Author and London aficionado Matt Brown visited us at Pier House and dared to tell us that everything we ‘think’ we know about the Thames could very well be wrong! Matt declared that of all the myths that surround our capital, it is the Tower of London that has the most nonsense written about it. Matt explained that far from being an impenetrable fortress, it has been captured three or four times in the past and around 40 prisoners are believed to have escaped from it. Someone even managed to steal the crown jewels from the Tower once, although they only made it as far as one of the outer gates. The myth about the Ravens is a relatively new one – first circulated in the 1940s – and has been disproved on at least one occasion. And did you know that those genteel-looking Beefeaters, have all served at least 20 years in the armed forces? We often associate the Tower of London with the ‘bloody’ Tudors and the many famous be-headings, but there were more executions at the Tower during the 20th Century than in any other period – 11 men were shot by firing squad from 1914 – 1941, all accused of spying.
And what of the famous characters associated with London? Dick Whittington was indeed four times Lord Mayor of London, but also a great philanthropist and created the first public toilets in London! Dick Turpin never had a horse called Black Bess, and his father was a publican living in Hempstead rather than Hampstead. There is sadly no evidence connecting Oliver’s Island to Oliver Cromwell, although his daughter did live on the Fauconberg estate in Chiswick. And it would seem that history has been very unkind to Guy Fawkes. He was one of a number of plotters, and no more guilty than the others.. he just happened to be the only one that got caught!