Anonymous Yeoman Warders Beefeaters at Tower of London

Coronavirus: Tower Of London Beefeaters Face Layoffs

The site's Yeoman Warders are drawn from the Armed Forces and must have at least 22 years of service in the military to carry out the role.

Anonymous Yeoman Warders Beefeaters at Tower of London

Beefeater guards at the Tower of London are facing layoffs for what is thought to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of "heartbreaking" costing-cutting measures.

The coronavirus crisis has seen the temporary closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP).

HRP, which runs the Tower of London, said earlier this month that they face a £98 million shortfall in their finances because of the pandemic.

The site reopned on 10 July after a four-month closure, but can can only welcome fewer than 1,000 people each day due to coronavirus safety measures.

A spokesperson for HRP confirmed that a voluntary redundacy scheme had been introduced last month and staff had been warned a compulsory scheme was likely to follow.

At least two of 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels, have reportedly taken voluntary redundancy already.

HRP chief executive John Barnes said the organisation had "simply had no choice" but to make the cuts.

"Historic Royal Palaces is a self-funded charity. We depend on visitors for 80% of our income," Mr Barnes said.

"The closure of our six sites for almost four months has dealt a devastating blow to our finances, which we expect to continue for the rest of the financial year and to be compounded by the slow recovery of international tourism.

"We have taken every possible measure to secure our financial position, but we need to do more to survive in the long term.

"We simply have no choice but to reduce our payroll costs."

social distancing sign at tower of london after lockdown reopening 100720 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
The Tower of London reopened on 10 July, with a number of safety measures put in place.

The Beefeaters are famous for their decorative red and black uniforms.

The guards, who are drawn from the Armed Forces and need to have at least 22 years of service, were formed in 1485 by Henry VII.

They also need to have reached the rank of warrant officer and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. 

Mr Barnes added the Beefeaters remain a valued part of the Tower of London and will "continue to be part of the Tower's story in the years to come".

"We are heartbroken that it has come to this," he said.

HRP added that there would still be "sufficient staff" to run the site.

The Tower of London is HRP's largest paid for attraction by some margin and normally attracts around three million visitors per year.

In response to the news about the layoffs, the Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "[The Beefeaters] are a valued part of the The Tower of London and will continue to be part of the Tower’s story in the years to come. 

"We're providing unprecedented financial assistance which many heritage organisations including the Historic Royal palace have taken advantage of including the job retention scheme, a year’s business rates holiday for ledger businesses, a reduction in VAT from 20% to 5% for tourism and hospitality firms and the bounce-back loan scheme."

Cover image: PA.