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Through the Norman arch to the Horse Armoury

Through the Norman arch to the Horse Armoury

Date Sent:   MAY 3 1933     

Sender: Rosalind 

Recipient: Mrs Best, Penbryn, Brecon, South Wales 


Dear Granny 

Yesterday we went to the Tower.  We are going to Whipsnade tomorrow.  We shall be here till Friday, & home on Saturday.   

Lots of love, Rosalind 

Postcards with handwirtten message and red stamp

Rosalind’s beautifully penned postcard to Granny Best dutifully lists her itinerary, but offers no further comment. Her black and white postcard showing the top floor of the White Tower with its line of armoured knights and their wooden steeds was probably bought on site from the stall near the Byward Gate. It’s one of HM Office of Works more imaginative shots with the display viewed through an archway, photogravure courtesy of Harrison & Sons Ltd, whose government printing contracts included Britain’s postage stamps. 

According to the Guidebook the Horse Armoury showed the development of armour from the later 15th century to the reign of Charles I, with Charles’s gilt armour mounted on a horse and figure made by Grinling Gibbons at the far end of the gallery and out of shot. Most of the wooden horses in the display were commissioned in the 1690s for an early refresh of the Tower’s oldest public display.  First recorded on site in 1652 and with the occasional revamp, the Horse Armoury was still going strong.  The lighting in the gallery had recently been improved to enable the main objects to be highlighted – a detail overlooked by most visitors.  The mounted figures continued to pack a punch as they rode out of the gloom towards the onlooker.  Hopefully, Rosalind got the wow factor. She probably didn’t know that the Tower had also had a zoo, breeding its own lions, so she was going from one of the oldest established visitor attractions in the country to one of the newest.  Whipsnade Wildlife Park opened in 1931, and its famous lion carved into the chalk of Dunstable Downs had just been completed the previous month. 

A sphotograph through a stone arch showing a dispaly of armour in sepia on a postcard.

For anyone wanting to follow in Rosalind’s footsteps today, the good news is you won’t have as many stairs to climb.  The horses from the Horse Armoury now meet and greet on the White Tower’s Entrance Floor, and Charles’s gilt armour, now on foot is in the same gallery.  Come and see for yourself when the Tower re-opens on 19th May. Unfortunately, it will cost you slightly more than Rosalind’s concessionary threepence ticket (or nine pence if she included the Bloody Tower and Crown Jewels). 

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