London's famous Beefeaters face layoffs for first time in 500-year history

The historic Beefeater guards are reportedly facing layoffs for the first time in their 500-year history as part of “heartbreaking” measures to cut costs at the Tower of London due to coronavirus.

The pandemic has seen the temporary closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces, which all rely heavily on visitor income.

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

HRP believes it is the first time that the guards, recognisable for their decorative red and black uniforms, have faced redundancy in their long history – having been formed by Henry VII in 1485.

At least two of the 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.

A groundsman mows a lawn in front of the White Tower at the Tower of London

Mr Barnes added that "every possible measure" had been taken to secure the 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.”

Mr Barnes said that the Beefeaters remained a valued part of the Tower of London and would “continue to be part of the Tower’s story in the years to come”.

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.

  • The site reopened on July 10 but can now welcome fewer than 1,000 people each day due to new safety measures.

  • Provisions to prevent further spread of Covid-19 include one-way routes and hand-sanitising stations throughout.

  • Tourists wanting a photograph with a Beefeater now have to do so while standing two metres away.

Read more: London's tourism industry 'may never recover' from the collapse in business caused by lockdown