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Behind-the-scenes visit to the Tower of London

Written by Postgraduate Community
Published date 06 June 2018
By Zinta Jauntis, MA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts

On the 30th May, UAL Post Graduate students entered an area of the Tower of London that very few enter.  60 steps down into the basement of the Waterloo block lies 30,000 architectural drawings, an archive of treasures that few know about. For over two decades Historic Royal Palaces has managed this archive, specifically for the purpose of gleaning information about buildings of the past. This information in turn, helps curators and surveyors make decisions about the conservation of the buildings that are in their care.

Buildings curator, Joseph Sharples selected a variety of drawings which show planned changes to the Tower over time. Built in 1068 under the reign of the Norman king, William the Conqueror it was surprising to see the evolution of a structure that we see as being ‘set in stone’.

Joseph highlights a beautiful and very detailed Victorian watercolour of one of the turrets of the White Tower, medieval-styled furniture and his personal favourite, some 1960s sketch designs for Space Age sentry boxes.I don’t know about you, but I’m glad these sketches were not realised. To me, they look more like time travelling machines, not to mention slightly incongruous to their surroundings. Having said that, I would definitely be up for travelling back in time; to see Anne Boleyn’s speech just before she was executed or the young Elizabeth I held there as a prisoner or Father John Gerard’s great escape with orange juice and a candle. The list goes on!

Joseph chose an interesting mix of media for us to see. Drawings printed on linen, paper, rubbings from prisoner engravings and a very basic 3D model from the poppy installation that was exhibited in the Tower moat in 2014. There was something for everyone who attended.

‘As someone who is itching to work on a larger scale, the maquettes of the poppy installation were inspiring to see and surprisingly simple considering the immense work it became. Having seen the poppies in situ myself it was extremely interesting to see how it all started.’ 

– MFA Fine Art student Rosie Shorten.


‘I’m a graphic design researcher… as a graphic designer I found details like the typography really interesting – there’s a whole research project just on typefaces sitting in that archive!’ – PhD Student, Gill Brown.

This was a great opportunity to go-behind-the scenes at such an iconic site.

Learn more about The Tower of London
or see the former event listing