The Tower of London


Micromodels, (Available as an inkjet reprint £12.00 )

Supposedly fortified by Julius Caesar, the site of the Tower of London was developed by William the Conqueror who erected the earliest extant structure, the White Tower, in the 11th. Century. The fortifications were enhanced and extended over the mediaeval period and almost every style of English architecture is to be found within the complex. Over the centuries the Tower has served both as a royal residence, a military base and a prison and has housed the Royal Mint, the Public Records Office, the Royal Menagerie and the Royal Observatory.
The Tower of London is also known as a place of execution, the earliest recorded being the beheading of Sir Simon Burley in 1388. Edward IV erected the first permanent scaffold in 1465 and famous people to have breathed their last in this spot include St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher in 1535, Thomas Cromwell in 1540 and Archbishop Laud in 1645. Two of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were also beheaded here in 1536 and 1542 respectively. Although the Tower has also been the scene of executions by firing squad in more recent times, the last beheading was suffered by the 80-year old Jacobite, Simon, Lord Lovat in 1747. More flamboyantly, after being convicted of plotting against his brother, Edward IV, George, Duke of Clarence, met his end in the Tower in 1478, supposedly by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.
English monarchs up to the time of James I (1603-25) occupied the Tower before their coronations, when they would ride in procession through the City to Westminster.
The Armouries of the Tower can claim to be the oldest Museum in England, housing a priceless collection of armour and arms of all kinds. Also lodged in the Tower are the Crown Jewels including all the regalia used by British monarchs at their coronation. This is a particularly popular tourist attraction which draws queues of people on most days. On the first occasion I tried to see the Crown Jewels, I was about 9 or 10 years old and the queue was too long. I returned over the years, but each time it was the same story. Finally, about 5 years ago, Diana, Victoria and I went in the week before Christmas; it was fairly deserted and we had no trouble in viewing the fabulous collection.
Today, the Tower of London forms part of probably the most popular site for tourists in London, with Tower Bridge adjacent and the preserved cruiser, HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames opposite.

The Model.

Formed in 1947 by designer, Geoffrey Heighway, Micromodels were a popular form of card modelling until the late 1950s when they succumbed to the appeal of plastic kits, especially Airfix. The Tower of London kit was the 12th. architectural model to be catalogued although it appeared somewhat earlier in 1950 when it was priced at 3/4d. (c. £0.16 in today's money). To put this into perspective, the price represented 6 or 7 weeks pocket money for me at the time! The kit comprises 12 cards, each measuring 3½"x5", in a paper wrapper on which are printed historical notes and a plan of the Tower. There are no instructions provided. The first task is to construct the base which comprises two cards. To supply a firm base for building the model, I mounted them on a piece of plywood, cut to size. There are many green areas, representing the lawns and grass banks and these can be raised by affixing extra green pieces supplied for this purpose. I then started in the centre of the base with the imposing White Tower. The basic internal box structure was easily built and the grey walls were then hung on the outside. On feature of Micromodels is that, with the small size of the models, some details need to be provided using other materials. In this case, the flagstaffs on the towers can be represented using pins and one of the towers finished off with a carved wooden dome. The next stage of construction moves to the two sets of fortifications, inner and outer which surround the site. Each consists of a series of small towers connected by curtain walls. I decided to make and locate each tower on the base and then insert the wall sections. This caused some difficulties once or twice as the wall strips provided did not always match the distance from one tower to the next. If the wall was too long, it could be cut shorter, and if too short, a piece of filler had to be cobbled together. Although the towers are very small, the cutting out of the battlements is very intricate and time-consuming. Once the fortifications were complete, I built the other buildings within the walls including the Waterloo Barracks and the Royal Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. Some fencing enclosing the moat completes the model.
This is the first Micromodel I have ever made. Being much smaller than current card models, it was nevertheless a challenging and fascinating kit which builds into an attractive model which contains a wealth of detail in a very small space.

Christopher Cooke


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