Tower of London
 

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Index of London pages

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a dominating landmark in central London on the eastern border of the City of London, beside the northern bank of the River Thames.

It is often identified with the White Tower, the original stark, square fortress built here by William the Conqueror in 1078. It can be seen, however, as a complex of several buildings set within the outer defensive walls and moat.

The Tower's primary function was as a fortress, a royal palace and a prison (particularly for high status and royal prisoners, such as the Princes in the Tower and the future Queen Elizabeth I). This last use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower" meaning "imprisoned". It has also served as a place of execution and torture, an armoury, a treasury, a zoo, a mint, a public records office, and an observatory

There have been at least six (there are currently eight) ravens in residence at the Tower for centuries, although the exact point in history when they arrived is unknown. Charles II ordered their removal when he discovered their droppings all over his telescope. However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower, the Monarchy, and the entire Kingdom would fall. And Charles, during the time of the English Civil War, superstition or not, was not prepared to take the chance

 

Tower of London Traitor's gate
Traitors Gate was originally known as Water Gate,
but was later changed when it was used
as the landing for the Crown's enemies.
All important prisoners entered the Tower through this gate.
A Brief History of the Tower

1240
Henry III built a new wall and gate.
By the late 1230s the Tower of London, the country's key fortress for the past century, was in need of updating. French forces had taken and occupied the castle between 1215 and 1217, showing its defences to be inadequate. In 1240, Henry III built a new wall and gate.
One lasting legacy from this period was Henry's order to have the great tower whitewashed inside and out. This gave the building its name - the White Tower.

1280
Edward I completed a new entrance to the Tower. He moved the main land gate to the south west where to was defended by a heavily fortified enclosure and two mighty towers.

1300
Edward completed the outer wall and moat.
Henry III's son, Edward, was probably England's most successful warrior. His additions to the Tower created  a fortification ringed by a moat and two curtain walls, which in turn were protected by a series of towers and gateways. He built new royal accommodation and established the Great Wardrobe where royal goods were were stored. A permanent branch of the Royal Mint was set up.

1483
Edward IV built brick defences on Tower Hill. This new brick structure became known as the Bulwark.

1547
Edward VI came to the Throne as a 9 year old boy, the Tower was no longer really fit for a king. However, Edward rode from the Tower before his coronation.

1700
The Tower was filled with houses and storehouses. Although no longer a royal residence, the Tower was still a central powerhouse in the 18th century. Hundreds of people worked in the Board of Ordnance, responsible for all fortifications in the British Isles.

1746
Rebellious Scottish lords were beheaded on Tower Hill.
Only seven executions actually took place within the walls of the Tower but over a hundred were carried out on Tower Hill.

1835
The Royal Menagerie left the Tower. There had been a collection of wild and exotic beasts kept at the Tower since the mid 13th century.

1879
A huge warehouse was built on Tower Hill. many of its buildings were restored to try and re-create its medieval appearance.

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Tower of London