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Secrets, Swords & Sovereigns: Explore Tower of London's White Tower

Nestled in the heart of historic London, the White Tower is a monumental piece of history and architectural marvel. As the oldest part of the Tower of London, it was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century to signify Norman power. The White Tower has served as a royal palace, fortress, and prison. Today, it houses an array of displays, including the Royal Armouries collections, offering a glimpse into England's turbulent past. The structure's striking Norman architecture and its long-standing significance in English history make it a must-visit for anyone interested in the royal heritage and architectural grandeur.

Quick facts about the White Tower

White Tower of the Tower of London

Plan your visit to the White Tower of Tower of London

White Tower of the Tower of London
White Tower of the Tower of London

Highlights of the White Tower

The iconic White Tower is a beacon of history and heritage that beckons you to explore its storied walls. As you step inside, let the grandeur of the past envelop you and embark on a journey through time.

White Tower of the Tower of London

Chapel of St. John the Evangelist

The Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, within the White Tower at the Tower of London, dates back to 1080 when it was built for William the Conqueror. This Romanesque chapel, with its tunnel-vaulted nave and groin-vaulted aisles, features simple scallop and leaf carvings. Decorated in 1240 with stained glass and painted figures, it has served varied roles, including private worship and record storage.

White Tower of the Tower of London

Line of Kings Exhibition

The Line of Kings is a historic exhibition in the White Tower, showcasing armor and weapons used by English monarchs. Created in the 17th century for Charles II, it features life-sized wooden figures of kings, including Henry VIII and Charles I, adorned in personal armor. Managed by the Royal Armouries, the exhibit highlights the evolution of armor design and remains a significant cultural attraction.

White Tower Ravens

The White Tower Ravens, kept at the Tower of London since the 17th century, are steeped in legend and tradition. According to lore, the Tower will fall if the ravens ever leave. Cared for by Yeoman Warders, the 7-8 ravens are fed fresh meat and bred in captivity. They symbolize the Tower's history and are a significant tourist attraction, highlighting conservation and cultural heritage.

Spiral Staircase

The spiral staircase in the White Tower, located in a corner turret, is a remarkable medieval feature from the 12th century. This compact, efficient design connects the tower's three floors and offers dramatic views. Originally for internal movement and emergency escapes, it showcases medieval architectural skill. Preserved and accessible to visitors, it remains a testament to the White Tower's historical and cultural significance.

White Tower of the Tower of London

Historical Artifacts

The White Tower of the Tower of London houses a vast collection of historical artifacts, including weapons, armor, and military equipment. These items, such as swords, suits of armor, and cannons, illustrate the tower's rich history and its role as a symbol of power. Managed by the Royal Armouries, these artifacts are meticulously preserved and displayed, offering visitors an engaging insight into Britain's military past.

Little Ease

The Little Ease in the White Tower was an infamous medieval prison cell. Measuring only 1.2 meters (3 ft 11 in) on each side, it was designed to prevent prisoners from standing, sitting, or lying down comfortably. Used for interrogation and inducing psychological distress, this dark, windowless cell epitomized the Tower's brutal reputation. Notable prisoners allegedly held here include Edmund Campion and Guy Fawkes.

History of White Tower

The White Tower stands as a formidable symbol of Norman power and majesty, boasting a history that stretches back over nine centuries. Constructed by William the Conqueror in 1078, this imposing fortress was not only a residence but also a stronghold and prison. Notable prisoners, including King John II of France and the enigmatic Princes in the Tower, add intrigue to its storied past. Fun fact: It was England's first stone keep, built entirely of stone, unlike its timber counterparts.

Who built White Tower?

White Tower of the Tower of London

The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in the 1080s and was made bigger. It was the most protected part of the castle, served as a home for the king and his guests, and even had a church inside. In 1240, Henry III decided to paint it white. Now, it's part of the Tower of London museum where people come to visit. Inside the White Tower, you can see the Royal Armouries collections.

Architecture of White Tower 

The White Tower symbolizes Norman's skill, known for its strong build and smart layout. It measures 36 by 32 meters at the base and stands 27 meters tall on the southern side. 

Inside, each floor has three main sections. The biggest room is in the west, and a chapel is in the southeast. The lowest level was for storage and had a well. The higher floors had living spaces used by the Tower's officials. These spaces highlight the White Tower's role as a strong defense, royal home, and place to keep valuables. It's made mostly of tough Kentish ragstone and local mudstone. Over time, some of this was replaced with Portland stone. Yet, you can still see two of the original windows, showing its lasting design.

Tips for visiting White Tower

  • History Buff: Dig beyond armor suits! Find the inscription marking Henry VIII's failed escape attempt hidden near the Bloody Tower door.
  • Thrill Seeker: Descend into the Traitor's Gate after dark. Hear whispers of executions as you walk on the same ground as beheaded queens.
  • Art Aficionado: Seek out the medieval graffiti etched on the White Tower walls. These hidden messages offer glimpses into the lives of long-gone prisoners.
  • Local Lore: Join a "Yeoman Warder" tour, led by costumed guards with insider stories and quirky jokes. Their historical anecdotes bring the Tower to life.



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Frequently Asked Questions about the White Tower

What can I do at White Tower?

You can explore its historic rooms, view the Royal Armouries collection, and learn about its history as a royal palace, prison, and fortress.

What is the best time to visit the White Tower?

The best time is typically right at opening or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds, and weekdays are usually less busy than weekends.

Why is it called the White Tower?

It was named the White Tower due to the white limestone used in its construction, which gave it a distinctive appearance compared to the surrounding buildings.

Who lived in the White Tower?

The White Tower was initially built as a royal residence, hosting kings and their retinues. Later, it served as a prison for high-profile captives.

Can you access all parts of the White Tower?

Yes, you can explore most areas of the White Tower, including its exhibits, the Chapel of St. John, and the battlements, offering panoramic views of London.

Is the White Tower wheelchair accessible?

The White Tower offers partial wheelchair accessibility, featuring step-free access at its southwest corner and accessibility to specific exhibits. However, navigating through some areas may pose challenges due to cobblestones and stairs.

What events took place in the White Tower?

The White Tower witnessed various events, such as royal ceremonies, military assemblies, and the confinement and execution of prisoners, shaping England's history.

How was the White Tower used as a prison?

The White Tower was a prison for high-status captives, including kings, queens, and political adversaries. Its secure walls and remote location made it ideal for confinement.