The Castles of England




                           


                          The Tower Of London

               103  I   
                              



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Contents:



   The Development of the Tower

1. The Normans
2. The Medieval Tower
3. The Tower in Tudor Times
4. The Restoration and After
5. The Tower in the 19th Century
6. The 20th Century



The Tower of London



The History of the Tower of London


Fortress, Palace and Prison


This short history of the Tower of London charts the different stages of
its development. Throughout its history, the Tower has attracted a number
of important functions and its role as armoury, royal palace, prison and
fortress is explained, as well as its modern role as tourist attraction and
home to a thriving community.



The development of the Tower


The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-
1087) and remained unchanged for over a century. Then, between 1190 and
1285, the White Tower was encircled by two towered curtain walls and a
great moat. The only important enlargement of the Tower after that time was
the building of the Wharf in the 14th century. Today the medieval defences
remain relatively unchanged.

The Tower in 1100      The Tower in 1270                 The Tower in 1547


The Normans

WestmCastle building was an essential part of the Norman Conquest: when
Duke William of Normandy invaded England in 1066 his first action after
landing at Pevensey on 28 September had been to improvise a castle, and
when he moved to Hastings two days later he built another. Over the next
few years William and his supporters were engaged in building hundreds
more, first to conquer, then subdue and finally to colonise the whole of
England.
By the end of the Anglo-Saxon period London had become the most powerful
city in England, with a rich port, a nearby royal palace and an important
cathedral. It was via London that King Harold II (1066) and his army sped
south to meet William, and to London which the defeated rabble of the
English army returned from the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Securing the
City was therefore of the utmost importance to William. His contemporary
biographer William of Poitiers tells us that after receiving the submission
of the English magnates at Little Berkhampstead, William sent an advance
guard into London to construct a castle and prepare for his triumphal
entry. He also tells us that, after his coronation in inster Abbey on
Christmas Day 1066, the new King withdrew to Barking (in Essex)
while certain fortifications were completed in the city against the
restlessness of the vast and fierce populace for he realised that it was of
the first importance to overawe the Londoners.

These fortifications may have included Baynards Castle built in the south-
west angle of the City (near Blackfriars) and the castle of Monfichet (near
Ludgate Circus) and almost certainly the future Tower of London. Initially
the Tower had consisted of a modest enclosure built into the south-east
corner of the Roman City walls, but by the late 1070s, with the initial
completion of the White Tower, it had become the most fearsome of all.
Nothing had been seen like it in England before. It was built by Norman
masons and English (Anglo-Saxon) labour drafted in from the countryside,
perhaps to the design of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. It was intended to
protect the river route from Danish attack, but also and more importantly
to dominate the City physically and visually. It is difficult to appreciate
today what an enormous impression the tower and other Norman buildings,
such as St Pauls Cathedral (as rebuilt after 1086) or the nearby
Westminster Hall (rebuilt after 1087) must have made on the native
Londoners.
The White Tower was protected to the east and south by the old Roman city
walls (a full height fragment can be seen just by Tower Hill Underground
station), while the north and west sides were protected by ditches as much
as 7.50m (25ft) wide and 3.40m (11ft) deep and an earthwork with a wooden
wall on top. In the 12th century a fore-building (now demolished) was
added to the south front of the White Tower to protect the entrance. The
Wardrobe Tower, a fragment of which can be seen at the south-east corner of
the building, was another early addition or rebuilding. From very early on
the enclosure contained a number of timber buildings for residential and
service use. It is not clear whether these included a royal residence but
William the Conquerors immediate successors probably made use of the White
Tower itself.
It is important for us today to remember that the functions of the Tower
from the 1070s until the late 19th century were established by its Norman
founders. The Tower was never primarily intended to protect London from
external invasion, although, of course, it could have done so if necessary.
Nor was it ever intended to be the principal residence of the kings and
queens of England, though many did in fact spend periods of time there. Its
primary function was always to provide a base for royal power in the City
of London and a stronghold to which the Royal Family could retreat in times
of civil disorder.



The Medieval Tower:

A refuge and a base for royal power

When Richard the Lionheart (1189-99) came to the throne he departed on a
crusade to the Holy Land leaving his Chancellor, William Longchamp, Bishop
of Ely, in charge of the kingdom. Longchamp soon embarked on an enlargement
and strengthening of the Tower of London, the first of a series of building
campaigns which by about 1350 had created the basic form of the great
fortress that we know today. The justification for the vast expenditure and
effort this involved was the political instability of the kingdom and the
Crowns continuing need for an impregnable fortress in the City of London.
Longchamps works doubled the area covered by the fortress by digging a new
and deeper ditch to the north and east and building sections of curtain
wall, reinforced by a new tower (now known as the Bell Tower) at the south-
west corner. The ditch was intended to flood naturally from the river,
although this was not a success. These new defences were soon put to the
test when the Kings brother, John, taking advantage of Richards captivity
in Germany, challenged Longchamps authority and besieged him at the Tower.
Lack of provisions forced Longchamp to surrender but the Towers defences
had proved that they could resist attack.
The reign of the next king John (1199-1216) saw little new building work at
the Tower, but the King made good use of the accommodation there. Like
Longchamp, John had to cope with frequent opposition throughout his reign.
Only a year after signing an agreement with his barons in 1215 (the Magna
Carta) they were once more at loggerheads and Prince Louis of France had
launched an invasion of England with the support of some of Johns leading
barons. In the midst of his defence of the kingdom, John died of dysentery
and his son, Henry III, was crowned.
      With England at war with France, the start of King Henrys long reign
(1216-72) could have hardly been less auspicious, but within seven months
of his accession the French had been defeated at the battle of Lincoln and
the business of securing the kingdom could begin. Reinforcement of the
royal castles played a major role in this, and his work at the Tower of
London was more extensive than anywhere other than at Windsor Castle. Henry
III was only ten years old in 1216, but his regents began a major extension
of the royal accommodation in the enclosure which formed the Inmost Ward as
we know it today. The great hall and kitchen, dating from the previous
century, were improved and two towers built on the waterfront, the
Wakefield Tower as the Kings lodgings and the Lanthorn Tower (rebuilt in
the 19th century), probably intended as the queens lodgings. A new wall
was also built enclosing the west side of the Inmost Ward.
      By the mid 1230s, Henry III had run into trouble with his barons and
opposition flared up in both 1236 and in 1238. On both occasions the King
fled to the Tower of London. But as he sheltered in the castle in March
1238 the weakness of the Tower must have been brought home to him; the
defences to the eastern, western and northern sides consisted only of an
empty moat, stretches of patched-up and strengthened Roman wall and a few
lengths of wall built by Longchamp in the previous century. That year,
therefore, saw the launch of Henrys most ambitious building programme at
the Tower, the construction of a great new curtain wall round the east,
north and west sides of the castle at a cost of over 5,000. The new wall
doubled the area covered by the fortress, enclosing the neighbouring church
of St Peter ad Vincula. It was surrounded by a moat, this time successfully
flooded by a Flemish engineer, John Le Fosser. The wall was reinforced by
nine new towers, the strongest at the corners (the Salt, Martin and
Devereux). Of these all but two (the Flint and Brick) are much as
originally built. This massive extension to the Tower was viewed with
extreme suspicion and hostility by the people of London, who rightly
recognised it as a further assertion of royal authority. A contemporary
writer reports their delight when a section of newly-built wall and a
gateway on the site of the Beauchamp Tower collapsed, events they
attributed to their own guardian saint, Thomas  Becket. Archaeological
excavation between 1995 and 1997 revealed the remains of one of these
collasped buildings.
      In 1272 King Edward I (1272-1307) came to the throne determined to
complete the defensive works begun by his father and extend them as a means
of further emphasising royal authority over London. Between 1275 and 1285
the King spent over 21,000 on the fortress creating Englands largest and
strongest concentric castle (a castle with one line of defences within
another). The work included building the existing Beauchamp Tower, but the
main effort was concentrated on filling in Henry IIIs moat and creating an
additional curtain wall on the western, northern and eastern side, and
surrounding it by a new moat. This wall enclosed the existing curtain wall
built by Henry III and was pierced by two new entrances, one from the land
on the west, passing through the Middle and Byward towers, and another
under St Thomass Tower, from the river. New royal lodgings were included
in the upper part of St Thomass Tower. Almost all these buildings survive
in some form today.
Despite all this work Edward was a very rare visitor to his fortress; he
was, in fact, only able to enjoy his new lodgings there for a few days.
There is no doubt though that if he had been a weaker king, and had to put
up with disorders in London of the kind experienced by his father and
grandfather, the Tower would have come into its own as an even more
effective and efficient base for royal authority.
      King Edwards new works were, however, put to the test by his son
Edward II (1307-27), whose reign saw a resurgence of discontent among the
barons on a scale not seen since the reign of his grandfather. Once again
the Tower played a crucial role in the attempt to maintain royal authority
and as a royal refuge. Edward II did little more than improve the walls put
up by his father, but he was a regular resident during his turbulent reign
and he moved his own lodgings from the Wakefield Tower and St Thomass
Tower to the area round the present Lanthorn Tower. The old royal lodgings
were now used for his courtiers and for the storage of official papers by
the Kings Wardrobe (a department of government which dealt with royal
supplies). The use of the Tower for functions other than military and
residential had been started by Edward I who put up a large new building to
house the Royal Mint and began to use the castle as a place for storing
records. As early as the reign of Henry III the castle had already been in
regular use as a prison: Hubert de Burgh, Chief Justiciar of England was
incarcerated in 1232 and the Welsh Prince Gruffydd was imprisoned there
between 1241 and 1244, when he fell to his death in a bid to escape. The
Tower also served as a treasury (the Crown Jewels were moved from
Westminster Abbey to the Tower in 1303) and as a showplace for the Kings
animals.

After the unstable reign of Edward II came that of Edward III (1327-77).
Edward IIIs works at the Tower were fairly minor, but he did put up a new
gatehouse between the Lanthorn Tower and the Salt Tower, together with the
Cradle Tower and its postern (a small subsidiary entrance), a further
postern behind the Byward Tower and another at the Develin Tower. He was
also responsible for rebuilding the upper parts of the Bloody Tower and
creating the vault over the gate passage, but his most substantial
achievement was to extend the Tower Wharf eastwards as far as St Thomass
Tower. This was completed in its present form by his successor Richard II
(1377-99).



The Tower in Tudor Times:

A royal prison

      The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII (1485-1509) was responsible for
building the last permanent royal residential buildings at the Tower. He
extended his own lodgings around the Lanthorn Tower adding a new private
chamber, a library, a long gallery, and also laid out a garden. These
buildings were to form the nucleus of a much larger scheme begun by his son
Henry VIII (1509-47) who put up a large range of timber-framed lodgings at
the time of the coronation of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The building of
these lodgings, used only once, marked the end of the history of royal
residence at the Tower.
The reigns of the Tudor kings and queens were comparatively stable in terms
of civil disorder. However, from the 1530s onwards the unrest caused by the
Reformation (when Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome) gave the Tower
an expanded role as the home for a large number of religious and political
prisoners.
The first important Tudor prisoners were Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher
of Rochester, both of whom were executed in 1535 for refusing to
acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the English Church. They were soon
followed by a still more famous prisoner and victim, the Kings second wife
Anne Boleyn, executed along with her brother and four others a little under
a year later. July 1540 saw the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
and former Chief Minister of the King - in which capacity he had modernised
the Towers defences and, ironically enough, sent many others to their
deaths on the same spot. Two years later, Catherine Howard, the second of
Henry VIIIs six wives to be beheaded, met her death outside the Chapel
Royal of St Peter ad Vincula which Henry had rebuilt a few years before.
      The reign of Edward VI (1547-53) saw no end to the political
executions which had begun in his fathers reign; the young Kings
protector the Duke of Somerset and his confederates met their death at the
Tower in 1552, falsely accused of treason. During Edwards reign the
English Church became more Protestant, but the Kings early death in 1553
left the country with a Catholic heir, Mary I (1553-8). During her brief
reign many important Protestants and political rivals were either
imprisoned or executed at the Tower. The most famous victim was Lady Jane
Grey, and the most famous prisoner the Queens sister Princess Elizabeth
(the future Elizabeth I). Religious controversy did not end with Marys
death in 1558; Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) spent much of her reign
warding off the threat from Catholic Europe, and important recusants
(people who refused to attend Church of England services) and others who
might have opposed her rule were locked up in the Tower. Never had it been
so full of prisoners, or such illustrious ones: bishops, archbishops,
knights, barons, earls and dukes all spent months and some of them years
languishing in the towers of the Tower of London.
Little was done to the Towers defences in these years. The Royal Mint was
modified and extended, new storehouses were built for royal military
supplies. In the reign of James I (1603-25) the Lieutenants house - built
in the 1540s and today called the Queens House - was extended and
modified; the kings lions were rehoused in better dens made for them in
the west gate barbican.



The Restoration and After:

The Tower and the Office of Ordnance

After a long period of peace at home, the reign of Charles I saw civil war
break out again in 1642, between King and Parliament. As during the Wars of
the Roses and previous conflicts, the Tower was recognised as one of the
most important of the Kings assets. Londoners, in particular, were
frightened that the Tower would be used by him to dominate the City. In
1643, after a political rather than a military struggle, control of the
Tower was seized from the King by the parliamentarians and remained in
their hands throughout the Civil War (1642-9). The loss of the Tower, and
of London as a whole, was a crucial factor in the defeat of Charles I by
Parliament. It was during this period that a permanent garrison was
installed in the Tower for the first time, by Oliver Cromwell, soon to be
Lord Protector but then a prominent parliamentary commander.
Todays small military guard, seen outside the Queens House and the
Waterloo Barracks, is an echo of Cromwells innovation.
The monarchy was restored in 1660 and the reign of the new king, Charles II
(1660-85), saw further changes in the functions of the Tower. Its role as a
state prison declined, and the Office of Ordnance (which provided military
supplies and equipment) took over responsibility for most of the castle,
making it their headquarters. During this period another long-standing
tradition of the Tower began - the public display of the Crown Jewels. They
were moved from their old home to a new site in what is now called the
Martin Tower, and put on show by their keeper Talbot Edwards.
      Schemes for strengthening the Towers defences, some elaborate and up
to date, were also proposed so that in the event of violent opposition,
which was always a possibility during the 1660s and 1670s, Charles would
not be caught out as his father had been earlier in the century. In the
end, none of these came to much, and the Restoration period saw only a
minor strengthening of the Tower. Yet the well equipped garrison which
Charles II and his successors maintained was often used to quell
disturbances in the City; James II (1685-8) certainly took steps to use the
Towers forces against the opposition which eventually caused him to flee
into exile.
Under the control of the Office of Ordnance the Tower was filled with a
series of munitions stores and workshops for the army and navy. The most
impressive and elegant of these was the Grand Storehouse begun in 1688 on
the site where the Waterloo Barracks now stand. It was initially a weapons
store but as the 17th century drew to a close it became more of a museum of
arms and armour. More utilitarian buildings gradually took over the entire
area previously covered by the medieval royal lodgings to the south of the
White Tower; by 1800, after a series of fires and rebuildings, the whole of
this area had become a mass of large brick Ordnance buildings. All these,
however, have been swept away, and the only surviving storehouse put up by
the Ordnance is the New Armouries, standing against the eastern inner
curtain wall between the Salt and Broad Arrow towers.
While the Ordnance was busy building storehouses, offices and workshops,
the army was expanding accommodation for the Tower garrison. Their largest
building was the Irish Barracks (now demolished), sited behind the New
Armouries building in the Outer Ward.



The Tower in the 19th Century:

From fortress to ancient monument

Between 1800 and 1900 the Tower of London took on the appearance which to a
large extent it retains today. Early in the century many of the historic
institutions which had been based within its walls began to move out. The
first to go was the Mint which moved to new buildings to the north east of
the castle in 1812, where it remained until 1968, when it moved to its
present location near Cardiff. The Royal Menagerie left the Lion Tower in
1834 to become the nucleus of what is now London Zoo, and the Record Office
(responsible for storing documents of state), moved to Chancery Lane during
the 1850s, vacating parts of the medieval royal lodgings and the White
Tower. Finally, after the War Office assumed responsibility for the
manufacture and storage of weapons in 1855, large areas of the fortress
were vacated by the old Office of Ordnance.
However, before these changes took place the Tower had once again - but for
the last time - performed its traditional role in asserting the authority
of the state over the people of London. The Chartist movement of the 1840s
(which sought major political reform) prompted a final refortification of
the Tower between 1848 and 1852, and further work was carried out in 1862.
To protect the approaches to the Tower new loop-holes and gun emplacements
were built and an enormous brick and stone bastion (destroyed by a bomb
during the Second World War) constructed on the north side of the fortress.
Following the burning down of the Grand Storehouse in 1841, the present
Waterloo Barracks was put up to accommodate 1,000 soldiers, and the Brick,
Flint and Bowyer towers to its north were altered or rebuilt to service it;
the Royal Fusiliers building was erected at the same time to be the
officers mess. The mob never stormed the castle but the fear of it left
the outer defences of the Tower much as they are today.
      The vacation of large parts of the Tower by the offices which had
formerly occupied it and an increasing interest in the history and
archaeology of the Tower led, after 1850, to a programme of re-
medievalisation. By then the late 17th and 18th-century Ordnance buildings
and barracks, together with a series of private inns and taverns, such as
the Stone Kitchen and the Golden Chain, had obscured most of the medieval
fortress. The first clearances of these buildings began in the late 1840s,
but the real work began in 1852, when the architect Anthony Salvin, already
known for his work on medieval buildings, re-exposed the Beauchamp Tower
and restored it to a medieval appearance. Salvins work was much admired
and attracted the attention of Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria),
who recommended that he be made responsible for a complete restoration of
the castle. This led to a programme of work which involved the Salt Tower,
the White Tower, St Thomass Tower, the Bloody Tower and the construction
of two new houses on Tower Green.
      In the 1870s Salvin was replaced by John Taylor, a less talented and
sensitive architect. His efforts concentrated on the southern parts of the
Tower, notably the Cradle and Develin towers and on the demolition of the
18th-century Ordnance Office and storehouse on the site of the Lanthorn
Tower, which he rebuilt. He also built the stretches of wall linking the
Lanthorn Tower to the Salt and Wakefield towers. But by the 1890s,
restoration of this type was going out of fashion and this was the last
piece of re-medievalisation to be undertaken. The work of this period had
succeeded in opening up the site and re-exposing its defences, but fell far
short of restoring its true medieval appearance.
The second half of the 19th century saw a great increase in the number of
visitors to the Tower, although sightseers had been admitted as early as
1660. In 1841 the first official guidebook was issued and ten years later a
purpose-built ticket office was erected at the western entrance. By the end
of Queen Victorias reign in 1901, half a million people were visiting the
Tower each year.



The 20th Century


The First World War (1914-18) left the Tower largely untouched; the only
bomb to fall on the fortress landed in the Moat. However, the war brought
the Tower of London back into use as a prison for the first time since the
early 19th century and between 1914-16 eleven spies were held and
subsequently executed in the Tower. The last execution in the Tower took
place in 1941 during the Second World War (1939-45). Bomb damage to the
Tower during the Second World War was much greater: a number of buildings
were severely damaged or destroyed including the mid-19th century North
Bastion, which received a direct hit on 5 October 1940, and the Hospital
Block which was partly destroyed during an air raid in the same year.
Incendiaries also destroyed the Main Guard, a late 19th-century building to
the south-west of the White Tower. During the Second World War the Tower
was closed to the public. The Moat, which had been drained and filled in
1843, was used as allotments for vegetable growing and the Crown Jewels
were removed from the Tower and taken to a place of safety, the location of
which has never been disclosed. Today the Tower of London is one of the
worlds major tourist attractions and 2.5 million visitors a year come to
discover its long and eventful history, its buildings, ceremonies and
traditions.
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