Tower of London

Friday, 1 March 2019 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, House of the Month, London, Museums, Exhibitions, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  12 minutes

© Bob Collowân/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Bob Collowân/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 (Ranulf Flambard) until 1952 (Kray twins), although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century, the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle, its defences lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.

The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth Throckmorton, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase “sent to the Tower“. Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularised by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison and witnessed the executions of 12& men for espionage. After the Second World War, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired, and the castle reopened to the public. Today, the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower, and operated by the Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House, the property is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site.

Plan of the Tower of London © Thomas Römer/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Bob Collowân/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Hilarmont/cc-by-sa-3.0-de Jewel House © flickr.com - Son of Groucho/cc-by-2.0 White Tower © Bernard Gagnon/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Plan of the Tower of London © Thomas Römer/cc-by-sa-3.0
The Tower of London has become established as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It has been a tourist attraction since at least the Elizabethan period, when it was one of the sights of London that foreign visitors wrote about. Its most popular attractions were the Royal Menagerie and displays of armour. The Crown Jewels also garner much interest, and have been on public display since 1669. The Tower steadily gained popularity with tourists through the 19th century, despite the opposition of the Duke of Wellington to visitors. Numbers became so high that by 1851 a purpose-built ticket office was erected. By the end of the century, over 500,000 were visiting the castle every year. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, the palatial buildings were slowly adapted for other uses and demolished. Only the Wakefield and St Thomas’s Towers survived. The 18th century marked an increasing interest in England’s medieval past. One of the effects was the emergence of Gothic Revival architecture. In the Tower’s architecture, this was manifest when the New Horse Armoury was built in 1825 against the south face of the White Tower. It featured elements of Gothic Revival architecture such as battlements. Other buildings were remodelled to match the style and the Waterloo Barracks were described as “castellated Gothic of the 15th century”. Between 1845 and 1885 institutions such as the Mint which had inhabited the castle for centuries moved to other sites; many of the post-medieval structures left vacant were demolished. In 1855, the War Office took over responsibility for manufacture and storage of weapons from the Ordnance Office, which was gradually phased out of the castle. At the same time, there was greater interest in the history of the Tower of London. Public interest was partly fuelled by contemporary writers, of whom the work of William Harrison Ainsworth was particularly influential. In The Tower of London: A Historical Romance he created a vivid image of underground torture chambers and devices for extracting confessions that stuck in the public imagination. Harrison also played another role in the Tower’s history, as he suggested that Beauchamp Tower should be opened to the public so they could see the inscriptions of 16th- and 17th-century prisoners. Working on the suggestion, Anthony Salvin refurbished the tower and led a further programme for a comprehensive restoration at the behest of Prince Albert. Salvin was succeeded in the work by John Taylor. When a feature did not meet his expectations of medieval architecture Taylor would ruthlessly remove it; as a result, several important buildings within the castle were pulled down and in some cases post-medieval internal decoration removed.

Although only one bomb fell on the Tower of London in the First World War (it landed harmlessly in the moat), the Second World War left a greater mark. On 23 September 1940, during the Blitz, high-explosive bombs damaged the castle, destroying several buildings and narrowly missing the White Tower. After the war, the damage was repaired and the Tower of London was reopened to the public. A 1974 Tower of London bombing in the White Tower Mortar Room left one person dead and 41 injured. No one claimed responsibility for the blast, but the police investigated suspicions that the IRA was behind it. In the 21st century, tourism is the Tower’s primary role, the remaining routine military activities, under the Royal Logistic Corps, having wound down in the latter half of the 20th century and moved out of the castle. However, the Tower is still home to the ceremonial regimental headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the museum dedicated to it and its predecessor, the Royal Fusiliers. Also, a detachment of the unit providing the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace still mounts a guard at the Tower, and with the Yeomen Warders, takes part in the Ceremony of the Keys each day. On several occasions through the year gun salutes are fired from the Tower by the Honourable Artillery Company, these consist of 62 rounds for royal occasions, and 41 on other occasions. Since 1990, the Tower of London has been cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown. In 1988, the Tower of London was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, in recognition of its global importance and to help conserve and protect the site. However, recent developments, such as the construction of skyscrapers nearby, have pushed the Tower towards being added to the United Nations’ Heritage in Danger List. The remains of the medieval palace have been open to the public since 2006. Visitors can explore the chambers restored to their former glory, once used by past kings and queens. Although the position of Constable of the Tower remains the highest position held at the Tower, the responsibility of day-to-day administration is delegated to the Resident Governor. The Constable is appointed for a five year term; this is primarily a ceremonial post today but the Constable is also a trustee of Historic Royal Palaces and of the Royal Armouries. General Sir Nick Houghton was appointed Constable in 2016. At least six ravens are kept at the Tower at all times, in accordance with the belief that if they are absent, the kingdom will fall. They are under the care of the Ravenmaster, one of the Yeoman Warders. As well as having ceremonial duties, the Yeoman Warders provide guided tours around the Tower. Over 2.8 million people visited the Tower of London in 2017.

Read more on VsitBritainShop.com – Tower of London, www.hrp.org.uk – Tower of London and Wikipedia Tower of London. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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