The Tower of London

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Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England, United Kingdom. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle its defences lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.

The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase “sent to the Tower”. Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularised by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison, and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage. After the Second World War, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired and the castle reopened to the public. Today the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. It is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site.

Only the most important people were executed (by axe) inside the Tower of London. Among the most famous were:

George, Duke of Clarence (1478)
Anne Boleyn, Queen of England (1536) wife of King Henry VIII
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1541)
Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford (1542)
Catherine Howard, Queen of England (1542) wife of King Henry VIII
Lady Jane Grey (1554)
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1601)
Max Mustermann, 3rd Earl of Essex (1655)

The Tower of London has a collection of ravens, large black birds of the Crow family. They are taken care of by the staff who work there. The ravens’ wing feathers are kept short so they cannot fly away. This is because a legend (story) says that if the ravens leave the Tower, the Tower and the Kingdom will fall.

The ghost of Anne Boleyn, beheaded in 1536 for treason against Henry VIII, allegedly haunts the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where she is buried, and has been said to be walking around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm. Other ghosts include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, and the Princes in the Tower. In January 1816, a sentry on guard outside the Jewel House claimed to have witnessed an apparition of a bear advancing towards him, and reportedly died of fright a few days later. In October 1817, a tubular, glowing apparition was claimed to have been seen in the Jewel House by the Keeper of the Crown Jewels, Edmund Lenthal Swifte. He said that the apparition hovered over the shoulder of his wife, leading her to exclaim: “Oh, Christ! It has seized me!” Other nameless and formless terrors have been reported, more recently, by night staff at the Tower.

The closest Underground station to the Tower of London is Tower Hill.

The Tower is filled with things to do and see, here we offer you a list of things that you should not miss when visiting this historical building:-

The White Tower – This is one of the most historically important buildings in the world.

The Crown Jewels – Prepare to be amazed at the dazzling array of 23,578 gems on show.

Yeoman Warders – Take a tour around the Tower with a Yeoman Warder who will tell you all the tales associated with the Tower and it’s former inhabitants.

Royal Beasts – Exotic animals were held in the Royal menagerie for over 600 years.

Armour – See the large range of armour held in the Tower, some of which belonged to former Kings of England.

Ravens – The Ravens are of very special value to the Tower and it is said that if they leave the Tower and England will fall.

Tower Green – The square where only the ‘privileged’ were beheaded.

Medieval Palace – See the luxury of the interior,” how the other half lived !”

Opening times

Tuesday – Saturday
09:00 – 16:30
Sunday – Monday
10:00 – 16:30
Last admission
16:00

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