Smoking Club Quarterly Drinks - The Tower of London

Monday 17th September 2018

The Company's Beadle, Mark Anderson, is a Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, at The Tower of London. Through his good offices the Membership Committee was invited to host one of its quarterly Smoking Club events at the Tower. The evening entailed a tour, drinks at the Yeoman Warders bar and, finally, the opportunity to bear witness to the ancient Ceremony of the Keys.

On a balmy September evening over sixty revellers attended the West Gate to be admitted to the Tower at 7.25pm precisely. Our tour guide was Mark Anderson himself and he took us on a jolly canter through the long history of this Royal Palace. We heard about the unsavoury Moat, the Royal Menagerie, the Tower's function as the Royal Mint, the horrors that unfolded in the Bloody Tower and the many executions of famous figures in history. In the case of the latter most seemed to be connected to Henry VIII; two wives and a string of other inconvenients. Our tour took us to the beautiful Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where an astonishing number of the aforementioned executees were buried, many in less than ceremonial fashion. It was becoming clear that at a certain time in the past, the Tower was a rather grim old place.

With much to dwell on, our party retired to the The Keys, the Yeoman Warders' bar, to reflect on all the information over a pint and, for those outside, a cigar or pipe. It was here that we found more interesting things about the Tower's extraordinary past including the fact that in more recent times it had served to briefly imprison Rudolf Hess following his capture in Scotland in 1941. Documentenation signed by the man hangs on the wall near the bar.

Sworn to secrecy, nothing can be said of the Ceremony of Keys. Suffice it to say that it is believed to be the oldest military ceremony in the world; it is both powerful and poignant. It is remarkable to think that without fail, it takes places every day and has done so for all the centuries of its existence.