Tower of London gets $18M upgrade

LONDON -- This city's 900-year-old Tower of London, a World Heritage Site, launched an $18 million project to develop a new visitor center, a riverside walkway, improved access and new landscaping.

On the banks of the Thames, the tower is one of London's top tourist attractions and one of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces. It welcomes 2.5 million people each year.

According to Geoffrey Field, governor of the tower, the project will include the following:

  • The lower parts of Tower Hill Vaults, which are the ruins of a tea warehouse destroyed during World War II, will be turned into a centralized reception area featuring an education and interpretation center.
  • Visitors will buy their entry tickets there.

  • A concrete bridge spanning the tower's medieval causeway to the Thames will be replaced with a replica of a 15th century timber bridge.
  • A tunnel leading to the tower from the Tower Underground station will be refurbished and new pathways created to overlook the moat.
  • The tower's wharf area will gain a riverside walk and an expansion of the North Thames River Path to the water's edge.
  • "The Tower of London is one of the world's most historically significant attractions. With rapidly increasing numbers of visitors, we need to make the site more accessible while providing a positive and educational experience," said Field.

    The initiative is being funded by two grants: one from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is part of Britain's lottery, and one from the Pool of London Partnership, a group of businesses and local groups committed to the development of the area surrounding the tower.

    Meanwhile, tickets to the tower now are available in most central London Underground stations, a spokesman for London Transport said.

    Visitors who want to pre-book tickets can do so through the booking agency Edwards & Edwards. The firm, through its Globaltickets service, sells tickets to all of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces.

    In addition to the tower, other royal palaces are Hampton Court Palace; Kensington Palace, and the Banqueting House at Whitehall. Tickets to the tower cost about $23 per person and can be booked by calling (800) 223-6108.

    Additionally, the armor and armaments of England's kings and queens again are on display in the Royal Armouries at the tower. The permanent collection is housed in the White Tower, which was the first building to be constructed when the tower was started in 1080.

    For additional information about the Tower of London, contact the British Tourist Authority at (800) 462-2748 or visit its Web site at www.visitbritain.com.

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