The history of the Tower of London

                 Theme: The history of the Tower of London

                                 Ryazan 2002


         1.      The Development of the Tower
         2.      The Normans
         3.      The Medieval Tower
         4.      The Tower in Tudor Times
         5.      The Restoration and After
         6.      The Tower in the 19th Century
         7.      The 20th Century

       The Tower of London

       The History of the Tower of London
       Fortress, Palace and Prison

          This short history of the Tower of  London  charts  the  different
stages of its development. Throughout its history, the Tower  has  attracted
a number of important functions and  its  role  as  armoury,  royal  palace,
prison and  fortress  is  explained,  as well as its modern role as  tourist
attraction and
home to a thriving community.

       The development of the Tower

       The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William  the  Conqueror
(1066-1087) and remained unchanged for over a century.  Then,  between  1190
and 1285, the White Tower was encircled by two towered curtain walls  and  a
great moat. The only important enlargement of the Tower after that time  was
the building of the Wharf in the 14th century. Today the  medieval  defences
remain relatively unchanged.

       The Normans

       WestmCastle building was an essential part of  the  Norman  Conquest:
when Duke William of Normandy invaded  England  in  1066  his  first  action
after landing at Pevensey on 28 September had been to  improvise  a  castle,
and when he moved to Hastings two days later  he  built  another.  Over  the
next few years William and his supporters were engaged in building  hundreds
more, first to conquer, then subdue and finally to  colonise  the  whole  of
       By the end of the Anglo-Saxon  period  London  had  become  the  most
powerful city in England, with a rich port, a nearby  royal  palace  and  an
important cathedral. It was via London that King Harold II  (1066)  and  his
army sped south to meet William, and to London which the defeated rabble  of
the English army returned from the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Securing  the
City was therefore of the utmost importance  to  William.  His  contemporary
biographer William of Poitiers tells us that after receiving the  submission
of the English magnates at Little Berkhampstead,  William  sent  an  advance
guard into London to construct  a  castle  and  prepare  for  his  triumphal
entry. He also tells us that,  after  his  coronation  in  inster  Abbey  on
Christmas Day 1066, the new King  withdrew  to  Barking  (in  Essex)  while
certain fortifications were completed in the city against  the  restlessness
of the vast and fierce populace for he realised that it was of the
first importance to overawe the Londoners.

These fortifications may have included Baynards Castle built in the south-
west angle of the City (near Blackfriars) and the castle of Monfichet (near
Ludgate Circus) and almost certainly the future Tower of London. Initially
the Tower had consisted of a modest enclosure built into the south-east
corner of the Roman City walls, but by the late 1070s, with the initial
completion of the White Tower, it had become the most fearsome of all.
Nothing had been seen like it in England before. It was built by Norman
masons and English (Anglo-Saxon) labour drafted in from the countryside,
perhaps to the design of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. It was intended to
protect the river route from Danish attack, but also and more importantly
to dominate the City physically and visually. It is difficult to appreciate
today what an enormous impression the tower and other Norman buildings,
such as St Pauls Cathedral (as rebuilt after 1086) or the nearby
Westminster Hall (rebuilt after 1087) must have made on the native
       The White Tower was protected to the east and south by the old  Roman
city walls  (a  full  height  fragment  can  be  seen  just  by  Tower  Hill
Underground station), while the north  and  west  sides  were  protected  by
ditches as much as 7.50m (25ft) wide and 3.40m (11ft) deep and an  earthwork
with a wooden wall on top.  In  the  12th  century  a  fore-building  (now
demolished) was added to the south front of the White Tower to  protect  the
entrance. The Wardrobe Tower, a fragment of which can be seen at the  south-
east corner of the building, was another early addition or rebuilding.  From
very early on the enclosure contained  a  number  of  timber  buildings  for
residential and service use. It is not clear whether these included a  royal
residence but William the Conquerors  immediate  successors  probably  made
use of the White Tower itself.
       It is important for us today to remember that the  functions  of  the
Tower from the 1070s until the late 19th century  were  established  by  its
Norman founders. The Tower was never primarily intended  to  protect  London
from external invasion, although, of  course,  it  could  have  done  so  if
necessary. Nor was it ever intended to be the  principal  residence  of  the
kings and queens of England, though many did in fact spend periods  of  time
there. Its primary function was always to provide a base for royal power  in
the City of London and a stronghold to which the Royal Family could  retreat
in times of civil disorder.

       The Medieval Tower:

A refuge and a base for royal power

       When Richard the Lionheart (1189-99) came to the throne  he  departed
on a crusade to the Holy Land leaving  his  Chancellor,  William  Longchamp,
Bishop of Ely, in charge of the  kingdom.  Longchamp  soon  embarked  on  an
enlargement and strengthening of the Tower of London, the first of a  series
of building campaigns which by about 1350 had created the basic form of  the
great  fortress  that  we  know  today.  The  justification  for  the   vast
expenditure and effort this involved was the political  instability  of  the
kingdom and the Crowns continuing need for an impregnable fortress  in  the
City of London.
       Longchamps works doubled the area covered by the fortress by digging
a new and deeper ditch to the  north  and  east  and  building  sections  of
curtain wall, reinforced by a new tower (now known as  the  Bell  Tower)  at
the south-west corner. The ditch was intended to flood  naturally  from  the
river, although this was not a success. These new defences were soon put  to
the test when the  Kings  brother,  John,  taking  advantage  of  Richards
captivity in Germany, challenged Longchamps authority and besieged  him  at
the Tower. Lack of provisions forced Longchamp to surrender but the  Towers
defences had proved that they could resist attack.
       The reign of the next king John (1199-1216) saw little  new  building
work at the Tower, but the King made good use of  the  accommodation  there.
Like Longchamp, John had to cope with  frequent  opposition  throughout  his
reign. Only a year after signing an agreement with his barons in  1215  (the
Magna Carta) they were once more at loggerheads and Prince Louis  of  France
had launched an invasion of England with  the  support  of  some  of  Johns
leading barons. In the midst of his defence of the  kingdom,  John  died  of
dysentery and his son, Henry III, was crowned.
       With England at war with France, the start of King Henrys long reign
(1216-72) could have hardly been less auspicious, but  within  seven  months
of his accession the French had been defeated at the battle of  Lincoln  and
the business of securing the  kingdom  could  begin.  Reinforcement  of  the
royal castles played a major role in this, and his  work  at  the  Tower  of
London was more extensive than anywhere other than at Windsor Castle.  Henry
III was only ten years old in 1216, but his regents began a major  extension
of the royal accommodation in the enclosure which formed the Inmost Ward  as
we know it today. The great hall  and  kitchen,  dating  from  the  previous
century,  were  improved  and  two  towers  built  on  the  waterfront,  the
Wakefield Tower as the Kings lodgings and the Lanthorn  Tower  (rebuilt  in
the 19th century), probably intended as the queens  lodgings.  A  new  wall
was also built enclosing the west side of the Inmost Ward.
       By the mid 1230s, Henry III had run into trouble with his barons  and
opposition flared up in both 1236 and in 1238. On both  occasions  the  King
fled to the Tower of London. But as he sheltered  in  the  castle  in  March
1238 the weakness of the Tower must have  been  brought  home  to  him;  the
defences to the eastern, western and northern sides  consisted  only  of  an
empty moat, stretches of patched-up and strengthened Roman wall  and  a  few
lengths of wall built by Longchamp  in  the  previous  century.  That  year,
therefore, saw the launch of Henrys most ambitious  building  programme  at
the Tower, the construction of a great new  curtain  wall  round  the  east,
north and west sides of the castle at a cost of over 5,000.  The  new  wall
doubled the area covered by the fortress, enclosing the neighbouring  church
of St Peter ad Vincula. It was surrounded by a moat, this time  successfully
flooded by a Flemish engineer, John Le Fosser. The wall  was  reinforced  by
nine new towers,  the  strongest  at  the  corners  (the  Salt,  Martin  and
Devereux). Of  these  all  but  two  (the  Flint  and  Brick)  are  much  as
originally built. This massive  extension  to  the  Tower  was  viewed  with
extreme suspicion and  hostility  by  the  people  of  London,  who  rightly
recognised it as a further assertion  of  royal  authority.  A  contemporary
writer reports their delight when  a  section  of  newly-built  wall  and  a
gateway  on  the  site  of  the  Beauchamp  Tower  collapsed,  events   they
attributed to their own guardian  saint,  Thomas    Becket.  Archaeological
excavation between 1995 and 1997  revealed  the  remains  of  one  of  these
collasped buildings.
       In 1272 King Edward I (1272-1307) came to the  throne  determined  to
complete the defensive works begun by his father and extend them as a  means
of further emphasising royal authority over London. Between  1275  and  1285
the King spent over 21,000 on the fortress creating Englands  largest  and
strongest concentric castle (a castle  with  one  line  of  defences  within
another). The work included building the existing Beauchamp Tower,  but  the
main effort was concentrated on filling in Henry IIIs moat and creating  an
additional curtain wall on the  western,  northern  and  eastern  side,  and
surrounding it by a new moat. This wall enclosed the existing  curtain  wall
built by Henry III and was pierced by two new entrances, one from  the  land
on the west, passing through the  Middle  and  Byward  towers,  and  another
under St Thomass Tower, from the river. New royal  lodgings  were  included
in the upper part of St Thomass Tower. Almost all these  buildings  survive
in some form today.
       Despite all this work Edward was a very rare visitor to his fortress;
he was, in fact, only able to enjoy his new lodgings there for a  few  days.
There is no doubt though that if he had been a weaker king, and had  to  put
up with disorders in London of  the  kind  experienced  by  his  father  and
grandfather, the Tower would  have  come  into  its  own  as  an  even  more
effective and efficient base for royal authority.
       King Edwards new works were, however, put to the  test  by  his  son
Edward II (1307-27), whose reign saw a resurgence of  discontent  among  the
barons on a scale not seen since the reign of his  grandfather.  Once  again
the Tower played a crucial role in the attempt to maintain  royal  authority
and as a royal refuge. Edward II did little more than improve the walls  put
up by his father, but he was a regular resident during his  turbulent  reign
and he moved his own lodgings from  the  Wakefield  Tower  and  St  Thomass
Tower to the area round the present Lanthorn Tower. The old  royal  lodgings
were now used for his courtiers and for the storage of  official  papers  by
the Kings Wardrobe (a department  of  government  which  dealt  with  royal
supplies). The use of the  Tower  for  functions  other  than  military  and
residential had been started by Edward I who put up a large new building  to
house the Royal Mint and began to use the castle  as  a  place  for  storing
records. As early as the reign of Henry III the castle had already  been  in
regular use as a prison: Hubert de Burgh, Chief  Justiciar  of  England  was
incarcerated in 1232 and the Welsh  Prince  Gruffydd  was  imprisoned  there
between 1241 and 1244, when he fell to his death in a  bid  to  escape.  The
Tower  also  served  as  a  treasury  (the  Crown  Jewels  were  moved  from
Westminster Abbey to the Tower in 1303) and as a showplace  for  the  Kings

After the unstable reign of Edward II came that  of  Edward  III  (1327-77).
Edward IIIs works at the Tower were fairly minor, but he did put up  a  new
gatehouse between the Lanthorn Tower and the Salt Tower, together  with  the
Cradle Tower and its  postern  (a  small  subsidiary  entrance),  a  further
postern behind the Byward Tower and another at the  Develin  Tower.  He  was
also responsible for rebuilding the upper parts  of  the  Bloody  Tower  and
creating  the  vault  over  the  gate  passage,  but  his  most  substantial
achievement was to extend the Tower Wharf eastwards as far  as  St  Thomass
Tower. This was completed in its present form by his  successor  Richard  II

       The Tower in Tudor Times:

A royal prison

       The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII (1485-1509)  was  responsible  for
building the last permanent royal residential buildings  at  the  Tower.  He
extended his own lodgings around the Lanthorn Tower  adding  a  new  private
chamber, a library, a long gallery,  and  also  laid  out  a  garden.  These
buildings were to form the nucleus of a much larger scheme begun by his  son
Henry VIII (1509-47) who put up a large range of timber-framed  lodgings  at
the time of the coronation of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The building  of
these lodgings, used only once, marked the  end  of  the  history  of  royal
residence at the Tower.
       The reigns of the Tudor kings and queens were comparatively stable in
terms of civil disorder. However, from the 1530s onwards the  unrest  caused
by the Reformation (when Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome) gave  the
Tower an expanded role as the home for  a  large  number  of  religious  and
political prisoners.
       The first important Tudor prisoners were Sir Thomas More  and  Bishop
Fisher of Rochester, both of whom were executed  in  1535  for  refusing  to
acknowledge Henry VIII as  head  of  the  English  Church.  They  were  soon
followed by a still more famous prisoner and victim, the Kings second  wife
Anne Boleyn, executed along with her brother and four others a little  under
a year later. July 1540 saw the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of  Essex
and former Chief Minister of the King - in which capacity he had  modernised
the Towers defences and, ironically  enough,  sent  many  others  to  their
deaths on the same spot. Two years later, Catherine Howard,  the  second  of
Henry VIIIs six wives to be beheaded, met  her  death  outside  the  Chapel
Royal of St Peter ad Vincula which Henry had rebuilt a few years before.
       The reign of  Edward  VI  (1547-53)  saw  no  end  to  the  political
executions  which  had  begun  in  his  fathers  reign;  the  young  Kings
protector the Duke of Somerset and his confederates met their death  at  the
Tower in 1552,  falsely  accused  of  treason.  During  Edwards  reign  the
English Church became more Protestant, but the Kings early  death  in  1553
left the country with a Catholic heir, Mary I  (1553-8).  During  her  brief
reign  many  important  Protestants  and  political   rivals   were   either
imprisoned or executed at the Tower. The most famous victim  was  Lady  Jane
Grey, and the most famous prisoner the  Queens  sister  Princess  Elizabeth
(the future Elizabeth I). Religious controversy  did  not  end  with  Marys
death in 1558; Queen  Elizabeth  I  (1558-1603)  spent  much  of  her  reign
warding off  the  threat  from  Catholic  Europe,  and  important  recusants
(people who refused to attend Church of England  services)  and  others  who
might have opposed her rule were locked up in the Tower. Never had  it  been
so full of  prisoners,  or  such  illustrious  ones:  bishops,  archbishops,
knights, barons, earls and dukes all spent months and  some  of  them  years
languishing in the towers of the Tower of London.
       Little was done to the Towers defences in  these  years.  The  Royal
Mint was modified  and  extended,  new  storehouses  were  built  for  royal
military supplies. In the reign of James I (1603-25) the Lieutenants  house
- built in the 1540s and today called the Queens House - was  extended  and
modified; the kings lions were rehoused in better dens  made  for  them  in
the west gate barbican.

       The Restoration and After:

The Tower and the Office of Ordnance

       After a long period of peace at home, the  reign  of  Charles  I  saw
civil war break out again in 1642, between King and  Parliament.  As  during
the Wars of the Roses and previous conflicts, the Tower  was  recognised  as
one of the most important of the Kings assets.  Londoners,  in  particular,
were frightened that the Tower would be used by him to  dominate  the  City.
In 1643, after a political rather than a military struggle, control  of  the
Tower was seized from the King  by  the  parliamentarians  and  remained  in
their hands throughout the Civil War (1642-9). The loss of  the  Tower,  and
of London as a whole, was a crucial factor in the defeat  of  Charles  I  by
Parliament. It  was  during  this  period  that  a  permanent  garrison  was
installed in the Tower for the first time, by Oliver Cromwell,  soon  to  be
Lord Protector but then a prominent parliamentary commander.
       Todays small military guard, seen outside the Queens House and  the
Waterloo Barracks, is an echo of Cromwells innovation.
       The monarchy was restored in 1660 and the  reign  of  the  new  king,
Charles II (1660-85), saw further changes in the  functions  of  the  Tower.
Its role as a state prison declined,  and  the  Office  of  Ordnance  (which
provided military supplies and equipment) took over responsibility for  most
of the castle, making it their  headquarters.  During  this  period  another
long-standing tradition of the Tower began  -  the  public  display  of  the
Crown Jewels. They were moved from their old home to a new site in  what  is
now called the Martin  Tower,  and  put  on  show  by  their  keeper  Talbot
       Schemes for strengthening the Towers defences, some elaborate and up
to date, were also proposed so that in  the  event  of  violent  opposition,
which was always a possibility during the 1660s  and  1670s,  Charles  would
not be caught out as his father had been earlier  in  the  century.  In  the
end, none of these came to much, and  the  Restoration  period  saw  only  a
minor strengthening of the Tower.  Yet  the  well  equipped  garrison  which
Charles  II  and  his  successors  maintained  was  often  used   to   quell
disturbances in the City; James II (1685-8) certainly took steps to use  the
Towers forces against the opposition which eventually caused  him  to  flee
into exile.
       Under the control of the Office of Ordnance the Tower was filled with
a series of munitions stores and workshops for the army and navy.  The  most
impressive and elegant of these was the Grand Storehouse begun  in  1688  on
the site where the Waterloo Barracks now stand. It was initially  a  weapons
store but as the 17th century drew to a close it became more of a museum  of
arms and armour. More utilitarian buildings gradually took over  the  entire
area previously covered by the medieval royal lodgings to the south  of  the
White Tower; by 1800, after a series of fires and rebuildings, the whole  of
this area had become a mass of large brick Ordnance  buildings.  All  these,
however, have been swept away, and the only surviving storehouse put  up  by
the Ordnance is the  New  Armouries,  standing  against  the  eastern  inner
curtain wall between the Salt and Broad Arrow towers.
       While  the  Ordnance  was  busy  building  storehouses,  offices  and
workshops, the army was expanding  accommodation  for  the  Tower  garrison.
Their largest building  was  the  Irish  Barracks  (now  demolished),  sited
behind the New Armouries building in the Outer Ward.

       The Tower in the 19th Century:

From fortress to ancient monument

       Between 1800 and 1900 the Tower of  London  took  on  the  appearance
which to a large extent it retains today. Early in the century many  of  the
historic institutions which had been based within its walls  began  to  move
out. The first to go was the Mint which moved to new buildings to the  north
east of the castle in 1812, where it remained until 1968, when it  moved  to
its present location near Cardiff. The Royal Menagerie left the  Lion  Tower
in 1834 to become the nucleus of what is now  London  Zoo,  and  the  Record
Office (responsible for storing documents of state), moved to Chancery  Lane
during the 1850s, vacating parts of the  medieval  royal  lodgings  and  the
White Tower. Finally, after the War Office assumed  responsibility  for  the
manufacture and storage of weapons in 1855,  large  areas  of  the  fortress
were vacated by the old Office of Ordnance.
       However, before these changes took place the Tower had once  again  -
but for the last time - performed its  traditional  role  in  asserting  the
authority of the state over the people of London. The Chartist  movement  of
the  1840s  (which  sought  major  political  reform)   prompted   a   final
refortification of the Tower between 1848 and 1852,  and  further  work  was
carried out in 1862. To protect the approaches to the Tower  new  loop-holes
and gun emplacements were built and an  enormous  brick  and  stone  bastion
(destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War) constructed on  the  north
side of the fortress. Following the burning down of the Grand Storehouse  in
1841, the  present  Waterloo  Barracks  was  put  up  to  accommodate  1,000
soldiers, and the Brick, Flint and Bowyer towers to its north  were  altered
or rebuilt to service it; the Royal Fusiliers building was erected  at  the
same time to be the officers mess. The mob never  stormed  the  castle  but
the fear of it left the outer defences of the Tower much as they are today.
       The vacation of large parts of the Tower by  the  offices  which  had
formerly  occupied  it  and  an  increasing  interest  in  the  history  and
archaeology  of  the  Tower  led,  after  1850,  to  a  programme  of   re-
medievalisation. By then the late 17th and 18th-century Ordnance  buildings
and barracks, together with a series of private inns and  taverns,  such  as
the Stone Kitchen and the Golden Chain, had obscured most  of  the  medieval
fortress. The first clearances of these buildings began in the  late  1840s,
but the real work began in 1852, when the architect Anthony Salvin,  already
known for his work on medieval buildings,  re-exposed  the  Beauchamp  Tower
and restored it to a medieval appearance. Salvins  work  was  much  admired
and attracted the attention of Prince Albert (husband  of  Queen  Victoria),
who recommended that he be made responsible for a  complete  restoration  of
the castle. This led to a programme of work which involved the  Salt  Tower,
the White Tower, St Thomass Tower, the Bloody Tower  and  the  construction
of two new houses on Tower Green.
       In the 1870s Salvin was replaced by John Taylor, a less talented  and
sensitive architect. His efforts concentrated on the southern parts  of  the
Tower, notably the Cradle and Develin towers and on the  demolition  of  the
18th-century Ordnance Office and storehouse on  the  site  of  the  Lanthorn
Tower, which he rebuilt. He also built the stretches  of  wall  linking  the
Lanthorn Tower  to  the  Salt  and  Wakefield  towers.  But  by  the  1890s,
restoration of this type was going out of fashion  and  this  was  the  last
piece of re-medievalisation to be undertaken. The work of  this  period  had
succeeded in opening up the site and re-exposing its defences, but fell  far
short of restoring its true medieval appearance.
       The second half of the 19th century  saw  a  great  increase  in  the
number of visitors to the Tower, although sightseers had  been  admitted  as
early as 1660. In 1841 the first  official  guidebook  was  issued  and  ten
years later a  purpose-built  ticket  office  was  erected  at  the  western
entrance. By the end of Queen Victorias  reign  in  1901,  half  a  million
people were visiting the Tower each year.

       The 20th Century

       The First World War (1914-18) left the Tower largely  untouched;  the
only bomb to fall on the fortress landed  in  the  Moat.  However,  the  war
brought the Tower of London back into use as a prison  for  the  first  time
since the early 19th century and between 1914-16 eleven spies were held  and
subsequently executed in the Tower. The last execution  in  the  Tower  took
place in 1941 during the Second World War  (1939-45).  Bomb  damage  to  the
Tower during the Second World War was much greater: a  number  of  buildings
were severely damaged or destroyed  including  the  mid-19th  century  North
Bastion, which received a direct hit on 5 October  1940,  and  the  Hospital
Block which was partly destroyed during  an  air  raid  in  the  same  year.
Incendiaries also destroyed the Main Guard, a late 19th-century building  to
the south-west of the White Tower. During the Second  World  War  the  Tower
was closed to the public. The Moat, which had been  drained  and  filled  in
1843, was used as allotments for vegetable  growing  and  the  Crown  Jewels
were removed from the Tower and taken to a place of safety, the location  of
which has never been disclosed. Today the Tower of  London  is  one  of  the
worlds major tourist attractions and 2.5 million visitors a  year  come  to
discover its long  and  eventful  history,  its  buildings,  ceremonies  and
       There is more of  London's history in the Tower than  anywhere  else.
Most of the publik displays are in  White  Tower,begining  on  the  entrance
floor with the  Hunting  and Sporting Gallery. Here  may  be  seen  a  great
variety of specialized weapons developed for for use in the hunt. The  croun
Jevels had for many years been kept in the Wakefild Tower but          sinse
1967 have been houzed  in  a  specially  construkted  strongroom  below  the
Waterloo Barracs. Here is probably the world's  largest  and  most  valuable
collection of jevels and gold plate.The yeoman  warders  or  "Beefiters"  as
they are often called are found at the Tower of  London.  Wearing  dark-blue
tunics with red braid (a uniform given to them in 1958), they  are  probably
some of the most photographet men in Britain -- thousands of tourists  visit
the Tower every year.
       The Beefeaters, all ex-army men, are used mainly as guides. They  are
also involved in the security of this historic building.
       Ravents have lived in the Tower from  its  very  btginning  over  900
years ago and only so long as they are here will the White Towe stand...
       In Her Majesty's Royal Place and Fortress of  the  Tower  of   London
they are said to hold the Crown  itself  and  should  they  ever  leave  the
Tower, the Crown and England will fall. But they have never left,  and  from
the reign of  King Charless II  300 years ago  and,  they  have  been  under
Royal protection.
       There are four territories within the Tower, each of which  is  ruled
over by a pair of adult ravents in each area, thought  they  might  stay  to
theyr neighour's patch from time to time.
       No other historic monument in English  can  boast  such  as  unbroken
continiuty with the nation's heritage. The Tower's great  sense  of  history
lives on in its traditions and  particulary  in  the  ceremonies  which  are
still performed here virtually unchanged after several centuries.

"The history of the Tower of London"