Two Yeoman Warders have been appointed to the highest-ranking roles within the Yeoman Body at the Tower of London, following the retirement of former Chief Yeoman Warder Peter McGowran MVO.
Rob Fuller will become the first former Royal Navy serviceman to be a Chief Yeoman Warder since the role’s inception, while Clive Towell will become the Tower’s 51st Yeoman Gaoler.
The Chief Yeoman Warder is the head of the Yeoman Body, which comprises 34 other Yeoman Warders, or ‘Beefeaters’ as they are commonly known.
While that title has only been in place since 1914, the role itself dates back to the 1500s. Similarly, the role of ‘Gentleman Gaoler’, was first created in the 16thcentury, but it wasn’t until 1889 that the first warder to be officially known as the Yeoman Gaoler was appointed. Although the unique role now manages day-to-day logistics onsite, the Yeoman Gaoler – who is second in command – historically used to be in charge of prisoners at the Tower and still carries the infamous axe during ceremonial duties.
The Yeoman Warders reside at the London landmark and deliver tours explaining the Tower of London’s long history to some of the 2 million people who visit from all over the world each year. Other roles include conducting ceremonial duties such as the Ceremony of the Keys, a closing ceremony that has taken place every night at the Tower of London for at least 700 years, along with the Tower’s Opening Ceremony, State Parades, and the ancient ceremony of the ‘Constable’s Dues.’
Chief Yeoman Warder Rob Fuller was born in Neasden, North West London, and joined the Royal Navy in 1976. During his 34 years on duty, he saw active service in the Falklands War, and served in Plymouth, Portsmouth, Gibraltar and Belgium before applying to become a Yeoman Warder in 2011. He was the second Yeoman Warder recruited from the Royal Navy, and was promoted to Yeoman Serjeant in 2018, before taking up the role of Yeoman Gaoler in November 2020. When not on duty, Rob enjoys returning to his family home in Gillingham, Kent, to spend time with his three young grandchildren. He will be the 20th person to take up the position of Chief and the first former Royal Navy serviceman to lead the Yeoman Body.
New Yeoman Gaoler Clive Towell joined the Body back in 2012, following 29 years in the British Army. Originally from Cheltenham, Clive served with the King’s Royal Hussars from the age of 16, reaching the position of Regimental Sergeant Major, before serving as the first Household Cavalry and Royal Armoured Corps Serjeant Major for a further two years. Throughout his career, Clive was stationed all over the world, including in Northern Ireland, Germany, Canada, Belize, Bosnia, Iraq and France. The proud father of two daughters, Sophie and Mollie, he became a Yeoman Serjeant in 2018 and in his spare time enjoys walking and spending time with his friends and family.
Chief Yeoman Warder, Rob Fuller, said:
“It’s an honour and a privilege to have been appointed to the role of Chief Yeoman Warder. Having been lucky enough to have been part of the Yeoman Body for 12 years now, I’m excited to take on this new role, and delighted to be handing over the axe to our new Yeoman Gaoler, Clive Towell. I feel immense pride to be the first Royal Navy serviceman to fill this iconic position and look forward to leading our Yeoman Body in the years to come.”
DID YOU KNOW? Yeoman Warder facts
- As of July 2023, there are currently 35 Yeoman Warders at the Tower including the Chief Yeoman Warder and Yeoman Gaoler.
- To qualify for the role of Yeoman Warder applicants must have served at least 22 years in the British armed forces, hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal and have reached the level of Warrant Officer or equivalent.
- No one is exactly sure where the name Beefeater comes from. The most likely explanation is that Yeoman Warders were given a daily ration of meat for their duties. Records show that even in 1813 the daily ration for the thirty men on duty was 24lbs of beef, 18lbs mutton and 16lbs of veal! These days they prefer the title Yeoman Warder. In fact the full and proper title is Yeoman Warder of His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary.
- There are two uniforms for the Yeoman Body. The Ceremonial Uniform is worn for state occasions; for example, when the monarch visits the Tower or for any state occasion that the Body attends. It is scarlet and gold with red stockings, white ruff and black shoes. On a typical day, visitors to the Tower will see the Yeoman Warders wearing their blue undress uniform, of different weights for summer and winter.
- The sovereign’s initials have appeared on uniforms worn by Yeoman Warders since 1570, and the Blue Undress uniform was updated just before the Coronation to bear the new cypher of King Charles III, as a continuation of this tradition.