|Outside the Tower with Nana, 1955|
It would have been I think in the summer of 1955 and Nana would have been on one of her all too infrequent visits to London from Derby.
This will have been the first time I visited the place and pretty much set me on a love affair with the Tower which I have never lost.
Within a few years of this picture, I was doing the trip on a Saturday with anyone who would come with me and often on my own.
The journey began at Queens Road railway station which was an adventure all in itself.
The platform was up a tall flight of stairs past a nondescript booking counter which even then seemed past its best, and from the cracks in the wooden boards of the platform you could see down to the ground below.
And then the terminus at London Bridge, the river and down that dark flight of stone steps to Lower Thames Street and the magical walk past Billingsgate to the Tower.
|Peak Frean, 1891|
Even now I have not lost the memory of that all pervading fish smell which along with the stone sets in the road and the twisting side streets were almost as they had been a century before and with not much imagination could place you back in the same spot in the time of Pepys.
This of course was just a prelude to the Tower itself, which on a Saturday back in 1959 was free to children which was an opportunity I exploited to the full.
Perhaps it’s one of the down sides of my character that I could and still can revisit a place week after week, do the same tour, stop at the same places and continue to be totally absorbed in all there is to see.
|The Tower, circa 15th century|
Then there was that musty cold and sometimes dank smell that came out of the stone work along with the absence of much natural light in some of the towers which added to the sense that here you were walking history.
Now they say you should never go back and on occasion returning to some magical place of my childhood has been a disappointment which somehow spoils what I remember.
Of course I try not to wallow in nostalgia and I am fully aware that the developers, the City of London and the custodians of the Tower were never going to let my childhood memories get in the way of their view of progress.
|The River, the bridge and Lower Thames Street, 1872|
Ah well as they say nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
Pictures; a young Andrew with Emilie Hall at the Tower, 1955, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, the Peak Frean poster derived from Kennington's painting The Toy Shop, of 1891. Wikipedia Commons, The White Tower, a depiction of the imprisonment of Charles, Duke of Orléans, in the Tower of London from a 15th-century manuscript. The White Tower is visible, St Thomas' Tower (also known as Traitor's Gate) is in front of it, and in the foreground is the River Thames.
late 15th century from a manuscript (British Library, MS Royal, 16 folio 73) of poems by Charles, Duke of Orléans (1391–1465), Wikipedia Commoms and detail of the River Thames and Lower Thames Street from the OS of London, 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/