The Titchfield History Society enjoyed a most entertaining evening when Tony Strafford a former Beefeater at the Tower of London came to give us a talk. When he entered there was no mistaking what he was, dressed in his splendid uniform, no notes, no screen, he gave the most amusing informative story and did not falter once.   

He spoke of the rich prisoners compared with the poor, one fascinating piece of information was that the first person to be beheaded in 1306 was one Simon Frazer and the last person to be beheaded there in 1746 was also a man named Simon Frazer…You couldn’t make it up!!! 

Tony said that we all talk about executions on a daily basis, which we were astounded at as we thought “we don’t!”,  but he went on to explain that our everyday sayings evolved from these. 

For whom the bell tollsA bell was rung prior to an execution 

Going out with a Bangvictims burnt alive had gunpowder attached to hasten their demise 

One for the RoadPeople about to be hanged from Newgate were taken into a tavern for their last drink, and would then be put On the Waggon. 

Hangers on – If you paid you could pull on the feet of people who were hung to hurry their death as it would otherwise take around 10 minutes for them to die. 

Living on a Shoestring – People would hang out a shoe, begging for food to be placed in it. 

Double Crossed – There was a notorious gang who set up in business to find your stolen goods, little was it known at the time that it was them who were stealing from you.  When this was discovered and their well kept ledgers were looked into. If your goods were stolen and returned there was a double cross against your name. 


He spoke of the Ravens in the Tower and their legend.  There are always 6 to be kept there, and having their wings clipped, they cannot fly. However one brave one climbed some scaffolding and getting to the top attempted to fly but with disastrous consequences.  In the 80s when Ronald Reagan was president of the USA, a competition was launched on Blue Peter to name a new Raven.  A Beefeater was sent to the studios to pick out from thousands of cards the new name for the bird……the name picked was Ronald Raven!!!   

There is a story everywhere from this fascinating place.  Do come again Tony..