July 23, 2024

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What’s Life Like As Ravenmaster At The Tower Of London?

3 min read

Charles decided to keep six here by royal decree – we have a couple of extra, just in case.

What does the role of Ravenmaster entail?

I’m one of 37 yeoman warders who live and work at the Tower. I’m ex-military – to be a yeoman warder you must have completed a minimum of 22 years at the rank of a warrant officer or above. I became the Tower’s Ravenmaster in 2011.

A Tower of London raven

A Tower of London raven. The Tower will crumble and the kingdom fall should the ravens leave – or so the legend goes. (Image by Getty Images)

When I first came here I was fascinated by the ravens hopping around. The old Ravenmaster, Derrick, took me to the enclosure and put me in there with two huge ravens. One of the birds started moving towards me, looking at me with its beady little eye; I could almost feel its breath on my face. Afterwards Derrick said: “The ravens like you”.

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I discovered later that he was making sure I wasn’t scared of the birds – ravens are quite awesome in size and if you show them fear, they will remember that forever. I always tell the public that the ravens picked me.

What are the ravens like?

They are some of the most intelligent birds on the planet; each has its own distinct characteristics. They look at me with something like disdain, but I’ve become close to several of them over the years.

Are the ravens allowed to leave?

The ravens are very territorial, so the Tower has become their home and they tend to stay within its confines. They’re free to roam wherever they want to inside the grounds and can occasionally be found in the residents’ quarters – they are, after all, the Tower’s true guardians.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

I have to get up early because ravens sleep at night – they are out and about from first to last light.

When the Tower’s quiet and peaceful, I really enjoy just walking around and letting the birds out. Getting up early in the morning is a double-edged sword, however. It can also be quite a busy job –especially when it’s raining late at night and the ravens don’t want to go back to their enclosure and I’m running around trying to find them in the shadows. In 2019 we began a breeding programme – this is the first time in nearly 30 years that we’ve bred our own ravens for the future, so I’m very proud of that.

Have any of the ravens ever escaped?

There was an occasion some years ago when one of the ravens escaped. I climbed up the scaffolding of the White Tower to catch him, only for him to fly off again. He was caught by a member of the public in Greenwich seven days later and was confined to the barracks for a while afterwards.

This article was first published in the April 2020 issue of BBC History Revealed

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