Above doesn't come close to what I, as a historian, see when I visit the Tower of London. But it's as near as I'm willing to spend time in GIMP recreating for you.
The Tower of London has been there for nearly 1000 years. That's a lot of history to superimpose upon the same scene. Not to mention the things which occurred on that spot before the fortress was even built.
I've done my best to let you sample a historian's worldview by producing the same scene with elements moving across time:
- The White Tower from a Medieval painting;
- Tower Bridge during the 2012 London Olympic Games;
- Rest of the Tower of London building and environs from an 1895 photograph;
- River of Blood Centenary Poppies from Remembrance Day 2014;
- Cars parked and pedestrians walking from 1955;
- Market goers mingling in 1808.
Every single element is superimposed upon the exact space they occupied in the images capturing them there by past artists and photographers. Though I've turned the White Tower 90 degrees, as my Medieval artist was standing alongside the Thames, not on Tower Hill.
Only my lack of artist know-how stopped me filling every pixel of this with a different era. My mind does it easily and automatically.
I can see the foreground trees gone, opening up the vista as it is today. I can see that whole foreground thronging with people, and a platform raised in the bottom left hand corner. I see the executioner holding up the heads of Simon Fraser (it's been described in detail); James Duke of Monmouth (detailed documentation and a woodcut picture); Sir Thomas More and so on.
I see it churned up with mud and horses laden dragging stone, people bent double under their loads of wood or walking with their tools in canvas sacks slung over their shoulders. The construction workers of a dozen eras creating this castle from scratch, altering it, restoring it, adding extra layers.
I stand with market stall owners and their customers, glancing up towards the ramparts at the sound of childish laughter. I watch the Princes in the Tower playing upon them in full view. I mentally flinch in terror at the Blitz bombs falling all about me. I squint to watch the Cradle Tower, just about able to discern John Arden and Father John Gerard shimmying down a rope to freedom in the darkness.
I turn at the sound of women's voices, loud and light in conversation. Across that great walkway they come, the guards stepping back, unwittingly allowing William Maxwell, Earl of Nithsdale, to pass in their midst dressed as his wife. Lady Nithsdale is still in there, holding an imaginary conversation with her spouse behind closed doors for the benefit of the guards in earshot.