Royal Armouries

Gebhard Wendeborn’s visit to the Tower in the 1780s

Images

Print of visitors looking at displays of armour

‘The Horse Armoury in the Tower’ by Thomas Rowlandson , engraving published 1 January 1800 by Rudolf Ackermann, 101 Strand © Royal Armouries 2013

  • Print of visitors looking at displays of armour

    ‘The Horse Armoury in the Tower’ by Thomas Rowlandson , engraving published 1 January 1800 by Rudolf Ackermann, 101 Strand © Royal Armouries 2013

  • monochrome engraving of an armour with a helmet with curly horns

    The figure of Will Somers engraved in 1794

  • monochrome engraving of a display of the Crown Jewels

    Engraving of the Jewel House, Tower of London

  • typed page from a guidebook of the Tower of London

    An Historical Description of the Tower of London and its Curiosities, printed for Newberry and Carnan, London, 1768

  • typed page from a guidebook of the Tower of London

    An Historical Description of the Tower of London and its Curiosities, printed for Newberry and Carnan, London, 1768

  • typed title page from a guidebook of the Tower of London

    An Historical Description of the Tower of London and its Curiosities, printed for Newberry and Carnan, London, 1768

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Edward III

    Carved wooden head of Edward III. English, about 1688-90 (XVII.41)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.7)

Gebhard Wendeborn’s visit to the Tower in the 1780s

Description

Gebhard Friedrich August Wendeborn (1742-1811) was born in Germany but came to Britain at the age of twenty five and spent the next twenty five years as the minister to a German community in London. During this time he wrote on a variety of subjects and in about 1785 published a two-volume account of England as he had observed it, written in German to provide a first-hand account for those living in the German states. The first volume contains a chapter on the sights of London, including the Tower.

When it appeared that an English version of this work was being prepared, Wendeborn undertook to translate it himself in order that his precise meaning was not lost. His edition in English was first published in 1791. Wendeborn also wrote on various other subjects including the German language.

His account of the Tower recognises the importance that the site had achieved as one of London’s greatest visitor attractions in the 18th century. His account is brief because, as he notes, the Tower is well served by guidebooks for those wanting detailed information:

‘The Tower of London, with its curiosities, is one of those places, which by strangers, who come to see this metropolis, are generally visited among the first. Not only foreigners, but the country people also when they are possessed of any curiosity, flock to the Tower, to stare at the wild beasts, to be agreeably surprised by the sight of the horse armoury, and to be dazzled on viewing the crown-jewels by dim candle-light, shewn by a woman behind some rails, who recites her lesson faster than a nun repeats her psalms. The English money is coined in the Tower, which is done with astonishing expedition. … I need not mention that, state prisoners are kept within the Tower and that many illustrious persons, who have been beheaded, are buried in the church which is there’.

Related Objects

The Foreigner’s Guide and the Horse Armory, 1729 Click on the title link above to find out more.

John Newbery’s Historical Description and the Horse Armoury Click on the title link above to find out more.

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