The history of the Tower of London


The history of the Tower of London

Theme: The history of the Tower of London

Ryazan 2002

Contents:

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

England.

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

Londoners.

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

animals.

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

(1377-99).

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

Edwards.

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

traditions.

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.



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