn and Quartered Tavern that sat on Tower Hill. This provided for a great atmosphere leading up to our special event.
After paying our tab, we walked past All Hallows Church on our way down to the gate, where we were greeted by the Yeoman Warder, who was checking passes from the lucky ticket holders. He escorted us in and led us down the stone walkway, stopping us in front of the infamous Bloody Tower, where he gave us a brief history prior to the actual ceremony. The ceremony has occurred every evening since the mid 1300’s and since 1826, the key exchange has occurred at exactly 10 pm. The one exception is in World War II, when a bomb dropped by the Germans hit on the tower grounds knocking the Yeoman Warder off his feet. The exchange of keys still happened, though a few minutes late. The famous Beefeaters guard the tower grounds and execute the exchange of The Queen’s key with great precision. Our Yeoman Warder did a great job of explaining the history of the ceremony and why things are the way they are. He also had a great sense of humor.
After emerging from London Tower, we took a short stroll down to The Thames, where we enjoyed the view of Tower Bridge and the rest of the city. This all made for memorable night with great friends.
Find Jim's previous blog about this London trip here.
To see my pictures of our adventures, check out our Instagram.