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Beefeaters face ‘last post’ shock redundancy at Tower of London after Coronavirus lockdown

PUBLISHED: 15:19 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:07 20 July 2020

Beefeaters welcome Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton when he was installed as Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: David Jensen.

Beefeaters welcome Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton when he was installed as Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: David Jensen.

© DavidJensen 2016

Beefeaters are facing redundancies at the Tower of London for the first time in their 600-year history because the 21st century coronavirus lockdown that has left the iconic tourist attraction with a £98million black hole.

Guard of honour by Yeomen Wardens for Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton as new Constable of The Tower on October 5, 2016. Picture: David JensenGuard of honour by Yeomen Wardens for Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton as new Constable of The Tower on October 5, 2016. Picture: David Jensen

The 37 Yeoman Warders who guard the Crown Jewels, guide tourists round and look after the ravens are military ­veterans with at least 22 years’ service who now face an uncertain future.

It is believed to be the first time since they were formed by Henry VII in 1485 that the beefeaters have ever faced losing their posts, which come with accommodation for them and their families.

The charity that runs London’s six Royal palaces including The Tower has warned of redundancies.

Annual 'beating the bounds' at Tower Hill by schoolchildren from east London, led by the Beefeaters. Picture: Historic Royal PalacesAnnual 'beating the bounds' at Tower Hill by schoolchildren from east London, led by the Beefeaters. Picture: Historic Royal Palaces

Two Beefeaters have already taken voluntary pay-offs, but it is feared more will have to follow.

The crisis hit in March over the pandemic when The Tower had to close to the public and all its income dried up like the moat around the royal castle.

That has left the huge hole in the coffers which has now led to a voluntary redundancy scheme, despite having reopened to tourism on July 10 after four months of lockdown.

Ravenmaster Chris Skaife with one of his charges who must never leave The Tower. Picture: Richard Lea-HairRavenmaster Chris Skaife with one of his charges who must never leave The Tower. Picture: Richard Lea-Hair

It could take two years before tourism gets back to its pre-lockdown levels, Royal Palaces has told the East London Advertiser.

The Tower notched up three million tourists last year that made it the UK’s most popular paid-for attraction, with two thirds from overseas.

But the tourists aren’t back in enough numbers yet to keep the castle keep in hard cash.

Would the kingdom fall if the ravens ever left the Tower of London? Ravernmaster Chris Skaife takes no chances.  P:icture:Would the kingdom fall if the ravens ever left the Tower of London? Ravernmaster Chris Skaife takes no chances. P:icture:

The charity’s “heartbroken” chief John Barnes says the organisation has “no choice” but reduce its payroll.

“We are heartbroken that it has come to this,” he says.

The Tower was hit by industrial action in March last year when beefeaters downed tools in a Public Services Union dispute about their final salary pensions they felt would make them worse off.

Historic Royal Palaces employs 1,100 people across London, including The Tower, which all face ­redundancies.

Beefeaters are paid £24,000 a year, Yeomen Wardens like raven master Chris Skaife who is responsible for its six ravens and looked after two chicks that were hatched last year.

The kingdom would fall, legend has it, if the ravens ever leave.

But who would be left to guard them if the beefeaters were gone?

Royal Palaces have assured the Advertiser that “there will always be Yeomen Wardens guarding The Tower”. There’ll just be fewer of them for the time being.


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