Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 10 October 2021

The Tower of London moat

Plans for next year’s Platinum Jubilee are advancing. One potential idea that has been publicised is a Commonwealth themed garden in the now dry and grassy moat of the Tower of London. This proposal is from Historic Royal Palaces, who now manage the Tower and who, in the wake of the lockdown closure, are seeking to boost their visitor numbers.
Presumably this scheme if carried out would be just for the year of the Jubilee.

The ideas was set out on the  Mail Online website at Tower of London bosses plan for jubilee garden in the moat and on that of The Times at Garden will send tourists to the Tower of London

As a special commemorative event it would have a number of attractions but in the long term I would argue for refilling the most with water to return the Tower to something closer to its appearance for most of its history.

I found online an article about the possibility of this idea from 2015 when the idea of restoring a wet moat was, if you will pardon the pun, being floated. It can be read at Here's why we can't actually fill the Tower of London's moat with water again

The possible arguments against such a scheme which it cites do not convince me. They appear defeatist, and not untypical of arguments one sees against positive or dynamic restoration schemes.

The one about the health of those living in the Tower is the most critical but the Thames is much, much cleaner than it was in the 1840s. The river flows through the middle of our capital city without being a health hazard, so diverting part of it around the Tower should not be a problem. There are many other places similarly situated where running river water is in proximity to living accommodation - Cambridge and York doing immediately to mind.

The argument that someone is bound to fall in may well be true in that accidents happen but, as with the matter of public health there is a lot more of the Thames running right through London to receive the unwary and incautious It is hardly an increased risk.

The cost appears high but it would be a one-off investment. How much would the one year Jubilee garden cost government or private sponsors. Furthermore this would be a genuine piece of restoration work.

The loss of revenue to HRP through letting out the grassy area of the moat for events might be a consideration. However there are other possibilities inside the Tower. I have -attended one such myself for the Oriel History Appeal. Furthermore with suitable boats there would be the possibility of hosting events on the waters of the moat.

Have the Platinum Jubilee Garden by all means, but then return the moat to being water-filled as a permanent commemoration and restoration.

Scenic Drawing - The Tower, London, 19th Century by Print Collector
The Tower of London from a 1597 Survey showing the water filled moat 

Image: Pixels.com

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