The Tower of London
Every castle or old building has a set of stories to tell. Stories about who was there, kings, queens, soldiers, workers, spies. Stories about what went on, marriages, murders, plots and imprisonments. These take the forms of records that have been kept, names and dates scratched into the walls, of artwork and from word of mouth. And it’s legends that give these places character and, sometimes, notoriety.
And one place that has a long and well-known history is the Tower of London.
The Tower of London has been an integral part of England’s history since the Norman Conquest. For centuries this fortress was one of the tallest buildings in the capital and loomed above the population for miles as London grew.
The Tower, as it became known as its notoriety increased, served many functions throughout its history. It was a royal palace for kings such as Henry III, Henry VI and Edward IV. It was a storehouse for the Crown Jewels after an attempt to steal them from Edward I in 1303 almost succeeded.
For centuries it was the home of the Royal Mint, a long avenue of houses outside the main fortress would ring with the clanging of coins being struck from metal.
Under the drawbridge and in other parts lived the menagerie of animals and birds who inhabited the Tower from around 1210 to 1834 when the Duke of Wellington moved them to London Zoo. Lions, bears, various birds (including ravens), monkeys and an alligator were just some of the exotic creatures on display to visitors.
Most famously the Tower was a prison and the scene for many daring attempts at escape, murder and execution. The ghosts of Henry VI and Anne Boleyn are some of those who are thought to stalk the fortress at night.
Today it’s a museum, one of London’s biggest attractions. If you want to learn more about the many, many stories that this place holds I can recommend Nigel Jones’ book, The Tower, (Windmill Books, 2012) and going to visit, of course.