21 Jun Travelling through history in London
By Eve and Ava – Year 7 student reporters
It was 8:00 am on Friday 25th May, and the rain was pouring down (typical British weather) by the time we arrived at Coventry train station. We were surrounded by our fellow ecstatic student reporters, along with the odd person racing to catch their next train. Hurriedly, we rushed to platform 1 awaiting our train to London, Euston, that was due to arrive any second. Once it slowed to a stop at 8:31 am, all of us boarded and scrambled to our seats. The journey was an hour and five minutes, but with all our excitement, it only felt like a couple of minutes!
We were scurrying off the train and down underground, where many tubes were whizzing past in the blink of an eye. Before you could say “Houses of Parliament”, we were on our way; the tube tossed and turned hauling us to and fro as it flew down the tracks to Embankment. We crossed the line to Westminster and within a couple of seconds, we were strolling in the beautiful sunlight of London. Then we took a quick stop at a Tesco store (just opposite the Houses of Parliament!) to replenish our food supply. Those of us who had a sufficient amount of food appreciated the beautiful London scenery, we happened to come across a small pigeon hopping along with only a single leg. We named him Bartholomew.
Another sight we saw was Big Ben. It was glorious, well, the scaffolding covering and hiding it from view was!
We continued our journey, by foot, to Victoria Towers Garden, the very small but very green space outside the Houses of Parliament. On the way we noticed multiple statues of famous figures of the past, including Emmeline Pankhurst, Sir Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our lovely tour guides, Chloe and Matthew, who led us around the Houses of Parliament for a very fascinating tour.
Firstly, we crossed through a golden gateway and turned a corner into the Victoria Tower. The 98.5 metres high building was made of a dusty, sand coloured stone and had a beautiful wooden trapdoor with intricate patterns carved into it. Our guides spoke of the reason why the Tower got its name, and some snapshots of what happened inside of the Tower. We took caution when climbing the narrow stairs, following in the Queen’s footsteps towards the Robing room. This is the room the Queen uses to put on her Imperial State Crown before going to the House of Lords Chamber. We looked around and engraved on most things were the letters ‘VR’ which means Victoria Royal. These letters were specifically engraved in the Chair of State, and this means that it is Queen Victoria’s and without her permission, which obviously no one could get, no one can touch it, not even our Queen!
We then ventured into a part of Parliament that was a whole 180 years old, and found out that this room was actually not the oldest compared to the Westminster Hall which was approximately 1000 years old! We then learned that Westminster Hall has played a very important role in the history of the United Kingdom over 900 years! Measuring 20 metres wide and 73 metres long, it was the largest Hall in Europe by the time the building was finished in 1099! Wow! The Hall suffered two serious fires, 1834 and 1941 (during World War 2). It was here at this Hall that some significant trials, including King Charles I (who was accused of treason in January 1649) and Guy Fawkes (who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament) took place.
We later took a look at the luxurious House of Lords, colour schemed in red and detailed with gold. We could not sit on the comfy looking seats out of respect for the hard working MPs (Members of Parliament). Chloe and Matthew, our guides, talked about all of the responsibilities and ways of becoming a Lord or Baroness and answered each of our questions politely.
On leaving the House of Lords, we entered the House of Commons. Like the House of Lords, it also had a colour scheme, but of green. Yet again the green seats were not available for the public to sit on. We knelt in front of them instead as our fabulous guide explained the short history of the House of Commons. Lining the walls were plain empty shields, only a few were filled with bursts of colour. Those that were filled in were to represent the MPs who died in the wars and beyond.
Goodbye House of Commons, hello Voting workshop!
As we walked back to the Parliament’s Education Centre for the workshop, we were told lots more interesting facts. One of the most shocking ones was that the Houses of Parliament has over 1200 rooms and the day we went (25/5/18) was one of their busiest days in the year!
Anyway, onto the workshop. It was about representation and voting, and the room that we were in was designed just like the House of Commons. How cool! We took our seats and were soon told that we would be put into teams with our fellow friends and we would become different political parties. We were also informed that we would have to come up with our own political manifestos as a team to see if we could get seats in Parliament by our fellow student reporter’s votes. Some of us got lucky and earned seats due to our team’s hard work. It turned out that some teams got so many votes that it went to a tie-breaker and we had to let fate decide! A large, yellow dice was used to decide the winning parties! The team that ended up getting the most seats were the ‘Defence Party’. Our elected Prime Minister was Jack, and Eve was appointed as the Education Minister!
After that excitement, we went off to enjoy our lunch with our friends before heading to the Westminster tube station to get the tube to Tower Hill – the location of the Tower of London.
After our speedy journey, we were all buzzing with curiosity to find out more about this historic wonder! We were greeted by our lovely tour guide Alex, who would be showing us around the Tower. Alex took us back to the time of the Tower’s first resident: William the Conqueror. The Tower of London is actually a medieval castle that has served many purposes: a royal residence, an exotic zoo, and was eventually turned into a prison! We took everything in, step by step.
We walked back through history by taking a look at Tower Bridge alongside the River Thames, and then took a stroll inside the large stone walls. At the entrance, we spotted a mesh polar bear with a chain on its leg, symbolising the fact that they would put multiple dogs up against a polar bear to fight and class it as entertainment. Then we ventured into Wakefield Tower, a tower made to look like a bedroom fit for a king or queen. It was where King Edward I spent most of his time; there was a large bed and a beautiful fire place below some stained glass windows. On the other end of the room was a little space in the wall where a small table with a gold cross on were barely visible. Soon after, we jumped down a spiral staircase to The Bloody Tower: a torture chamber. We took a look at three old devices used for torturing prisoners, one stretched the victim out, another squished them and the last one left them to hang by their wrists, they were named The Rack, The Scavenger’s Daughter and the Manacles. This part of the tour may sound gruesome to some however to Rosie (our fellow student reporter) this was amazing!
In the Jewels House entrance, we saw many people entering the building wanting to see the Crown Jewels. It was fascinating and exhilarating to be so near to these priceless artefacts. Amidst the busy ambience of the room display, we saw the Yeomen Warders walking back and forth, keeping an eye on the jewels on display. But, before we could get too excited, we had something else that we had to do. There was a Changing the Guard ceremony taking place outside so we watched it with amazement. It was such a fantastic scene to watch!
We then carried on to the Crown Jewels. Adrenaline was rushing through our bodies as we entered the room that had sparkle and glamour at every angle. We stepped in and noticed a travelator on the floor either side of the glass display cases that housed the magnificent gems meaning we could get a glimpse from all angles. Obviously they were the most beautiful and expensive things we had ever seen. Especially the biggest clean cut diamond in the world that we all thought looked like a diamond egg! A tale that our tour guide told us was, that the crown at the end of the conveyor belt had a supposedly cursed jewel in it and it was said that if anyone who wasn’t fit to wear it placed it on their head, they would be cursed, for Life! However those who were suitable to wear it would get great luck when wearing the crown.
We continued our tour inside the Crown Jewel exhibition and noticed some unusual items including: a golden punch bowl, a bedazzled coronation spoon, multiple items of coronation jewellery (especially rings), golden cutlery, golden plates with patterns engraved on it along with sparkling gemstones. We were all in awe at these dazzling jewels and wished we could stay forever but all good things come to an end. This was such a brilliant day full of knowledge and smiles. We all felt like we were taking a walk through history and we are glad that we could take you along on our journey, through words.
Thank you for reading this blog!