April 11 – A visit to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London

A day in London with Rachael - No photography allowed inside St Paul's or the Crown Jewels

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We had arranged to meet Rachael at St Paul’s Cathedral at 10.30 and left Buckhurst Hill on the central line tube at 9.20. As St Paul’s is on the central line we did not have to change trains so we arrived about half an hour early. That gives us time to do some geocaches. The first one was a virtual called “TechnOLOGY”. A virtual cache is a type of geocache that involves gathering information at the cache site instead of finding a hidden container. Virtuals and earthcaches are particularly useful in cities like London where security is a major issue as there is no box to find. We had to find a sign on the wall of the BT building to prove that we were actually here and not sitting in an armchair somewhere. Apparently, the first public transmission of wireless signals was sent from this spot by Guglielmo Marconi on 27 July 1896. Thank goodness he did otherwise there would be no computers, cell phones and GPS devices and what a sad world that would be.

We could see St Paul’s from where we were standing less than a block away. An old building completely surrounded from this side by new buildings which is quite a bizarre sight. On the way, we walked through Paternoster Square with the 75 ft Paternoster  Column in the centre. The Temple Bar Gate in Paternoster Square is attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It is a fine arch of Portland stone and was constructed between 1669 and 1672, by Thomas Knight, the City Mason, and Joshua Marshall, Master of the Mason’s Company. There was also a sculpture of a Shepherd and Sheep made by Dame Elisabeth Jean Frink.  Men were putting out deckchairs including one two-man deckchair and when we walked back through at lunchtime they were all full of people enjoying their lunches in the sunshine. We joined them for lunch on one of the stone seats.

We arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral to the sound of sirens. Two police cars followed by two fire engines and in the next few minutes, there were at least eight fire engines and an ambulance as well. The police went into the cathedral but luckily it was a false alarm and by the time Rachael arrived the emergency services had all gone.

We were still early so we had time to do two earthcaches. Many of the earthcaches are to do with being able to recognise the difference between igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks so the earthcaches are not too difficult to do but do require some observation on the site and later some research on the internet before logging the find. I like doing earthcaches as they are educational but they do take longer to do than most caches.

Much of the stone used to build the Cathedral was Portland limestone from Dorset.  The white-grey limestone has been used as a building material in the United Kingdom since Roman times. Limestone is a sedimentary rock and the flagstones we were looking on were red limestone and were full of worm-like fossils.

In front of St Paul’s is a semicircle of 25 bollards made from highly polished igneous rock. The background is dark red/pink and the large feldspar crystals are pink. There is also some tiny white quartz crystal and black mica. This was our second earthcache of the day.

The majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1711. It is one of Europe’s largest cathedrals and its dome is only exceeded in size by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is the fifth church to be built on the site. The first church, dedicated to the apostle Paul, dates back to 604 AD when King Ethelbert of Kent built a wooden church on the summit of one of London’s hills for Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons. At the end of the seventh century, the church was built in stone by Erkenwald, Bishop of London. In front of the cathedral is a statue of Queen Anne. The statue is a copy of a 1712 sculpture by Francis Bird in Carrara marble which formerly stood at the same location. Queen Anne was the ruling British monarch when the new St Paul’s Cathedral was completed in 1710.

In 1665 Christopher Wren designed a plan for the renovation of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was starting to fall into decay. But disaster struck again on the night of September 2, 1666, when the Great Fire of London destroyed four-fifths of all of London, wiping 13,200 houses and 89 churches, including the St. Paul’s Cathedral off the map. The first stone for the cathedral was laid on June 21, 1675, and the building was completed in 1711.

One of the really sad things about visiting St Paul’s Cathedral is that after paying £17 each we were still unable to take photographs. The three of us joined a tour which was quite interesting. There are very few stained-glass windows except in the Lady Chapel and much fewer monuments then Westminster Abbey but the monuments that are there are mostly huge like the monuments to the 1st Duke of Wellington and Lord Horatio Nelson. There is also a tomb of Christopher Wren and a number of important artists are buried here as well.

The most amazing part of the cathedral is the mosaics on the ceiling which were added in 1890 after Queen Victoria complained that there was not enough colour in the cathedral. We really enjoyed our visit and enjoyed spending time with Rachael as she was especially interested in the gold and gilding. She had been told that when we stood in the circle below the dome we should turn around with our eyes closed and make a wish which we all did. Fun! We were unable to go up to the Whispering Gallery as it was closed because a 19-year-old boy fell to his death from there two weeks ago. I had read about it but did not realise where it was until later. We also saw the wall monuments to Florence Nightingale and Sir Winston Churchill.

After lunch, we walked to Monument tube station and took the underground to Tower Hill as we had booked to visit the Tower of London. The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror. We were all keen to visit the Crown Jewels. The queue was long but we joined it and we were only in the queue for about half an hour. Kings and queens of England have stored crowns, robes, and other items of their ceremonial regalia at the Tower of London for over 600 years.

It was amazing to see the jewels, crowns and garments but the highlight was the items made of gold. The Imperial State Crown is the crown that the monarch wears as they leave Westminster Abbey after the coronation and it contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and 4 rubies!  When the crown is requested, it is delivered the night before it is needed to be worn by the Queen. The gold items are often used too and the gold font was most recently used to baptise Meghan Markle before her wedding to Prince Harry.

While the Crown Jewels are real, they are not the 11th-century originals. The Civil War that began in 1642 ended with the execution of Charles I in 1649. After his death, the victorious Parliamentarians ordered the destruction of the Crown Jewels, intent on removing all sacred symbols of monarchy. Precious stones were prized out of the crowns and sold, while the gold frames were sent to the Tower Mint to be melted down and turned into coins stamped ‘Commonwealth of England. When Charles II was crowned King in 1660 the monarchy was restored and all the crowns etc were remade and date from that time.

Later we walked around the 11th-century White Tower to see the Royal Armoury and there we saw the six ravens left in the Tower of London. A superstition holds that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it”. Rachael was especially fascinated by the Ravens.

Some of the first things you see are fine wire statues of lions, monkeys and other animals by Kendra Haste in 2011 and I wondered why. What I did not realise was that it was King John (1166–1216) who first started keeping wild animals at the Tower. There are records of the Royal Menagerie including leopards, a polar bear, a lion, a lynx, wildcats, jackals, hyenas, eagles, owls, baboons and various types of monkeys and a brown bear In 1254 or 1255, Henry III received an African elephant from Louis IX of France depicted by Matthew Paris in his Chronica Majora.

By the 18th-century, the menagerie was open to the public with an admission cost three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions.  In 1828 there were over 280 representing at least 60 species as the new keeper Alfred Copps was actively acquiring animals. In 1831, most of the stock was moved to the London Zoo which had opened in 1828.
After a cup of coffee and a slice of Victoria Cake which we shared near the entrance to Tower Bridge, we walked back to Tower Hill station. Beside the station is a sculpture of a sundial with the events of the story of London since 43AD in the circle around it. This is a large and imposing horizontal dial over 6 metres in diameter. It was constructed of bronze and stone in 1990 by John Chitty and Christopher St Daniel. It depicts scenes of London. The outer ring shows the history of London Transport from the Conquest in 1066 to the building of the Thames Barrier in 1982.
Here there was a multi-cache named “Liberty”. We collected the numbers that we needed, did our sums and found that the final was very nearby. At GZ the GPS would not settle and despite walking across the road to walk it in several times it never did settle. Also, we could not find the hint which was “magnetic, behind the blue church”. Finally, we gave up and as we were walking away we saw the blue church and Mike put his hand right on the cache. Well, that wasn’t so bad and we got to sign a physical cache in London. We gave up our fourth favourite point for the day.
A lovely day spent in a fabulous city with our wonderful daughter.