A Magnificent Ancient Castle And Museum
The Tower of London is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in the City of London that is notable for both being the home the crown jewels and for holding many famous and infamous prisoners. The Tower has served many purposes during its long and illustrious lifetime: it housed the royal mint (until the early 19th century), a menagerie (which left in 1835), a records office, an armoury and barracks for troops and until the 17th century, it was also used as a royal residence.
Today it is one of the most famous castles in the world and is now a World Heritage Site attracting more than 2 million visitors a year. The main threat to the site today is not the ghosts of its colourful past including rebels, foreign armies or falling Luftwaffe bombs but rather the exhaust of cars. It is a problem that has threatened to turn the White Tower into a yellow colour, something which none of the previous threats could ever do.
William the Conqueror created the first fortified building after the conquest of England in 1066. The Normans lacked support among the people of London and the new ruler feared its inhabitants could throw him out. These buildings would come to include what is now called the “White Tower,” the innermost building in the castle, which gained its name after the exterior was whitewashed in the 13th century by King Henry III. Today, the complex's series of buildings and fortifications sprawls over 12 acres (5 hectares).
Throughout its history the tower was used to imprison a wide range of prisoners, from deposed monarchs to more common criminals. Famous prisoners included Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for about a week in the 16th century and the two princes, Edward and Richard, ages 12 and 9, who were the sons of Edward IV.
Two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, were both imprisoned and later executed here. The king who turned England into a Protestant country, also had a number of dissenting clergyman imprisoned and killed here, including his former confidante Sir Thomas More. Another notable prisoner was Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 attempted to blow up the House of Lords and King Charles.
The tower had other attractions that drew non-military visitors to it. For example, the royal menagerie - an early zoo - had a wide range of animals including lions, an ostrich and even a polar bear.
The Crown Jewels and more
The crown jewels are (probably) one of the most popular attractions at the Tower of London including the crowns worn by the monarch at coronation and at the opening of Parliament. Much of the royal regalia were destroyed in the mid-17th century when England became a republic for a brief time.
The tower also contains a huge collection of armour. First shown in an exhibit called the “Line of Kings,” that first started over 300 years ago, it features such items as a life-size wooden horse carved about 1690 and a set of golden armour created for Charles I around 1612.
A wonderful day out in ancient surroundings. Its hard on the feet and quite a few queues but very rewarding.
- , Indoor
- , close to river
- , City
- , family
- , Historical Event
- , City Central
- , Child Friendly
- , landmark