England

History Coming Alive in London

Cassandra Kennedy is a student at Doane College and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Reading, England.

Churchill Watching over Big Ben.

In Parliament Square, London, many statues of famous political figures circle the garden area. Winston Churchill is recognized with a statue that is facing the clock tower that houses Big Ben as if he is still watching over parliament. Churchill was the Prime Minister of England during World War II and is highly regarded for his leadership during this time. The statue was erected in 1973 in the spot that Churchill himself said his statue should go in the 1950’s. Lady Clementine-Spencer Churchill had the honor of unveiling his statue while Queen Elizabeth II gave a speech recognizing the life of a great Prime Minister.

London has some crazy packed streets with people from all around the world. There are many tourist shops like this Cool Britannia, which this gentleman is advertising for along the street of Piccadilly.

London has some crazy packed streets with people from all around the world. There are many tourist shops like this Cool Britannia, which this gentleman is advertising for along the street of Piccadilly.

For the Tourists of London.
London is a great city to visit as a tourist. Though it is very historical, it still feels like a modern city. The shopping is ideal, the landmarks are bucket list worthy, and the parks are incredible, not to mention possibly spotting a royal…

Here are some fun facts about this great city:
1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s flag contains the colors of red, white and blue. It is named as the King’s Colours or the Great Union Flag. King James VI put it into place among ships, and was put in use as the national flag after the treaty of the union. The red cross comes from Saint George, who is the Patron Saint of England, while the blue portion of the flag refers the Patron Saint of Scotland, Saint Andrew.
2. Big Ben is the bell inside the bell tower, not the tower itself. The tower is referred to as Elizabeth’s Tower.
3. London gets its name from the original Roman settlement, when it was referred to as Londonium. The City of London portion of London is where this original settlement was, and is now home to the Financial District as well as near to the Tower of London.
4. Swans are protected by the Queen and roam wild along the Thames River and other portions of London. The swans were brought over by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century.
5. London is one of the most diverse cities in the world. There are over 300 languages spoken on the street of London at any given time, and more than a third of London’s population were actually born outside the U.K.

In our walking tour with ISA around London, we wondered into Trafalgar Square where we were all in awe of the brilliant blue rooster posing on one of the pillars.

In our walking tour with ISA around London, we wondered into Trafalgar Square where we were all in awe of the brilliant blue rooster posing on one of the pillars.

The Blue Cock
Hahn/Cock is a sculpture that stands proudly on the 4th pillar of Trafalgar square, among three other statues of prominent soldiers from the Battle of Trafalgar. In the centre of the square is a tall statue of Admiral Heratio Nelson, who died during the battle. The four pillars were built in 1840, however, the architect left one pillar empty. In 1999, the square started using that pillar to celebrate contemporary art. The Hahn/Cock is the current sculpture being used and was unveiled in 2013. The artist, Katharina Fritsch, left the interpretation up to the observer. Two popular interpretations are that it represents France’s role in the Battle, for it is blue like the colour of France and it is facing France. The other is that it is a feminist sculpture representing the ‘cockiness’ of the other sculptures, along with the fact that a female artist made something to depict masculinity. This sculpture will be on display for 18 months altogether, meaning now is a good time to check it out before it’s gone! The square itself is a marvel of London.

I was thrilled when ISA took us to the Tower of London. They paid for a tour guide to tell us the history behind many sites within the tower, and it was amazing to see my history classes come to life. This is the very spot Anne Boleyn was executed.

I was thrilled when ISA took us to the Tower of London. They paid for a tour guide to tell us the history behind many sites within the tower, and it was amazing to see my history classes come to life. This is the very spot Anne Boleyn was executed.

The Execution Site
The Tower of London is significant for many things regarding England’s history (and the world’s) but the execution site is especially monumental. Three queens were beheaded at this spot for various reasons. These were private executions so as to not make a big deal among spectators on Tower Hill. Queen Anne Boleyn was the first of the queens to be executed in 1536 for her supposed treason to King Henry VIII. The second queen to die, Catherine Howard, was also a wife of King Henry VIII. He had her executed on reasons of adultery. The third Queen was Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen. She was overthrown by Queen Mary who subsequently had her beheaded because Lady Jane Grey refused to convert to Catholicism. This site held 7 other prominent executions, and the Tower was home to many prisoners. This particular glass memorial at the execution site contains a poem for the fallen, the names of the ten executed along the rim of the glass, and a glass pillow in the centre. The memorial was put in place in 2006 by artist Brian Catling. Now, the Tower of London holds many historical secrets along with the Crown Jewels and Royal Armour.

After a great tour of the Tower of London, we were set on our own to explore the city where we wondered across the grand Tower Bridge.

After a great tour of the Tower of London, we were set on our own to explore the city where we wondered across the grand Tower Bridge.

The Queen’s Walk
It took eight years to build the Tower Bridge, a vast bridge that connects London across the Thames River and it was completed in 1894. The bridge was painted a chocolate brown until 1977, when it was repainted red, white, and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. The walkway available to the public was closed from 1910 until 1982 because of apparent lack of use in 1910. The Queen’s Walk stretches miles along the Thames River and goes along some of the most popular tourist areas of London. You can buy a guided walking tour along the Queen’s Walk if you wish, or walk it on your own and soak in the history along the riverside.

Want to read more from students in London? Check out “Five Questions to Ask Before Studying Abroad in London”