About The Tower

The Tower of London is quite large, and lots of neat things have happened here. It was built a long time ago by a Frenchman called William the Conquerer (that’s him over on the left) who came over to England in the year 1066 — that’s almost a 1,000 years ago! He wanted to build a castle inside of a big fort so that future kings could live here. After he died other kings built smaller towers and walls around the castle William had built, and all the buildings together became known as the Tower of London.

Later on King Richard I, dug a big ditch around it and filled it with water from the River Thames, and he called that a moat. Maybe some of you have built a sandcastle and scooped out the sand around it and filled it with water. That’s what they did at the Tower of London. This made it a very good place for the kings and queens to live because their enemies couldn’t get into the fort to attack them.

Nobody could get into the Tower of London unless they had permission from the people who were inside. If they wanted to let anyone in they would lower a wooden bridge on chains across the moat, and then the people could just walk across. This bridge was called a drawbridge. If they didn’t lower the drawbridge the only way a person could get into the castle would be to swim across the moat. Since that was usually filled with nasty smelling water filled with garbage and old potato peelings, people didn’t want to swim across. Besides, with the drawbridge up the door was closed, so even swimming across wouldn’t really work. The moat is no longer there because it was very smelly, and they probably didn’t want people falling in (… hehehe …) now there’s just grass where the water used to be.

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Tower Bridge

Before we take the tour, let me tell you a little about where we are. You can see the Tower Bridge over there standing in the water. If you visit the Tower by car or bus, you might even get to go across it. That water, by the way, is called the River Thames, but I bet you knew that. I like to watch when a really big ship goes by, because all the traffic stops and the two parts of the bridge open up to let the ship go through.

    Tower Bridge

There’s a place nearby called St. Katherine’s Docks; many small boats are tied up or parked there. There’s also a little beach near here at the edge of the river where the sand was put and you can play there if your folks let you.

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Kids Tour

Hello boys and girls. My name is Reginald Raven. I live at the Tower of London in London, England with my mom and dad, and aunt, uncle and baby sister, who are all also ravens. Although my real name is Reginald — and the name my mom always sternly calls me whenever I have done anything wrong — my friends have always called me by my nickname, Rascal.

I have lived at the Tower of London all of my life, and I know all of its history, and all the good places to hide when my dad wants me to help entertain the tourists and I just want to sit in the warm sunshine and hop about on one foot. The visitors I like best at the Tower of London are boys and girls like yourselves. I know we like many of the same things and would enjoy each other’s company.

Ok, would you like me to take you on a tour of my home, the Tower of London? Great! Then let’s ….

How to draw the Tower of London

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The Ceremony of the Keys

The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London by night. It is one of the oldest and most colorful ceremonies of its kind, having taken place for the last 700 years in much the same form as it is seen today.

Tower of London at Night [Flickr: Nan Palmero]

Every night at exactly seven minutes to 10 o’clock the Chief Warder emerges from the Byward Tower wearing his long red coat and Tudor bonnet, carrying in one hand a candle lantern and in the other hand the Queens Keys. With solemn tread he moves along Water Lane, to Traitors Gate where his escort provided by one of the regiments of Foot Guards awaits him. He hands the lantern to an escorting soldier and the party moves to the outer gate. En route all guards and sentries salute the Queens Keys. After locking the outer gate the Chief Warder and escort retrace their steps. The great oak gates of the Middle and Byward Towers are locked in turn. They now return along Water lane towards Traitors Gate where in the shadows of the Bloody Tower archway a sentry waits.

When the party approaches the sentry challenges, “Who goes there?” The Chief Warder answers: “The Keys.” “Whose Keys?” the sentry demands. “Queen Elizabeth’s Keys.” “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All’s well” is the sentry’s final rejoinder.

The party then proceeds through the Bloody Tower archway and up towards the steps where the main guard is drawn up. The Chief Warder and escort halt at the foot of the steps and the officer in charge gives the command to present arms. The Chief Warder moves two paces forward, raises his Tudor bonnet high in the air and calls “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.” The guard answers “Amen” just as the clock chimes ten and the bugler sounds Last Post. The Chief Warder takes the keys to the Queens House and the guard is dismissed.

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The End of the Tour!

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The Martin Tower

Charles II

Built by Henry III this tower is famous as the scene of Colonel Thomas Bloods fruitless attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. After the Restoration, the newly-made regalia was kept in the Martin Tower (known at the time as the Jewel Tower) in sole custody of the Deputy Keeper of the Jewels, a man named Talbot Edwards who lived with his family in the tower.

Blood, disguised as a clergyman, became very friendly with Edwards, even to the point of proposing a marriage between the old mans’ daughter and a supposed nephew of his. Early on a May morning in 1671, the colonel appeared by appointment with his “nephew” and a friend to arrange the marriage. While awaiting the ladies, Blood suggested that his friends might see the Crown Jewels. As soon as the chamber was opened Edwards was attacked and badly injured. Blood hid the State Crown beneath his cloak; one accomplice slipped the Orb into his breeches, while the other began filing the sceptre in half to make it more portable. They were then unexpectedly disturbed by Edward’s son returning from abroad and a running fight followed during which all three were captured.

The Outer Wall seen from outside the complex shows the rarely viewed backend of the Tower; notice the cross-shaped “loopholes” in the fortress walls for weapons. The two round buildings beyond are believed to be: Bowyer Tower at left and Flint Tower at right.

Blood eventually obtained an audience with Charles II to whom he remarked that “it was a gallant attempt.” Charles — with uncharacteristic leniency — immediately pardoned Blood, granted him a pension and promised that his Irish estates, seized at the Restoration, would be restored.

Edwards, on the other hand, was granted 200 pounds by the Exchequer and his son was given 100 pounds. The old man, however, was forced to sell off his expectation for half its value, and he died of his injuries soon afterwards.

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The Salt Tower

Henry III

This tower, yet another built by Henry III, about 1235 was used in later days as a prison for Jesuits. It contains a number of interesting inscriptions, the most notable being a complicated diagram cut in stone for casting horoscopes. The inscription records that “Hew Draper of Brystow made this sphere the 30 daye of Maye anno 1561”. Draper was imprisoned for attempted witchcraft in 1561.

The Salt Tower

In several places on the walls a pierced heart, hand, and foot have been carved. This symbol signifies the wounds of Christ. As in other towers where the Jesuits were imprisoned. the monogram I.H.S, with a cross above the H, occurs in several places — the sign made by the Society of Jesus.

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The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels are what most visitors to the Tower of London come to see. This incomparable collection of crowns, orbs, swords, sceptres and other regalia, and gold and silver plate was refashioned in 1661 after parliament had ordered the original gold and precious metals to be melted down for coinage in 1649.

The Imperial State Crown worn by monarchs at their coronations is set with jewels of great antiquity and historical significance. The oldest is Edward the Confessor’s sapphire, believed to have been worn by him in a ring and now mounted in the cross patee above the monde. The great gem above the rim is the ancient balas-ruby, known as the Black Prince’s ruby, which is said to have been given to him by Pedro the Cruel of Castile.

From the intersections of the arches hang four superb drop pearls, the so-called Queen Elizabeth’s Ear-rings, but there is no evidence that she ever wore them in this way. Set in the rim at the back of the crown is the Stuart sapphire. It is probably much older than its name implies but is known to have been in the possession of James II when he fled to France after his deposition. It was formerly mounted in the rim, at the front, but was displaced by the Second Star of Africa cut from the Cullinan diamond. In addition to these jewels, the Imperial State Crown contains over 3,000 diamonds and pearls, as well as fine sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.

The Crown Jewels have in the past resided in both the White Tower and in the Martin Tower. Today they have their home in Jewel House which is a part of the Waterloo Barracks

The Royal Sceptre with the Cross is a rod of chased gold, with the peerless Star of Africa cut from the Cullinnan diamond held in a heart-shaped mount. Above this is a superb amethyst with a diamond-encrusted cross set with an emerald.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s Crown was made for her coronation as queen consort in 1937. This graceful crown is set with diamonds, dominated by the famous Koh-i-noor. Its Indian name means “Mountain of Light” and the jewel has a long and turbulent history. Tradition says that its male owners will suffer misfortune, but women who possess it will rule the world.

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The Queen’s House

Anne Boleyn

The Queens House was built about 1530, probably for Queen Anne Boleyn, but she lived there only as a prisoner for 18 days awaiting her execution. The second queen of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth  I, she was beheaded on Tower Green by a French executioner for alleged infidelity; it is said she felt the French more skilled at the task of beheading. As a princess interned at the Bell Tower, Elizabeth I was permitted to dine here. Despite the presence of these and future Queens, the building was known until 1880 as the Lieutenant’s Lodgings.

Views of the left and right sides of the L-shaped complex of the Queen’s House

It is a very fine example of half-timbered Tudor architecture. Within a few years of completion, a floor was inserted at second storey level in the lofty hall making what is known as the Council Chamber. The chamber has a magnificent 16 century rafted ceiling and contains an elaborate tablet commemorating the Gunpowder Plot erected in 1608 by the then Governor, Sir William Waad. In this room Guy Fawkes was interrogated and after torture on the rack in the White Tower, signed a confession incriminating his fellow conspirators.

Adjoining the Council Chamber is a room in which William Penn, the famous Quaker who founded the state of Pennsylvania, was once a prisoner. And in modern times the notorious Rudolph Hess, Nazi leader and German deserter during World War II, was imprisoned here.

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The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula

The historic Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains) is the oldest chapel royal in England. In this little chapel most of those who died on Tower Hill and six of the seven executed on Tower Green, were laid to rest under flagstones without ceremony.

The Site of Block is demarcated in front of the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula. (Part of the Jewel House can be see to its right). [Greeley/Gilmore]

Site of Block

Between the Chapel and Tower Green is a small paved area. A scaffold was erected here for the beheading of those whose public execution on Tower Hill might have incited the people to riot. The names of the six tragic figures who died on this fateful spot are inscribed on the board. They include three queens of England: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey. Elizabeth Ist supposed suitor, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex was also executed here.

A well-used block and axe. Although there can be found many cut-marks in the block, two are deepest — the one used for practice, and the one used for actual execution.  [Both: R.Radliff]

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The Beauchamp Tower

Henry III and his son, Edward I, are to be attributed to the creation of the Beauchamp Tower. Henry III is responsible for many of the towers and structures in the Tower of London, with eight wall towers built during the latter part of his reign. It was during Edward’s reconstruction of the western section that he replaced a twin-towered gatehouse built by Henry with the Beauchamp Tower around 1275-81.

Architecturally, the large amount of brick used, as opposed to solely that of stone, was innovative at its time for castle construction. The tower takes its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, imprisoned 1397-99 by Richard II. The three-story structure was used often for prisoners of high rank.

Of special interest are the inscriptions carved on the stone walls here by prisoners. The most elaborate is a memorial to the five brothers Dudley, one of whom was Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey. These unhappy pair were executed in 1554.

Tower Green

On the west side of the White Tower is the Tower Green, which is bounded on the north by the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, and on the south by the Queen’s House. On the west green stands the Beauchamp Tower.

The Ravens and the Legend

There have always been ravens at the Tower of London, and some are usually seen strutting about Tower Green. They are unfriendly and it is unwise to touch or feed them. Their wings are clipped so that they cannot fly away. A curious superstition dating from the time of Charles II prophesises that when there are no longer ravens in the Tower both the White Tower and the British Commonwealth will fall.

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