The Tower of London is not one single tower but a complex of buildings. The towers that make up the Tower are:
Built by Edward I, the tower takes its name from a fourteenth-century prisoner, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. The Beauchamp Tower is home to some of the most elaborate inscriptions carved by those who were kept prisoner in Tudor times. Some show remarkably detailed heraldic symbols but one of the most moving is simply the name ‘Jane’ which refers to the nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey, executed at the age of 17 in 1554, and was probably carved into the wall by her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, who was imprisoned here before mounting the scaffold himself.
The second oldest of the towers, the Bell Tower was built in the reign of Richard the Lionheart. Sir Thomas More was imprisoned there in 1534, as was the future Elizabeth I, who was confined there during the reign of her sister Mary.
3. Bloody Tower
Originally the Garden Tower, the Bloody Tower gained its more familiar name in the sixteenth century because it was the place where the young princes, sons of Edward IV, were supposed to have been done to death on the orders of their wicked uncle. The Bloody Tower has undoubtedly seen other murders. It was the place where the Jacobean courtier and writer Sir Thomas Overbury met his end, finished off by a poisoned enema applied on the orders of a powerful noblewoman he had been foolhardy enough to cross.
According to tradition, the Bowyer Tower was where the Duke of Clarence, troublesome brother of Edward IV and Richard III, was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. Shakespeare shows the murder in Richard III, although his setting is described simply as ‘The Tower. London’.
Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Brick Tower in 1592 after incurring Elizabeth I’s displeasure by seducing one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton, making her pregnant and having the temerity to marry her in secret. The queen’s servants were expected to seek her permission before marrying and, although Sir Walter was released from the Tower, the Raleighs were in disgrace for many years.
6.Broad Arrow Tower
Part of Henry Ill’s extensions to the Tower in the middle of the thirteenth century, the Broad Arrow Tower took its name from the motif that was stamped on goods to show they were the property of the crown.
Probably named for its proximity to the old Warders’ Hall, this is the tower from which the chief warder emerges each night to perform the Ceremony of the Keys before locking the whole Tower complex for the night.
In the past, this tower has been the used as the official accommodation of the Constable of the Tower. Today it contains a model of the Tower of London as it appeared in the Middle Ages.
Built in the middle of the fourteenth century, the Cradle Tower owes its name not to a bed for a child but to a kind of hoist which allowed boats to be raised from the river to the level of the tower’s gateway. It was from the Cradle Tower that the Jesuit priest John Gerard made his escape in 1597.
The furthest east of the towers and one not open to the public, the Develin Tower once opened onto a drawbridge which ran across the moat to the since-demolished Iron Gate.
The tower is named after Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who was imprisoned here after his abortive coup against her in 1601. Essex had hoped that Londoners would rise to join him but most watched with indifference as he marched through the streets with a handful of men. He was captured, imprisoned in the tower that bears his name and executed on Tower Hill.
The tower is so named because of the flint stone used to build it. Like many of the towers within the complex it was largely reconstructed in Victorian times.
The tower was named for the lantern that was placed at its top as a guide for boats on the Thames.
The Lion Tower, no longer in existence, stood on the site of the present ticket office and refreshment room and it was where the Royal Menagerie was once housed. The menagerie was established during the reign of Henry III after gifts of three leopards from the Holy Roman Emperor and a polar bear from the king of Norway. With a chain around its neck to prevent it escaping, the polar bear would swim in the Thames near the Tower to catch its supper. Other animals followed, including an elephant from the king of France which is buried somewhere within the Tower of London, and the menagerie became one of the great sights of London for centuries. The animals were eventually sent to Regent’s Park to the new London Zoo in the early 1830s. The tower was demolished some twenty years later, although the Lion Gate still stands.
Built by Henry III, the Martin Tower was where Henry Percy, the ninth earl of Northumberland, known as the ‘Wizard Earl’ for his scientific and alchemical experiments, was imprisoned by James I for sixteen years on suspicion of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. Also known as the Jewel Tower (the Crown Jewels were kept here from 1669 to 1841) this was the scene of Colonel Blood’s attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. Eleven German spies faced a firing squad outside the tower in World War I.
The main entrance for visitors to the Tower complex today, the Middle Tower, as the name suggests, once stood between the demolished Lion Tower and the Byward Tower.
17.St Thomas’s Tower
Standing above Traitor’s Gate, the tower takes its name from St Thomas a Becket who was Constable of the Tower in 1162. Sir Roger Casement, the former diplomat and Irish Nationalist who was accused of treason after attempting to transport arms from Germany for use in Dublin’s Easter Rising, was held in this tower in 1916 before his trial and execution.
The Salt Tower contains a number of elaborate carved inscriptions including one which was created by a man called Hugh Draper who was imprisoned on suspicion of witchcraft in 1561. This complicated diagram cut into the stone and intended for casting horoscopes has the words ‘Hew Draper of Brystow made this sphere the 30 daye of Maye anno 1561’.
Henry VI died in the Wakefield Tower and a ceremony in which lilies are placed on the spot where he was believed to have been murdered was instituted in 1923, paid for by Eton College as a mark of respect to the college’s founder.
Partially demolished in the reign of Charles II, the Wardrobe Tower was originally built on the foundation of a Roman bastion and was the place where the king’s clothing, armour and equipment were kept in the Middle Ages.
Built at the time that Edward I was expanding the Tower complex in the thirteenth century, the Well Tower contained two shafts used for drawing up water.
The oldest part of the Tower, this was built in the reign of William the Conqueror.
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