Tower of London Poppies: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the art installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1.

  • The official title of the art installation is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
  • It was made by Paul Cummins, a ceramic artist, and was set by stage designed, Tom Piper.

  • The artwork is made up of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for every Commonwealth soldier killed in World War 1. The poppies were arranged to  look like they were cascading out of the walls of the Tower of London, filling the moat. Poppies were added during the summer of 2014 until they had all been placed ready for the close of the installation on 11th November – Remembrance Day.
  • The installation opened on 5th August 2014.
  • All of the ceramic poppies used in the installation have been sold to members of the public for £25. 10% of the sale price will be divided between six charities: Cobeso, Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and SSAFA.
  • Every poppies have been handmade and, as a result, all of the poppies are unique.
  • The poppies were produced in Derbyshire using techniques which would have been used when World War 1 was being fought.
  • Tower Hill and the Moat Path offered the best view of the poppies.
  • Jonathan Jones, in an article in the Guardian newspaper, suggested that the installation was too pretty for a World War 1 memorial. He thought the poppies should be replaced with barbed wire and bones.
  • Paul Cummins lost a finger during the creation of the artwork. His hand was crushed by an industrial roller.

  • 8000 volunteers helped to plant the ceramic poppies.
  • Queen Elizabeth II visited the installation, as did Prince William.
  • More than 4 million people visited the installation.
  • More than £10 million was raised for charity.
  • Paul Cummins got the name of the installation from a line in the will of a soldier from Derbyshire who died in Flanders. The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels feat to tread.

What next? Learn more about World War 1.

Facts About the Cenotaph

Here are some facts about the Centotaph.

  • The Cenotaph is a war memorial on Whitehall, in central London. It is a few minutes walk from many of London’s most famous sights including 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament.

  • It was built after the end of World War I as a temporary memorial to those who died. The name comes from the Greek word for empty tomb or empty burial place.
  • The original cenotaph was made from wood and plaster and was designed to be temporary. However, the public left so many flowers at its base, the decision was made to make it a permanent memorial.
  • It was designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens, and built from Portland stone. The height is 11 metres and the carved wreaths at either end are 1.5 metres in diameter.
  • There are three carved stone wreaths on the Cenotaph, as well as two inscriptions reading ‘The Glorious Dead’. The dates of the First World War are inscribed in Roman numerals.

The Cenotaph

  • There are actually no right angles on the structure, although its sides appear to be perpendicular to the floor. In actual fact, the verticals would meet about 300 metres in the air, to symbolize the space between Earth and Heaven.
  • The Cenotaph and Whitehall were the scenes of celebrations in May, 1945 when World War II ended. The dates of the Second World War were added to the monument.
  • Routine maintenance and cleaning of the Cenotaph takes place every year. Major renovations took place in 2013, in time for the November Remembrance Day celebrations.
  • The national service of remembrance is held annually at the Cenotaph, every November on the Sunday closest to the 11th. King George V suggested the ceremony, which was first held in 1919.
  • An exact copy of the Cenotaph was built in London, Ontario, Canada in 1934. There are also Cenotaphs in Manchester, Hong Kong, Auckland, Southampton and Toronto.