Tower of London, or Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, is an English historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. The landmark served as the control and protection of London City in its era. It has been the symbol of Norman power as it was built to demonstrate it.
Tower of London is one of London’s popular tourist attractions. The Tower is under the care of the charity Historic Royal Palaces and announced as one of World Heritage Sites.
History of Tower of London
Tower of London was built in 1066 after the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror. It was one of many castles built by the emperor as a symbol of the conquest of London. The castle was mainly used as a royal palace although it was once used as a prison in 1100 to 1240.
In 1078, William added a castle built with strong stone to complete the building known as the White Tower. This very castle was the one that gave Tower of London its name. This castle was also the place where William imprisoned his opponents and enemies. The castle underwent several expansions under King Richard the Lionheart, King Henry III and King Edward I between 12th and 13th centuries. King Henry III was the one who made most expansions to the castle by adding a chapel, guardrooms, apartments, and underground burial chambers.
Tower of London is an important witness of London’s history. It was besieged several times by forces that intended to rule England. It has changed roles several times including being the home of the Royal Mint, an armory, a treasury, a public records office, a menagerie, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
The Tower of London once again was used as a prison during World War I and II. The tower was also the place where 12 espionages were executed. The Blitz attack in World War II by the Germans damaged several parts of the castle so that it underwent renovation before it was opened to the public.
Famous Prisoners of Tower of London
Used a couple of times as a prison in its 900 years of existence, the Tower had kept some famous prisoners. Ann Boleyn was the most famous of all. She was accused of being unfaithful to her husband, King Henry VIII, and beheaded in 1535.
Other famous prisoners were Sir Walter Raleigh, Rudolf Hess, Eleanor the Duchess of Gloucester, and two Dukes of York, Edward V and Richard.
Architecture of Tower of London
The Tower of London is known as the strongest fortress with most powerful defenses in London. The tower design can be simply divided into three areas. The fist one is the innermost area which includes the White Tower, the tower which was specially built by William to imprison his enemies. The White Tower also serves as a keep, which is the strongest structure in medieval era. The tower comprises 36 metres to 32 metres area and stands at 27 meters tall.
The next part is the inner area which was built under the reign of King Richard the Lionheart during 1189 and 1199. This second area encircles the innermost area to its north, east, and west. The third area is the outer area which was built under the reign of King Edward I.
Tower of London as a Tourism Site
The Tower of London has become a tourism site since the Elizabethan period. Foreign visitors often wrote about it as one of the places to visit in London. The main attractions that drew people to Tower of London were its Royal Menagerie and armor displays. Moreover, the Tower also has been displaying the Crown Jewels since 1669.
The Tower of London’s popularity kept increasing so that a ticket box was finally built in 1851. It was recorded that more than 500,000 people have visited the castle by the end of 19th century.
Entering the 20 century, the Tower was designed to be a fully tourist attraction site. Although the military routines from the Royal Logistic Corps had been terminated half century ago, the Tower now still acts as ceremonial headquarter to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers as well as its museum. There is also gun fire salutes on several occasions through the year.
The Tower of London is now under the care of Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity which receives funding from the Government of the Crown. It has been listed as one of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO since 1988.
The Jewel House
The Tower of London is also home to the Crown Jewels collection. The main piece of collection is the Scepter with Cross which carries the largest diamond cut in the world. The scepter is displayed together with other 2,868 diamonds, 11 emeralds, 17 sapphires, 5 rubies, and 273 pearls. A heist attempt was done in the 1600s by Thomas Blood but fortunately was failed by the unexpected arrival of the Master of the Jewel House.
A legend about ravens lives in the Tower. It says that the ravens that live around the Tower are protected because the Tower is believed to crumble if they ever leave.
Ghosts of Tower of London
Being the place where some important figures imprisoned and beheaded, the Tower of London is famous for its ghost stories. Anne Boleyn’s ghost is the most popular one to be seen carrying her head under her arm walking around the White Tower. Other famous ghosts are including Lady Jane Grey, Henry VI, and Margaret Pole.
Visiting Tower of London
The Tower of London can be reached easily by numerous ways. Bus, train, boat, car, and bicycle are some ways to get to the iconic site. Tower Hill underground station is where you should stop if you go by subway while Fenchurch Street or London Bridge stations are your final destinations if you travel by train.
Tower of London is open daily at 09.00 to 17.30 on Tuesday to Saturday and at 10.00 to 17.30 on Sunday and Monday.