Royal Armouries

Ned Ward’s Humorous Account of the Tower as a Visitor Attraction

Images

monochrome engraving of a man in a long wig above an inscription

Edward Ward by Michael Vandergucht, line engraving, published 1710 © National Portrait Gallery, London 2013

  • monochrome engraving of a man in a long wig above an inscription

    Edward Ward by Michael Vandergucht, line engraving, published 1710 © National Portrait Gallery, London 2013

  • monochrome photo of a large armoured codpiece from an armour of Henry VIII

    Codpiece of armour of Henry VIII. English, Greenwich, 1540 (II.8)

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

    The figure of Will Somers engraved in 1794

  • colour photo of a giant armour and a boy's armour

    Overall view of the 'Giant' and boy's armours. (II.22 & II.126)

  • colour photo of Henry VIII's armour with decorated banding

    Armour of Henry VIII. English, Greenwich, 1540 (II.8)

Ned Ward’s Humorous Account of the Tower as a Visitor Attraction

Description

Ned (Edward) Ward (1667-1731) was a satirical writer who published his best-known work, The London Spy, in eighteen monthly parts from November 1698. The thirteenth instalment gives a detailed description of a visit to the Tower, including the Horse Armoury, in Ward’s highly personal style.

‘We went in to the first gate of the Tower, where a parcel of lazy red-coats were loitering about like so many City bull-dogs [sherriff’s officers] at the Poultry Compter.
…we moved toward the second gate. Here a parcel of bulky warders in old-fashion’d lac’d jackets, and velvet flat caps hung about with divers coloured ribbons, like a fool’s hat upon a holiday, looked as fierce as a file of Artillery ale-drapers, …
We had no sooner made a nimbler step than ordinary beyond the port-cullis … but one of these brawny beef-and-pudding-eating janizaries demanded whither we were going. … They told us we could not be admitted to gratify our desires without we took a warder with us; which we found we were forced to consent to … we agreed to pass by [the Train of Artillery], and adjourn to the Horse armoury whither we ordered our guide to conduct us accordingly.
When we were come to the door there stood ready to receive us two or three smug-faced Vulcans, …
After our guide … had given a caution to the smutty interpreter of this raree-show to tell us with certitude the names of his glittering troop of superficial heroes, the spokesman introduced us among the monumental shells of our deceas’d princes, which only by the common hands shin’d bright in memory of those that wore ‘em. As we gently mov’d along and viewed the princely scarecrows, he told us to whom each suit of armour did belong originally, adding some memorandums out of history to every empty iron-side; some true, some false, supplying that with invention which he wanted in memory. …
In our circular progress around these men of metal mounted on wooden horses, we came to the armour of John of Gaunt, …
As we were thus amongst the relics of our ancient kings and generals, I could not forbear reflecting on some appearances before me, till I fancy’d myself sunk into Death’s subterranean territories where the just and the wicked, by the impartial Skeleton, are equally respected. …
Whilst I was thus making myself uneasy with these melancholy thoughts, we were advanced to the armour of Will Summers, the jester, to which they had added an ill-favour’d face with horns upon his head, and upon his nose a pair of spectacles, upon which our jocular commentator was pleased thus merrily to discant. …
The next subject he began to enlarge upon was King Henry the Eighth’s codpiece, … From thence we pass’d by several princes’ armour, of which nothing was deliver’d but a bare name, till we had completed our round and came again to the door. This being the conclusion of this warlike opera, we paid our money and made our exit, …’.

Related Objects

Will Somers’ Breastplate Click on the title link above to find out more.

Object number: III.157

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

Armour of King Henry VIII Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1539 | Object number: Formerly II.9

Field Armour, the 'Giant' Armour Click on the title link above to find out more.

Dates from 1540 | Object number: II.22

‘Jacky Curious’ explores the Tower Armouries Click on the title link above to find out more.

Samuel Richardson describes a young woman’s first visit to the Tower of London Click on the title link above to find out more.

Laurence Sterne: the Horse Armoury and Tristram Shandy Click on the title link above to find out more.

Jonathan Swift on a visit to the Tower, Bedlam and a Puppet Show Click on the title link above to find out more.

Themes Menu

Line of Kings