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The colourist strikes again! Unusual view of the Tower inner ward.

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A slight change in tack this week, as this postcard is “vintage” but never actually posted. No back story, but an invaluable snapshot of the site in the 1880s.  

Tower of london with tree in forground

Valentine and Sons were one of the most prolific postcard publishers until the early 1960s.  Originating in Dundee in 1825 producing engraved blocks for linen printing, James junior (the original son) expanded into pictorial stationery and stereo cards, while also acquiring a reputation as a landscape photographer – and a useful back catalogue of negatives.  The “Valentine Series” identification accompanied the standard size postcard introduced in 1899, and Valentines claimed to be the first publisher to introduce cards with the picture covering the entire front – an innovation accompanying the divided back post September 1902. Previously address and message were strictly separated with the message and image squashed on one side, address on the other.   

Valentines offered a wide range of cards, but the bulk of their production was devoted to the view card. The front of the card is often numbered followed by the initial’s JV within a circle as on this card. 

Blank postcard

If the form of the card suggests a date of about 1902 or after, the image is earlier – probably early 1880s.  The colourist seems to have overlooked the view’s title – presumably added later – rendering the White Tower a blushing brick edifice. The cannon evacuated from the Grand Storehouse during the great fire of October 1841 still lie next to the White Tower, and the castellated waiting room of the New Horse Armoury can clearly be seen adjacent to its south face. This is a rare photographic image, as the building was cleared, its contents moved into the upper floors of the White Tower by 1883. Its demolition followed.  Next to it the corner of the original Main Guard awaits its remodelling of 1898, and in the very distance, the old Ordnance office appears unaware of its imminent demise.  

In the foreground, the cheval de frises are clearly visible.  Portable, spiked structures originally developed to fend off cavalry charges, they are deployed here for Victorian crowd control corralling visitors along set routes. The plane trees are still quite young and not as heavily pollarded as today. A popular 19th C urban planting, their flaking bark protected the main trunk from the harmful effects of pollution and allowed them to thrive where others failed. 

Anyone else notice that the first window on the White Tower entrance floor seems to be missing a pane?  Does the fact that the upper storey windows are open actually help us date the card – the public were welcomed into the top floor displays of the White Tower from 1883, and on a hot summer’s day (the trees are in leaf) some fresh air would be welcome.   

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