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Things you only know if you’re a Beefeater at the Tower of London

By Time Out London contributor
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…according to Peter McGowran, 61.

It’s not easy to get pizza delivered to the Tower of London

‘I was absolutely gutted when I realised, in my first few weeks, that I couldn’t get delivery drivers to come here. When you give people your address, some of them put the phone down on you and others tell you they can’t find it, because they don’t believe you live in a palace in the middle of the city. It took me about four weeks to get a washing machine delivered.’

The Tower of London has a pub, but you’re not allowed in it

‘People are shocked when we mention that we actually live within the walls of the Tower. We’ve got 45 families at the Tower: we’re a living village. We have our own priest, and the chapel is open every day to the public. We even have a pub, The Keys – but that’s closed off away from the visitor area. It’s invite-only.’

There’s a midnight curfew

‘We lock the Tower at ten o’clock every night. It’s probably my most exciting duty: I carry the Queen’s keys and a lantern that’s 100 years old. However, the small wicket gate, which is for residents only, is left open and sealed at midnight. If our children are going to be out after midnight, they need to fill in a signing-out book. As they start getting older, they have to get used to it!’

Becoming a Beefeater is seriously competitive

‘All Yeoman Warders are former senior non-commissioned officers. I’m ex-Royal Air Force. The criterion was laid down by the Duke of Wellington in 1826 – he wanted retired sergeants of the army to continue their duties – and nowadays about 40 to 45 former sergeant majors put in for one job. You bring a lot to the table, having that knowledge.’

Interview by Ralph Jones.

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