LONDON: A ritual performance at the Tower of London, probably the ceremony of the keys. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto/Retronaut

By Philip Ford


FOR ALMOST a thousand years, the Tower of London has been a symbol of power and fear for people across England – but for some it was home and even their local.

Charming images show Yeoman Warders and their families living normal lives behind the walls of the infamous fortress. These historic snapshots show the personal lives of the Yeoman Warders in 1951 as they relax after a hard day’s work and send their kids off to school, while their wives keep order in the household.

LONDON: Heading up the spiral steps with the day’s shopping. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto/Retronaut

Yeoman Warders are the colourfully dressed bodyguards at the Tower of London. They were formed in 1485 by King Henry VII. Also known as “Beefeaters”, they served as the royal house guard of the Tudors. In 1509 Henry VIII moved his residence from the tower, but kept several Yeoman Warders to guard the tower, where a garrison has been kept ever since.

At the time of these photos, more than 100 people lived inside the Tower including the guards, their wives and children.

LONDON: Yeoman Warders even had their own private pub within the walls, only open to them and their invited guests. Mediadrumimages/TopFoto/Retronaut

Today the role of the Yeoman Warder is mostly ceremonial. In the past while on duty, each of the Beefeaters were charged with protecting the crown jewels, looking after prisoners, locking the outer gates and delivering the keys to Resident Governor in the Ceremony of the Keys.

When off duty the Yeoman Warders were able to enjoy many of the trappings of civilian life inside the menacing tower. They even had their own private pub within the walls, only open to them and their invited guests.

LONDON: An evening’s entertainment in the Yeoman’s private pub.  Mediadrumimages/TopFoto/Retronaut

Wives of these royal guards lead regular lives as well. They could be seen around the Tower of London residence hanging up the laundry next to the walls, cleaning their homes, and cooking for their families.

Kids would often play games in the yard, usually pretending to be soldiers.

The Tower of London has an infamous past with countless stories of murder, torture and executions that lasted almost 1,000 years. These photos show that is is possible to live a normal life, and not lose your head, within the tower walls.