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Detailed History of Tower of London | Timeline, Events, & More

Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London, crucial among the English capital’s historic attractions, has played a significant role in English history ever since. It has been used as a royal palace, a prison, an execution site, and a place of safekeeping for the Crown Jewels.

Over the centuries, the Tower of London has seen many famous faces, including kings, queens, prisoners, and even ghosts! It is a place where history comes to life, and where you can learn about some of the most important and dramatic events in English history. Read on to know the Tower of London's history in detail.

Timeline

1066 and 1070s: William the Conqueror invaded England, claimed the throne, and ordered the construction of a fortress on the north bank of the River Thames. The fortress is today called the White Tower.

1097: William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, expanded the tower. He built a curtain wall and added a moat.

1189 - 1199: Richard the Lionheart improved the Tower’s defences and added the Jewel House to store the Crown Jewels.

The 1200s to 1300s: King John lost the Crown Jewels in the River Thames mud while fleeing a rebellion. Years later, Edward I added a new entrance, the Wakefield Tower, and a curtain wall with St. Thomas's Tower. The Tower was attacked during the Peasants' Revolt, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was beheaded towards the end of the 14th century.

The 1400s to 1500s: Death and deceit reign supreme. Richard III imprisoned his nephews, the Princes, in the Tower. Anne Boleyn and several other high-profile prisoners within the Tower were executed on Henry VIII’s orders in the 1500s.

1600s: Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators faced imprisonment and torture in the Tower for the Gunpowder Plot. The Tower was converted into a prison during the English Civil War but was used as a royal menagerie between 1660 and 1688.

1800s: The Tower of London regained its historical status after the Royal Mint moved into a new building. Renovations were carried out to restore the campus.

1988: The Tower of London became a UNESCO World Heritage Site..

The Tower of London History Explained

Tower of London History - William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror: 1070s

1070s

What is the starting point of the historical journey of Tower of London?

William the Conqueror invaded England and proclaimed himself King. However, he was nervous about rebellion, pushing him to build a castle that protected him and caused fear in his enemies’ minds. He began building his castle in the 1070s, employing masons from Normandy. William Rufus, William the Conqueror’s son, expanded the Tower, building a curtain wall and adding a moat three decades later.

Tower of London History - Elation and Despair: 12th Century

Elation and Despair: 12th Century

The 12th century was a time of change and unrest in England. Written neatly in history, events in the Tower of London reflected it, as it saw elation and despair in equal measure. It saw the imprisonment of King Stephen and the coronation of Henry II. In 1141, King Stephen was imprisoned by his rival, Empress Matilda. He was held in the White Tower for several months before being released. Later, in 1154, Henry II was crowned King at the Tower of London. A strong and effective ruler, he made the Tower of London his seat of power.

Tower of London History - Expansion and Utility: 13th Century

Expansion and Utility: 13th Century

As years passed by, the Tower of London became an experimental ground. From a royal palace to a prison, it served several purposes in the 13th century. The castle was expanded and fortified as a palace but saw many executions, including those of William Wallace and Simon de Montfort. King John was imprisoned in the Tower after losing to the French at the Battle of Lincoln in 1216. John died in the Tower in 1216, and his young son, Henry III, was crowned King. Henry III ruled for over 50 years, and the Tower later became a prison.

Tower of London History - Royal Deaths: 14 Century

Royal Deaths: 14 Century

As history progressed, King Edward II was deposed and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1327. He was later murdered, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. Decades later, in 1381, the Peasants' Revolt reached London. The rebels stormed the Tower, capturing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor before executing them on Tower Hill. This was after the time of King Edward III, who was crowned in the Tower and died in it due to the Black Death.

Tower of London History - War Reaches the Tower of London: 15th Century

War Reaches the Tower of London: 15th Century

The Tower of London was central in the Wars of the Roses, a Civil War in England. In 1461, King Henry VI was captured by the Yorkists, imprisoned in the Tower, and later murdered there. Thereafter, Richard III became King after the death of his nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. It is believed Richard III murdered his nephews in the castle. Years later, Henry VII defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and became King, kickstarting a new era in English history.

Tower of London History - The Transformation: 1600s - Present

The Transformation: 1600s - Present

The Tower of London’s fate remained uncertain until London became peaceful again. Deaths, imprisonment, and torture were actively carried out within the Tower, but it found use as a royal menagerie between 1660 and 1688. A century later, the Royal Mint moved to a new building and left the Tower of London as a centre of history and heritage. The Tower of London became a symbol of London’s rich but equally dark history, attracting millions of visitors. As a result, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 20th century.

Construction of the Tower of London

Tower of London History - White Tower

The construction of the Tower of London began in 1078, shortly after William the Conqueror's victory at the Battle of Hastings. William was determined to consolidate his power over England, and he saw the Tower as a vital part of his strategy.

Constructed on the site of a former Roman fort, it was designed to be a formidable defensive structure. The White Tower, the oldest and most iconic part of the Tower, is a massive square keep that is over 100 feet tall. It is made of limestone imported from Normandy, and it is surrounded by a moat.

The Tower was built using the latest construction techniques of the time. The White Tower, for example, was built with a double shell of walls, with a filling of rubble in between. This made the tower extremely strong and difficult to breach. The Tower of London was a marvel of engineering for its time. It is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of the Norman builders, and it is a reminder of the power and wealth of William the Conqueror.

The Architecture of the Tower of London

Tower of London - history architecture

More than three million visitors are attracted to the grandeur and royalty of the Tower of London. It is among the most impressive medieval fortresses, with many magnificent buildings part of the overall structure. The architecture reflects the need to protect the kings, queens, and royal members at the time: it has thick walls, battlements, and narrow slits for archers to shoot through.

Thanks to the restorations carried out in the past, the Tower of London has a unique blend of Gothic, Tudo, and Victorian architectural styles. You can see elements of various styles, including the Norman arches and vaults, the Tudor windows, and the Victorian Gothic Revival-style additions.

The Tower of London Today

Tower of London

Today, the Tower of London stands as a captivating testament to its rich history, attracting millions of visitors from around the world each year. As you explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll be immersed in the captivating story of England's royal past, marvelling at the craftsmanship of long-gone architects, rulers, and workers.

While the Tower remains a working royal palace, it is also a treasure trove for tourists. The highlight for many is the Jewel House, where the Crown Jewels, including the Crown of England and the Sceptre of the Sovereign, gleam with historical significance.

Don't miss the iconic White Tower, which offers breathtaking city views and houses the Royal Armouries' remarkable collection of over a million weapons and artefacts. As you wander through the Bloody Tower, Wakefield Tower, Beauchamp Tower, and past the Traitor's Gate, history unfolds before your eyes. Truly, the Tower of London is a place where history comes to life.




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Frequently Asked Questions About the Tower of London’s History

How old is the Tower of London?

The Tower of London is over nine centuries old.

Why is the Tower of London famous?

The Tower of London is famous because it holds historical and cultural value to England.

Where is the Tower of London?

The Tower of London is located at London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom.

Who built/designed the Tower of London?

 William, the Conqueror, tasked Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, to design the Tower of London.

What is the architectural style of the Tower of London?

The Tower of London boasts Gothic, Tudo, and Victorian architectural styles.

How much does it cost to visit the Tower of London?

The Tower of London tickets cost £29.90.

Are there guided tours explaining the Tower of London’s history?

Yes. Guided tours explaining the Tower of London’s history are available.

What are some interesting facts about the Tower of London’s history?

The Tower of London was used as a prison, royal palace, and treasury in the past.

Is it worth visiting the Tower of London?

Yes. It is worth visiting the Tower of London because it introduces you to England’s great history, heritage, and culture.

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