The Tower of London is one of the city’s most iconic and well known buildings, it’s also one of London’s and the country’s top tourist attractions.
I hadn’t been to the tower since I was a child, quite a number of years ago now, and having passed it more times than I care to remember when I’ve been in that part of town I decided it was time I visited properly. So tickets bought I wound my way to Tower Hill to start my Tower of London adventure.
In the 1070’s, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the centre of his London fortress, the likes of which had never been seen in England before. William intended his mighty “White Tower” to dominate the skyline and also the hearts and minds of the subjugated Londoners. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams as nearly 1000 years later the tower stills holds us in its thrall.
My first stop and probably the highlight of my visit was the Crown Jewels. I headed straight over to the Waterloo Barracks where the jewels are now housed, there was no queue and so I was straight in. The Crown Jewels did not disappoint, they are simply stunning and should really be seen in person to be properly appreciated.
Waterloo Barracks Home of The Crown Jewels
The Tower’s most recognisable building is probably the White Tower, built in the 11th century it is now one of the best preserved buildings from that period in Europe. The building had three main functions, primarily a fortress, secondly the huge interiors were probably designed for the use of the king, and lastly for major government and ceremonial functions. The White Tower today houses displays of arms and armour from the collection belonging to the Royal Amouries which includes the armours of Henry VIII, Charles I and James II.
On the first floor is where you’ll see St John’s Chapel, one of the most elegant and best preserved Anglo – Norman church interiors in existence.
The basement of the White Tower houses exhibitions with guns, swords and muskets but it is most notorious for being the place where the likes of Guy Fawkes and John Gerard were tortured.
The Bloody Tower is believed to be the place where the “Princes in the Tower” had been murdered by their uncle Richard III however there is no real proof of this. Originally called the Garden Tower it was where prisoners like Sir Walter Ralegh and King John the Good of France where held and where they lived in relative comfort.
St Thomas’s Tower, the Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower are known collectively as the “Medieval Palace”. Lying at the heart of what was formerly the residential area of the tower. The lodgings were richly decorated and comfortable enough for any medieval monarch.
St Thomas’s Tower houses one of the most infamous parts of the Tower of London, the Traitors Gate. Famous prisoners such as Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn arrived through this entrance but not all of its history is so grim. It was originally built as a watergate for Edward I and was a daring variation on the traditional defensive gate tower.
Above the archway you’ll see a timber framed section and this was constructed in 1532 by Henry VIII’s Master Carpenter, James Nedeham, as part of the exciting rush to renovate the tower ready for Anne Boleyn’s coronation in June 1533.
The huge walls that now surround the tower were built by Henry III in the mid 13th century and you can now walk round most of them. Six of the towers that form the walls are open and can be viewed.
It’s difficult to write a comprehensive post about the Tower of London without going into great detail but I hope I’ve scratched the surface a little bit and created some interest. It’s an incredible place and there’s just so much to see there that one day really doesn’t do it justice, a return visit is definitely on my to do list.
If you’ve been to the Tower of London let me know what you thought!
To see more photo’s of my trip to the Tower please visit www.pinterest.com/mrbelltravels