Tower Of London

History of the Tower of London Under A Minute

Tower of London - Home Of The Yeomen Warders

A glorious, sprawling castle located on the North bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London holds a significant role in British history. Deriving its name from the central White Tower, the Tower of London has 22 towers and a stronghold within two concentric walls. 

While the building was initially constructed to serve as a prison, it took on many other roles over the years including the treasury, armory, residence, and even a zoo. Today, the Tower is remembered as the prison where many kings and queens met their ends. 

Despite its gruesome history, there's a lot to appreciate and marvel at in the Tower of London - the dazzling Crown Jewels collection, the colorful ceremonial guards' Yeoman Warders, gigantic armories and much more.

Tower of London History

The first part of the Tower of London — White Tower — was constructed in the 1070s under the orders of William the Conqueror to replace the existing stronghold. The Norman invader believed he had no support from the public and was fearful of being thrown out by the inhabitants, prompting him to push for the tower's construction. By 1285, the White Tower was surrounded by two walls with towers and a moat.  There hasn't been much modification to the Tower's structure since.

Throughout its history, the Tower of London was used as a prison to hold those from deposed monarchs to common criminals. Some of the more famous people imprisoned in the Tower include Lady Jane Grey in the 16th century, princes Edward and Richard, sons of Edward IV, Henry VIII's wives Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Another notable prisoner was Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up the House of Lords in 1605. Fawkes was inhumanly tortured during his imprisonment, hinting at the much more prominent pattern of torturing the common criminals and people not of noble birth. 

The Tower of London is primarily known for housing the Crown Jewels and the practice of using the Tower as a repository for royal treasure began back in 1303. This began when a large number of treasures were stolen from the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster. Eventually, the rest of the treasures were brought to the Tower, which at that point was the most heavily fortified area in London. In 1508, a new jewel house was built on the Southside of the White Tower.

The Tower of London turned a public attraction in the 17th century when the Line of Kings exhibition was set up. The Royal Menagerie, essentially a zoo, was also set up in the tower during the 1200s. At the time of its closure, the zoo houses everything from bears, tigers, lions, ostriches and even a polar bear. The Menagerie was removed from the tower and moved to an off-site zoo in 1835.

7 Tower of London Facts You Didn't Know

  • For unknown superstitious reasons, six ravens are kept at the Tower of London at all times. The ravens have a wing clipped to prevent them from flying too far from the tower.
  • Presently, the Martin Tower of the Tower of London houses 23,500  jewels, estimated at a value of £20 billion.
  • The Tower of London has witnessed 22 executions and the last execution was of German spy Josef Jakobs in 1941.
  • In November 2012, the key to the tower's internal lock was stolen! While the lock was immediately replaced, the missing key still hasn't been found.
  • The tower is believed to be home to several ghosts including Henry VI, Dame Sybil, Catherine, wife of Henry VIII, and even a grizzly bear!
  • The Tower of London is a designated World Heritage Site decreed by UNESCO.
  • During the 1200s, the Tower of London housed a royal zoo filled with exotic animals including lions, kangaroos, polar bears, elephants and more. The zoo was closed down in 1835.

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