Over the years there have been many additions to the original single White Tower. Today, there are twenty towers.They are named as follows:Devereux TowerFlint TowerBowyer TowerBrick TowerMartin TowerBeauchamp TowerWhite TowerWardrobe TowerConstable TowerBroad Arrow TowerSalt TowerMiddle TowerByward TowerBloody TowerWakefield TowerLanthorn TowerBell TowerSt. Thomas’s TowerCradle TowerWell Tower.
The Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels are housed in the Wakefield Tower and are only removed on rare occasions for ceremonial purposes including the crowning of a new monarch. Their monetary value is impossible to estimate. The Cullinan Diamond is amongst the hundreds of gems embedded in the gold. Until 1985 it was the largest cut diamond in the world at 530.2 carats. The jewels can be viewed by paying members of the public visiting the Tower.
Blood Swept Lands and
Seas of Red
The above heading was the title of an art installation that covered the whole of the moat of the Tower of London with ceramic red poppies, between July and November 2014. I went along before it was completed and was amazed to see the volunteers planting each individual piece. It commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. A total of 888,246 poppies were made, representing the number of our soldiers killed in the War. The artists were Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. The title was the first line of a poem by an unknown soldier.The ceramic poppies were hand-made at Cummins' ceramics works in Derbyshire and at Johnson Tiles in Stoke on Trent. They were added to the installation by an army of volunteers. The public were able to buy poppies for £25 each and around £15 million going to six service charities. At sunset each day the names of 180 World War I service personnel were read aloud by a Yeoman Warder or guest, followed by the Last Post bugle call.See photo Album >>
Flowers Around The
In March 2022 I paid a visit to the Tower and was surprised to see heavy machinery digging all around the moat. As I found out later, this was to get the ground ready for a display of wild flowers to help the bees.I visited again in August, after it's completion, and was told by one of the volunteers that it would be there for four years, constantly changing. Unfortunately, we had had a very dry, hot July and the plants were not looking their best, but it was still a very impressive walk around the moat. I’ll pay another visit when things hopefully improve.Superbloom is the name of the installation and it marks the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The display will transform the moat into a sea of colours and scents over the course of the summer. It is hoped it will become a habitat for pollinators, insects and seed-eating birds.When the display ends, the new landscape will remain in the moat permanently.See Superbloom photo album >>
Beginnings of the Tower
The Tower of London is the oldest royal castle in Europe. It is not, as many people believe, a part of the City of London. It actually comes under the jurisdiction of the East London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Construction was started by William the Conqueror when he built the White Tower in 1078 as a fortress outside the City walls. He is never referred to as the ‘Conqueror’ within the Square Mile boundaries but simply as William I. This is because he never conquered the City. He conquered England but not the City, he knew it held the resources to oust him if need be. He was allowed to enter to discuss granting them privileges in return for their support. The story goes that he built the Tower because he didn’t really trust the government of the walled city and wanted some defence from them. He also built Castle Baynard and Montfichet Tower for the same reasonHe named his white stone tower Caesars Tower at that time. Over the course of time, up to and including the reign of Henry VIII, additions have been made and the fortress was expanded outwards to cover an area of approximately eighteen acres beside the river Thames. By the time Henry’s reign was over, it had a total of twenty towers. It was surrounded by a wide, deep, moat, and could only be accessed by the drawbridge or by boat. As well as being a fortress, it was also used as a royal residence and a prison for some historical characters.
Damage to the Tower
In 1090 a storm inflicted a great deal of damage to the lone tower. Both William Rufus, and Henry I carried out repairs, and began to expand the fortress further towards the river and added castellated walls there.In 1190 William Longchampe, Chancellor of England, had the outer wall built. He also had a great ditch dug around the Tower which was filled from the Thames. According to John Stow this was because of an altercation with Prince John.
The Tidal Thames
There was a reason why William built the Tower on this spot. The City was already enclosed by high walls on all sides, but the river Thames but the river Thames was much wider then and caused a problem. .Because of it’s tidal nature the constant water movement had caused the City walls by the river to gradually collapse over a period of time. This left a dangerous gap in the City’s defences. For this reason the Tower was placed at this location.
Constant Repair Work
In 1239 Henry III added more fortifications to the west side of the castle. A year later they collapsed. The King ordered them to be rebuilt with stronger materials but in 1247 they crumbled once more. The people of the City were not pleased with this, having paid great sums of money for the work to be carried out, a total of 12,000 marks.Henry was never to see the completion of the walls. Edward I had them rebuilt with mounds of earth and mud, and it was during the reign of Edward IV they were replaced with stone. This part was given the name of ‘Lion Tower’ as it was used to house wild animals accepted from foreign royalty as gifts.On November 22nd. 1548 a Frenchman managed to blow it up, along with himself, with a barrel of gunpowder. Once again, it was rebuilt.Tower of London photo album >>
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, also known as Beefeaters. They are ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. They are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and guarding the crown jewels. They also give guided tours of the TowerBeefeaters are retired from the Forces and must have been warrant officers with minimum 22 years service. There are 32 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder.
We don't know how long there have been Ravens in the Tower, but they were there at the time of Charles II. There is a prophecy that if they leave the Tower, it will fall and disaster will befall the kingdom.To stop the Ravens flying away, their wing feathers are trimmed so that they are unable to fly in a straight line for a great distance. The ravens are free to roam the Tower grounds. In recent times the Raven-master clips less of the feathers to allow them to fly more instead of just hopping or gliding.
Prison for Traitors and
The Tower has been used throughout history as a prison for some of the more important prisoners and those regarded as traitors to the throne. The aptly named ‘Traitors Gate’ was often used to ferry them into their prison quietly from the Thames.Some of the people held here included foreign royalty who had been captured and were to be held here for ransom. Many historical figures were also incarcerated here, quite a few of them ending their lives on the chopping block or the gallows. The last prisoners to be held at the Tower were, believe it or not, the infamous East End gangsters the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie. They were held after deserting from the army while doing their National Service in the 1950’s. They went on to be notorious villains before being jailed after being found guilty of murder in 1969.The royal mint and the public records office were also housed here as well as the royal arsenal.