The Tower of London The Tower of London has been many things over the years such as a fortress, a state prison, a zoo, an armory, a repository for the crown jewels, a home for Tudor monarchs, and today a museum. Inside the tower walls has been the last sight for many of its prisoners. Although there were some prisoners that have escaped the tower walls and fled to neighboring countries. William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 defeating Harold II. Duke William of Normandy built on to the existing castle in 1078. Its history is full of amazing and horrific stories of life and death. To truly appreciate this magnificent group of structures a look must be taken into its history through its architecture, uses, and those held in the prisons and dungeons. The Tower Of London is not actually one tower; it is a group of 13 towers located on 19 acres of land known as Tower Hill. The Tower of London consists of: The White Tower, The Inmost Ward, The Inner Ward, The Outer Ward, The Jewel House, The Royal Armories, The Torture Chambers, The Traitors Gate, and The Tower Bridge (Grey). To the south of the tower is the Thames Rivers, which was used to feed a moat that was drained in 1830 (Gillingham 349). The general shape of the tower is a square with two lines of defensive walls and moats surrounding it. The outer wall is defended by six towers on the river face, and there are two semi-circular bastions at the northeast and northwest corners. The original tower, known as the
White Tower, is flanked by four turrets. By looking carefully at the architecture of the tower you can see the painstaking workmanship put into every detail. The palace is so strong that in former days, it could have held off a whole army. The British Department of the Environment now uses the buildings chiefly as a show place and museum. The museum’s armor collection was started by Henry VIII in the 1500’s. Many famous people were imprisoned in the damp, dark cells. The young Edward V and his brother, the Duke of York, were put in the Tower of London when their uncle, Richard III, became king in 1483. The boys were never seen again. Lady Jane Grey was beheaded in the Tower, following an attempt to make her queen. The tower of London also holds the crowns, scepters, and other royal treasures of the English rulers, known as regalia. The tower is guarded by members of the Guards Division and staffed by colorfully outfitted yeoman warders (Gillingham 349). In 1066, the first tower was built and in 1078, more towers were added on. In 1100, it became the Tower of London; also in 1100 the first recorder prisoner was kept there. 1191 saw the first siege at the Tower of London when Prince John opposed the powerful Bishop Longchamp. Longchamp eventually surrendered. In the 1200’s, King Henry III started renovations to all towers to make their defense stronger. In 1236, a Great Hall, kitchen, gateways, drawbridges, ten new towers, and a moat were added. King Edward I continued his father’s work and added several new towers and the Crown jewels were moved to the Tower. Between 1307 to 1327, it was used as a royal refuge to maintain royal authority. During 1348 to 1349, more fortifications, towers and a new gatehouse were added because of the Black Death. King Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou were imprisoned in the towers from 1465 to
1470. In the 1500’s, the Tower of London enters its most bloody period in history ("History of
Barnes 3 the Tower of London").
The original purpose was to act as a royal power base in the City of London, offering a safe retreat for the royal family. The function changed over the years and became a prison housing some important state prisoners. It held trials, executions, and tortures. Both women, men, and children were included in torture and execution. The type of execution depended on the severity of the crime and whether the prisoners were members of lower or higher