The last of my current series of blogs about places in London looks at The Tower of London.
History And Dark Deeds At The Tower of London
Where Is The Tower of London?
You can’t really miss it. Apart from the fact that the Tower of London is huge there are endless columns of tourists!
Many of the pleasure boats taking tourists on river cruises offer a ‘hop on, hop off’ service. Tourists can get off at St Katharine’s Pier and walk along the bank of the Thames to the entrance to the Tower. When they have finished their sight seeing they can get back on the boat and move on to the next attraction.
Similar hop on, hop off services are provided by sightseeing buses if you prefer to stay on land.
At the Tower there is lots to see and it is worth taking a guided tour with the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) as they bring history to life.
All of the information you need for your visit is provided at the Historic Royal Palaces website.
Brief History of The Tower of London
The official title of the Tower of London is ‘Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London’. Among the many historic artifacts on display, The Crown Jewels are kept there and are breathtaking to see.
The Tower was founded about the time of the Norman Conquest (1066). It is a huge fortress comprising several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.
It was originally a royal residence, designed as a very grand palace in fact. But from about 1100 it was used to house prisoners.
A famous landmark and popular tourist destination, dark deeds were done withing the walls, with torture of prisoners. You can visit the scaffold site where famous nobles were beheaded (or maybe not).
This is a water gate entrance to the Tower, originally designed to allow King Edward I to arrive at the Tower by river. As the Tower became increasingly used as a prison, particularly for those charged with treason, the water gate was called ‘Traitors’ Gate’.
In Tudor times, Traitors’ Gate got a lot of use. Prisoners would be brought to Traitors’ Gate by barge, passing London Bridge on the way where they would have got a good view of the heads on spikes of those recently beheaded. Imagine seeing those, going in Traitors’ Gate and knowing you were not likely to come out again!
Famous Prisoners Held In The Tower of London
The Kray Twins
It was used as a prison right up until 1952 when the Kray Twins, the most feared East London gangsters, were held there. They were actually held there for a few days for not turning up for National Service would you believe? National Service, or Conscription, was compulsory at that time. But who else was held there?
Other Notable Prisoners
There were a few prisoners held there during the 12th and 13th century. William Wallace (did someone shout ‘Freedom’?) was held there briefly before his (rather horrible) execution in 1305. By the 15th century prisoners were notably of royal blood, including the Princes in the Tower.
For the next two centuries the Tower of London was rather busy – not least thanks to Henry VIII. Think Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Catherine Howard etc, etc. Lady Jane Grey was held and beheaded there by order of Queen Mary.
Sir Walter Raleigh spent 13 years imprisoned in the Tower but he lived there with his wife and two children. He had been a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I at the time of his death but he was tried for treason against James I and imprisoned. Luckily for him, King James spared his life.
The last state prisoner to be held in the Tower was Rudolph Hess, Deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler. He was there briefly in May 1941 after being captured in Scotland..
Those with a yen to know more can see a long list of prisoners here.
A visit to the Tower of London makes a great day out. Combine it with a meal in one of the many restaurants in St Katharine Docks and perhaps a walk across Tower Bridge to take in the views.
All of the images in my blog today are available to buy as prints. Just click on the image to be taken to a purchase page with more information.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!