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The Gateway Bloody Tower – H E Tidmarsh

Date Sent:    04 Sep 1904

Sender: Anon

Recipient: Mrs Kingston, Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork, Ireland


Hope you enjoyed your trip.

A hand written postcard with a green stamp

Henry Edward Tidmarsh produced 13 views of the Tower of London for the publishers Cassell & Co Ltd which were reproduced in June 1904’s Cassell’s Magazine. They also formed two of the thirteen six-postcard sets launched by the company that year. The great advantage of a painted view over a photographic one lay in its longevity as it could remain on sale as “art” – hence Cassell’s Art Postcards.

The details of Mrs Kingston’s trip remain shrouded in mystery – as does the identity of her well-wisher.  Perhaps her destination was the Tower itself?  However, since postcards served as an economic means of communication it may just been a convenient and cheerful messenger. Having said that, the front of the card is dated 31-08-04, but the post mark reads 9:30 AM / SP 3, which suggests it took a leisurely route to the post box.

A painting of a castle gateway with a guard adn young woman. The gateway to the bloody tower

For all its dark associations, Tidmarsh’s Bloody Tower Gateway is quite jolly. The creeping tree is artistic licence – photographs of the period show the creepers confined within railings and ending before this point. Modern conservation has seen their surreptitious eradication in the interests of preserving the historic fabric, with only empty cages remaining today. However, he has accurately recorded the iron mooring link set into the side of the gate – a reminder that the Thames once ran along Water Lane.  The Yeoman Warder in the foreground wears half State Dress – red and gold coatee, undress navy trousers, with single red stripe, and rosetted hat – suggesting it might be a gun firing day. His military pedigree is reflected in his “full set” of facial hair, ie beard and moustache, typical of the period. The steps of the Main Guard can just be seen beyond the gate, while in the far distance stairs lead to the Parade, north of the White Tower. Families and uniformed soldiers mingle, and centre stage a young lady in three quarter length skirt and white blouse sports a fashionably large hat, suggesting that her white parasol is for show, or self-defence.  The popular press of the day took a keen interest in the latter, publishing helpful illustrated articles demonstrating how a lady could weaponize her umbrella against a dastardly male attacker.

As in the rest of the exterior scenes in this series, avian interest is supplied by fluttering pigeons, rather than the Tower’s more famous ravens.

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