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LIVING HISTORY

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I had not been to the Tower of London since I was a child and was amazed to see how my memory of the place bore no relationship to the reality.

Instead of the dingy staircases and confined rooms that I remembered, the enclosure is vast and the architecture awe-inspiring - housing the iconic buildings and monuments of decades of school history books. Renovations have been done tastefully and with no sense of pastiche or frivolity. This is a dour experience of history; a history lived through the medium of the actual buildings that were occupied by real figures from the past. There is not a false wall or a 'recreated' artefact in sight.

The dank stone vault where Thomas More spent the last year of his life is especially fascinating given that the Pope is to propose Thomas More for sainthood on 4 November, (the patron saint of politicians, of all things). But so are the rooms where Sir Walter Raleigh lived his captivity; the location of Anne Boleyn's execution; the chapel where Elizabeth of York lay in state (which also houses the fabulously audacious Domesday Book); and much more.

Architectural styles show the variety of a thousand years of British history. If there was ever an inspirational building to encourage a knowledge of history and a study of architecture, this must surely be it.

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