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sword with gilt hilt and guard

Sword of George Keate Esq. given to him in 1777 by his old friend the Chevalière d’Éon. Object no: IX.2034A

Physical description

This sword has a gilt copper-alloy boat-shell hilt. The pommel is ovoid with a long tang button and moulded stand. The knuckle bow and straight quillons are of lozenge section and flare at the terminals, the rear quillon retaining its lozenge shape and the fore quillon, extending from the lower edge of the knuckle guard, emerges in square section. The top of the knuckle guard is screwed to the side of the pommel. The boat-shell hilt has a heart-shaped stool, which is plain on the inside with an embossed central section, and a shell-shaped motif at the rear. There is a large groove at the tapered front end of the hilt, through which the fore quillon passes. The underside of the hilt is decorated with pierced scale work. The grip is wooden and wrapped in silver wire. The sword retains a blade leather washer.

The straight blade is double edged and tapers to a spear point. At the forte is a wide, shallow, central fuller. Approximately 160 mm from the hilt the fuller is replaced by a wide flat plane with bevelled edges. The blade is engraved with the maker’s mark and two different decorative motifs on each side. It is also inlaid on the outside with an inscription in gold.

Two views of the sword's gilt hilt showing pierced decoration on the outside and smooth on the inside

Stool has decorative piercing on the outside but is smooth on the inside. Inscriptions are seen on both sides of the blade.

Materials

Techniques

Dimensions

Inscriptions

Gilt inlaid inscription

Original: ‘Donne par la Chevalïere d’Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777’
Translation: Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777

Detail of sword blade with inscription "Donne par la Chevalïere d'Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777"

Inscription translates as “Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777”

Production

Dates

Place

Acquisition

Purchased from an individual in 1980.

Provenance

Unknown

Notes

The blade maker, Lourenco Carvalho, was active as a lance and sword maker in Lisbon in the 1640s. This sword may have been constructed in its current form in 1777, corresponding to the inscription. The hilt appears to be a Norman type 113 hilt, in use from around 1720, and similar to the British 1796 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Dress sword of the late 18th and early 19th century. The presentation sword has the addition of decorative shell piercings under the hilt, similar to other surviving examples made by English cutlers Bland, and Bland and Foster. However, these other examples are later than 1777, for example, see object number RCIN 61379 currently in the Royal Collection, dated 1780-87.

The sword was presented by the Chevalière d’Éon to George Keate, most likely the writer and poet (1729 – 1797), and friend of Voltaire.

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810), also known as the Chevalier d’Éon, and as the Chevalière d’Éon, was a French soldier, diplomat, and spy. D’Éon worked for both Louis XV and Louis XVI, serving in Russia and joining Louis XV’s, private league of diplomats known as the ‘secret du roi’. D’Éon was awarded the Order of Saint Louis, and the title ‘Chevalier’, in 1763.

D’Éon visited London as part of the French embassy and published secret correspondence which revealed corruption within the French government. D’Éon eventually settled in London, living openly as a woman, and establishing a highly successful career in fencing.

Bibliography

Addressing a group at a trans workshop
Kit Heyam delivering an Interactive history game about la Chevalière d’Éon’s life.

Hidden Histories

As part of Leeds 2023 Hidden Histories pilot project, we worked with historian Kit Heyam, and artist and researcher Luna Morgana to facilitate a session with the local trans community to review the Chevalière d’Éon Sword through a different lens.

Read Hidden Histories: reviewing ‘The Chevalière d’Éon Sword’ with our trans community and discover more about the session with the group from Trans Leeds and Non-Binary Leeds and the “zine” that they created inspired by the Chevalière d’Éon Sword.

Date Sent:    19 AUG 1954

Sender: Margret

Recipient: Mr Jack Gallagher, 5 Hampshire Way, South Shields.

Transcript:

Dear Jack!

We arrived very good in London.  We stay now in Croyden [sic].  It is very nice in London.  Today we have been by the Tower Bridge and I have visite [sic] penpal in Catford. Now I am tired.

Best wishes and heaps of love

Your Margret!

Back of The Tower Bridge postcard. Message to Jack from Margaret.

To 21st century teenagers connected to the wider world at the touch of a button, the idea of pen pals must seem rather quaint. When the internet allows global gaming from the comfort of your own room unfettered by language barriers, composing a letter in beginner’s French, Spanish or German is indeed an alien concept.

For the 1950s youngster a clutch of penpals promised an experience of life elsewhere.  Postcards were the ideal medium offering a professionally taken picture and restricted space to practise newly acquired language skills. Presumably Margret was not venturing as far north as South Shields to see Jack in person, but her Croydon base afforded access to the capital’s sights without having to pay London prices.

The Tower Bridge on a coloured postcard

Raphael Tuck & Sons post card captures a sunny picture of “The Tower Bridge” in action over a busy river.  The Tuch family – Raphael, Ernestine and their seven children (four sons and three daughters) moved to England in 1865 escaping the fallout from Prussian expansionism. Initially Raphael dealt in furniture and picture-framing, but when his sons Adolph, Herman and Gustave joined the family business, the picture side took over.   Adolph guided the fine art publishing to its first Royal Warrant in 1893, an appointment carried through each successive reign.  In 1894 Tuck’s produced their first post card rising to become the largest post card publisher in the world. Margret’s card bears the new Queen’s stamp but was probably produced in 1952-3 as it is styled “The Art Publishers by Appointment to the late King George VI”.   Raphael died in March 1900 and his grandson Desmond’s retirement in 1959 marked the end of family’s direct involvement in the firm.

Margret’s postcard features a lost aspect of the Tower Wharf – a front seat view of the river perched atop one of the cannon.  Tower Wharf was constructed to facilitate movement of war materials from stores within the site to equip English forces fighting in France during the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453 – but who’s counting?).  As the offices of Ordnance and Armoury responsible for this function expanded and demanded additional space, the Wharf accommodated spare cannon and workshops as well as a defensive battery.  Tuck’s cannon may well have graced the Grand Storehouse displays in the Tower’s inner ward until their fiery destruction in 1841 and then formed the Gun Park west of the White Tower. In 1916 the Tower Armouries Curator concerned by “atmospheric and chemical deterioration” moved the cannon he considered more interesting and delicate to the Basement of the White Tower.  The remainder found themselves multi-tasking on the Wharf providing a kids’ assault course, convenient lunch-time restaurant for City workers and general riverside seating.  In 1996 the majority were to the Royal Armouries’ artillery outstation at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth.  Today two naval cannon and two mortars are all that remain.

Date Sent:  12 AUG 1924

Sender: Vinnie (?)

Recipient: Mrs C Robinson 33, Landsdowne Street, Burnley, Lanc.

Transcript:

Having a lovely time.  Just off to Wembley for the day.  Went to see G Robey in “Leap Year” last night was very good. We leave for Eastbourne Wed. or Thursday.

Best Love Jennie

A hand written letter with two green stamps

It seems more than coincidence that in the week that Tower Bridge stuck open (Monday 10th August) this week’s pre-selected Postcard from the Tower features the very same bridge in faultless action 97 years earlier. Even more ironic that this version of the image was published as part of Valentine’s “British Manufacture” Series.  As is customary with Valentine’s photographs it is numbered (43871) and with the accompanying encircled initials ‘JV’.

A corner of the White Tower, rather more of the Main Guard (post 1900 model) and the Wharf lurk behind the one bascule, thus justifying the card’s inclusion in this series. But our correspondent – Vinnie, or perhaps a somewhat convoluted Jennie? (Memo, pick cards with clear signatures in the future) – makes no reference to a Tower visit.  Presumably the view was chosen as generic and instantly recognisable enough to symbolise their whole London trip.

A coloured image of Tower Bridge

The paddle steamer passing under Tower Bridge is the London Belle. Built in 1893 by Denny Brothers of Dumbarton, she was the largest of the Belle steamers’ fleet carrying passengers to and around the east coast stopping at the piers along the way.  Her main route was London to Clacton, but she was prone to running aground near Clacton Pier’s shallows. From 1916 she was requisitioned for mine sweeping duties, and from spring 1919 – summer 1920 acted as a hospital carrier to the White Sea, Northern Russia. After a brief spell in private ownership, she returned to Thames’ duties in 1923 until the end of the 1928 season.  She was scrapped in 1929. Want to know more about the Belle steamers? Do try http://paddlesteamers.info/BelleSteamers.htm

As with many London trips in 1924, the prime draw was the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, offering exotic pavilions, an amusement park and a window onto the wider world, all bundled onto a 216-acre site in north-west London. Vinnie’s Monday evening trip to “Leap Year” at the London Hippodrome, starring the Prime Minister of Mirth himself – former music hall star George Robey – was the perfect curtain raiser to Tuesday’s Wembley outing. Set across South Africa, Canada and Australia, the revue was staged with the exhibition’s tourists as target audience.  Julian Wylie knew his market and the show ran for 471 performances. Paul Chesney’s cover oozes glamour – see for yourself http://www.creative-me.co.uk/programme-cover-leap-year-1924-9349767.html .  Looks as if recuperation in Eastbourne was definitely called for.

Date Sent:    08 AUG 1957

Sender:  Jean

Recipient: Mrs P Anderson Northtown, Tumlin[sic], Bixter, Shetland Is

Transcript:

Having a nice time here & we’ve never seen any rain since we came. We have been up in the city to-day having a look at the shops & have been invite out to see television to-night. Last night Bob and Anna took us to see some places of interest, lovely with all the lights.

Lots love from Jean

Hand written postcard with red stamp

Jean’s postcard is the classic view of the Tower from the south. The White Tower rises majestically above the tree line dominating the skyline realising perfectly William the Conqueror’s vision of power architecture – it’s only a pity that he never lived to see it himself. To one side, 10 Trinity Square looks admiringly on. Very much the newcomer, it was opened in 1922 as the Port of London Authority’s headquarters.

The trees are in full leaf, suggesting summer, and camouflage the stone defences. The conqueror’s castle appears a sylvan oasis amid the urban landscape. Ecologically it continues to defend the capital, providing green lungs to overcome a deadly unseen enemy beyond William’s wildest dreams – pollution.

A view of the white tower surrounded by trees from accross the river

For those of you following these Tower postcards, the view might seem familiar – we’ve featured 3 versions so far – each slightly different. If you click on Postcards from the Tower of London | Royal Armouries you’ll find cards posted on 25 December 1905 (a Christmas card with a difference), 18 June 1920 and an “official” Ministry of Works view taken looking down from Tower Bridge and sent 13 May 1955. Today’s card is confirmed as post-1939 by the pillbox at the east end of the Wharf – a 20th century re-enforced defence against river borne attackers which remained on duty until its demolition in 1959.  Its destruction restored the traditional riverside view of the Tower, but in retrospect is a pity removing as it did a valid piece of the site’s history. The decision is understandable as the country determined to move forward from war, but arguably it was as significant as any previous modifications illustrating how the Tower has adapted to varied challenges over the centuries. Today, as the legacy of the last war’s defences continue to be eroded it might well have survived?

Jean on her London trip was no doubt blissfully unaware of such considerations – it’s not clear if she actually paid her shilling entrance fee to the Tower to look round the site, plus an additional shilling ticket if she wanted to peer at the Crown Jewels in their steel vault in the Wakefield Tower.  Her shopping trip and the invite to an evening’s TV seem to have made more of an impression. Today when most homes have at least one television set and a bountiful selection of channels, 1957’s black and white, two channel evening schedule seems very modest. Television sets remained a luxury item with broadcasting ending after the 10.45pm news.

Date Sent:     09 AUG 1949

Sender:  Gwen

Recipient: Miss N Clayton  11, Mt. Pleasant Road, Newton Abbott, Devon

Transcript:

Many thanks for letters and swee[ts?]. We had a lovely day at the Tower with H&W. I suggested that they came with us to see Uncle Ben next day. H advised against it as being a dreadful journey.  We have seen very few people.  Kevin came to dinner last night. Nothing left on S’s card, Nellie, except Bacon which I can get on Sat. It is in worktable, I think. Love from Gwen and all.

A hand written postcardw ith four green stamps

Gwen and family are enjoying their August holiday in London sending an atmospheric postcard from the Tower to Nellie back home in Newton Abbot. Even in black and white, the Wakefield Tower is bathed in sunshine, with the darkened doorway under the Bloody Tower on one side and St Thomas’s Tower opposite. Shrouded in gloom it lives up to its more familiar name of Traitor’s Gate. Through the central archway Tower life goes on with distant figures chatting, while in the foreground a lone Yeoman Warder stands duty enjoying his summer’s day. It is a tranquil scene, with a sense of timelessness.  The patina of history is provided by the grime of Victorian London coating the stone walls.

But the shadow of the War still lingers.  The Ministry of Works was set up in 1940 to manage the requisitioning of property for war-time use.  After the war, its brief expanded and in the process it took over care of ancient monuments, including the Tower of London. It also became the site’s official post card generator.

A sepia image of tower walls

1940 also saw the introduction of food rationing which was still very much a fact of domestic life nine years later.  Fruit and vegetables were never officially rationed, but their availability effectively served the same purpose. From 27 April 1945, the weekly bacon ration was cut from 4 ounces to 3 (113 to 85gm) while the cooking fat allowance was halved. In July 1949 questions were asked in Parliament about increasing the bacon ration in light of more supplies becoming available, but meat rationing continued for a further six years until its lifting in July 1954.

Gwen’s comment on seeing very few people might be practical too, influenced by rationing.  Stretching resources to keep the family fuelled was hard work at the best of times, let alone on holiday. Hopefully Kevin kept this in mind coming for dinner, so Gwen was spared having to impose the FHB rule. Bearing such constraints in mind, Nellie’s gift of sweets to the holiday makers was even more generous.  They were still rationed – another three summer holiday seasons would pass before sweets came off ration in February 1953.

Date Sent:  29 JUL 1949

Sender: Agnes & Will

Recipient: Mrs J Binns, Shephards [sic] Farm, Ikncornshaw [Ickornshaw], Cowling, Yorkshire

Transcript:

Dear Edie & all

Just a card wondering how you all are, have you heard anything about your hand let me know soon. Love from Agnes & Will.

Hand written postcard with red stamp

Agnes and Will’s postcard pencilled from Peckham is brief and to the point.  A picture of the Tower of London is always a good messenger, but dating the image is a real challenge. Sometime between 1928 and 1949 is a little vague.

Lutyen’s First World War Mercantile Marine Memorial unveiled in 1928 stands alone in the foreground – its Second World War companion still to be added. The horse drawn cart emerging from behind the trees recalls late Victorian views. However, it is not the anachronism it first appears. Haulage firms were investing in fleets of trucks by the 1920s, but some breweries retained their horse-drawn drays for local deliveries into the last decade of the twentieth century. So, in the absence of any other vehicles for comparison and the unhelpful arboreal camouflage, not much mileage there.

Sepia image of the Tower of London and tower brdige with text The Tower and Twoer Bridge, London

The angle of the shot, presumably taken from the roof of the Port of London Authority Building opened in 1922, manages to conceal the most easily identified of the Tower’s battle scars – stopping short of the North Bastion on the outer wall destroyed in October 1940.  Trees cloak where the shell of the Main Guard gutted by fire from incendiary bombs dropped that December might still stand. The potential chimneys above the canopy are in fact the funnels of the ship passing through Tower Bridge’s raised bascules. Tower Hill, also the victim of extensive bomb damage, is just out of shot. Meanwhile, the slice of moat visible does not appear to have been commandeered as allotments as the area south of the site next to the Wharf was.  Nor does the better quality of the card help – throughout the war and its aftermath old stock had happily been dug out and re-circulated.

I’m sure that Mrs Binns didn’t care about such details – the view is recognisably the Tower and Tower Bridge.  Her friends’ concern was far more important.  As to the back story – was it Edie’s hand that was injured – or as Shepherds Farm is involved, does it refer to one of the farm workers? We can only hope that one of the many Yorkshire Binns can cast further light on the matter.

Date Sent:   14 JY 1910     

Sender: B. 

Recipient: Mr William Young,  Oakwood, Chorley New Road, Bolton 

Transcript:  

To wish you very many happy returns of tomorrow when I hope to send a better remembrance with much love & regret that it did not go earlier. 

Hand written postcard with a green stamp

B’s intentions were undoubtedly very honourable in sending last minute birthday wishes to William, but are rather undermined by the messenger. It’s a pity that this Shurey’s postcard was all that came to hand. Were it not labelled ‘Tower of London’ most recipients would probably not recognise this view of the castle inner ward. The cannon in the Gun Park are visible, but the iconic White Tower lurks in deep shadow obscured by a tree. The Parade occupies the middle ground with the Waterloo Barracks to the north, and  Officer’s Quarters – today the HQ of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – fill the eastern horizon.  Various figures lurk in the distance – are the group in the top corner a tourist party? – while a horse and carriage wait patiently by the far steps. Might the white, slightly pyramidal shapes in front of the Officer’s Quarters be a polite gathering of crinolinded ladies? Sadly, the resolution is poor, and given the nature of the site and the regularity of the arrangement, they are more probably another group of cannon.  

View of the towers grounds on a postcard

Truth is, the quality of reproduction is mediocre, to say the least.  It provides an interesting insight into colour printing (scanning the original has been kind to it), but the colourist has had a bad day.  Not only is the White Tower red, but the Parade has become a grassy lawn rather than a marching surface. So much for Shurey’s publications claim to offer a “beautiful … Fine Art Post Card”. Perhaps they should have words with their card publishers Delittle, Fenwick & Co of York – if this is an example of their “Defco- Chrome” process, it leaves much to be desired.  

Known as inserts, these cards were given away free, lodged between the pages of the publications they were designed to advertise throughout Great Britain, the Colonies and Foreign Countries. 

Even B acknowledged the deficiencies of the post card, and we can only guess what constituted “a better remembrance”.  Might it have been Shurey’s generated too? Somehow  “Smart Novels”, “Yes or No” or “Dainty Novels”  don’t seem appropriate for an 18-year-old engineering apprentice.  In 1910 twenty -one was the significant coming of age birthday, but no doubt Dr James Young, Physician and Surgeon, his wife Annie Elizabeth and younger daughters Charlotte and Annie, celebrated William’s birthday in style.  

Date Sent:  10 July 1941      

Sender: Winston Fricker 

Recipient:  Mrs W P Fricker, ‘Fairhaven’, Templecombe, Somerset 

Transcript:  

Dear D 

I am in Stranraer train waiting to move out.  It is very hot and close, but I am feeling alright, I trust that you are alright.  Will send Telegram as arranged in the morning. G.B.Y. Your loving husband Winston 

A hand written postcard with no stamp

The Tower closed to general visitors on 26 August 1939, reopening to the public 1 January 1946.  The Armouries’ White Tower displays were classed as National Art Treasures and discussions regarding their safe storage in the event of war had begun in 1933. Packing cases had been arriving on site since January 1939 although Armouries’ records show that packing started officially on Friday 25 August. By Saturday 26 the first cases were on their way to Hall Barn, Beaconsfield with an overnight stop at Harrods’ Knightsbridge Depository.  Unfortunately, the packing cases were designed to accommodate the collection rather than the capacity of the Knightsbridge stairs and after the first trip vans went straight to Hall Barn.   This initial evacuation was completed on 25 September with the delivery of “2 bales of wood wool, 2 gallons oil, 3lbs Vaseline,1 broom and 1 hand brush”. Five Armouries’ men were seconded as guards causing administrative problems as the shortage of local long-term accommodation incurred higher subsistence rates.  Material from the Wallace collection was also stored there – the common factor being James Mann, who was both Master of the Armouries and Keeper of the Wallace Collection.  

Tower of London marked postcard showing the tower ground and tower bridge in the background

Winston’s postcard shows the Tower at the outbreak of war.  By the time of posting the site was scarred by bomb damage following notable raids in 1940, and the Tower Armouries staff reduced from its 1939 compliment of 17 men to 11 – split between London, Beaconsfield and Caernarfon.  The White Tower now provided dormitory accommodation and recreational facilities for service personnel, even staging a production of “Once A Crook” in March 1941.  From June garrison dances were added.  A small exhibition of arms and armour assembled in the Sword Room (today First Floor East) “to interest visiting troops being shown the Chapel of St John” was all that remained of the former displays. 

Winston was off to Stranraer, a focus for anti – U boat activity to protect and keep open vital shipping lanes through the North Channel. Most of Britain’s shipping imports passed through this area bound for the Clyde or Mersey. Might ‘Dear D’ be Dorothy May, nee Stacey, who married 26-year-old Winston Percy Fricker in July 1939 at Wincanton, Somerset? The 1939 England and Wales Register records 28-year-old Dorothy M Stacey, her surname ruled through and corrected to ‘FRICKER’, living with her ageing parents Ernest and Alice at ‘Fairhaven’, Wincanton. Her profession is given as glovemaker.  Anyone out there able to enlighten us and let us know how Winston got on in his Scottish posting? 

Date Sent:    July 4 1924    

Sender:  Helena 

Recipient: Miss Higson 225, Margaret St, Ashton-u-Lyme, Lanc 

Transcript:  

Dear E 

Had a champion week here.  Lovely weather. I am afraid I shall do a weep when I have to return.  The Exhibition is splendid. 

Love Helena. 

Hand written postcard with red stamp

Helena’s splendid exhibition was presumably the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley launched in April 1924.  The re-vamped 1925 Exhibition has already appeared in this series as Doris also chose a Tower postcard to send home recording her experience. 

Helena’s postcard features a group of Yeoman Warders artfully arranged over a cannon – if you look very hard you can see the rims of the carriage wheels and one of the linchpins securing them. A cannon was traditionally stationed inside the Byward Tower gateway ready to repel attack from the west.  The cannon-shaped bollard embedded beside it is more of a puzzle.  Looking at other images it has moved inside the wooden pillar it was presumably supposed to defend, and unlike many of its predecessors – and successors – appears to be a decorative casting rather than a recycled redundant piece of ordnance. Later replacements moved back to defend the corner turn into Mint Street. 

A group of Yeoman warders have their photo taken

There is a theory that a Yeoman Warder gene exists, and the Body, as they are collectively known, is timeless. Undoubtedly many visitors see only the uniform – in this case undress dark blue worn on working days rather than the ceremonial red and gold state dress.  Gale and Polden were the unofficial recorders of the site at this time, issuing postcard sets of standard Tower images. We are fortunate in having access to a Yeoman Warder photograph album compiled between 1893 -1916 naming the individuals and giving some details of their service. Invaluable as it is, identifying Yeoman Warders when not in the same pose as their record shot is more difficult than it might appear.  Glass eyes (yes there are a notable few) and obvious distinguishing features help, as do fashions in facial hair, but the unwaxed droopy moustaches modelled here simply suggest the second decade of the 20th century.  The seated figure is Chief Yeoman Warder George Slocombe while behind him, to his right, stands his deputy, Yeoman Gaoler Alexander Smoker. Slocombe was Chief from 1914 -1918 handing over to Smoker. The rather chubby chap to their right looks very much like YW Baldry, who served from 1916, which suggests the photograph was taken between 1916 -1918.  Unlike the 1939-45 conflict, the Tower remained open to the public throughout the First World War. Obviously, Gale and Polden in common with many postcard manufacturers relied on people recognising the uniform and overlooking the detail, and Helena was not alone in buying an out-of-date card.  Smoker became the longest serving Chief to date, remaining 25 years in office thereby presumably justifying the continued sale of the image. 

Date Sent:  30 JUNE 1963      

Sender: Mother & Dad 

Recipient: Mr & Mrs J K Whitaker, 121 Regent Road, Morecambe, Lancs 

Transcript: My dear B & K, 

Hope you are all very well.  Have just returned from London after another grand day.  Think we shall return on Tuesday. 

All send love to you all 

Mother & Dad 

A handwritten postcard with a red and a blue stamp

William the Conqueror chose to build his White Tower overlooking the Thames’ deepest inland waters accessible to larger ships. Conveniently it also dominated the approach to the City of London, London’s commercial heart, and he could capitalise on earlier defensive works left behind by the Romans. Originally serviced by a small quay to the west of the site, the demands of supplying English forces fighting abroad in the Hundred Years’ war (1340 – 1453 – what’s an extra 13 years between foes?) led to the creation of the wharf as we know it today.  Mother and Dad were probably unaware of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s personal involvement in the project in his day job as Richard II’s Clerk of the King’s Works, and it was the cannon and Yeoman Warder which decided their postcard choice. 

Cannon have been a feature of the Tower Wharf for many centuries – both for defence against river borne attack and a convenient storage place prior to despatch to equip British forces globally.  Numbers dwindled after the Board of Ordnance’s collapse in 1856 and lessening of the Tower’s role as ordnance storehouse.  Today the Honourable Artillery Company bring their own guns to the Wharf on specific state occasions, but in the past, having the cannon to hand, Tower gun salutes were a much more regular occurrence. The guns shown in this post card were relative newcomers, arriving there in 1916.  Many were survivors of the Grand Storehouse fire of October 1841, having spent the intervening seventy-four years as the Gun Park in the shadow of the west face of the White Tower. They were the plain jane’s of the collection – their more glamorous sisters treated to accommodation in the White Tower as concern grew that the weather was affecting their  inscriptions and decoration (1916 Guidebook, p.19 Tower Guide – Tower Armouries in the White Tower – Royal Armouries collections). 

Postcard of a row of Cannons with tourists and a Yeoman warder behind them

Anyone following in mother and Dad’s footsteps today will find the Wharf once again denuded, with only 2 naval cannon and 2 mortars – albeit one very large one – remaining.  And the rest? The White Tower Basement still houses a number, with the odd one in the galleries above, and a further 25 are scattered about the site. The remainder relocated in 1996 with the Royal Armouries’ move to Leeds and the opening of the museum’s artillery outstation at Fort Nelson, overlooking Portsmouth.  

Blog link (RS): #Watford #Morecambe #Artillery #Cannon #Ordnance #White Tower #William the Conqueror #Normans #Geoffrey Chaucer #Honourable Artillery Company #City of London #Tower of London #Fort Nelson #Portsmouth