The White Tower

The great central keep was built by William the Conqueror and finished by his sons and successors, William Rufus and Henry I. It is 90 feet high and is of massive construction, the walls varying from 15 feet thickness at the base to almost 11 feet in the upper parts. Above the battlements rise four turrets; three of them are square, but that on the northeast is circular. This turret once contained the first royal observatory.

White Tower, Tower of London

White Tower, Tower of London

The original single entrance was on the south side and it was reached by an external staircase. There were no doors at ground level. The walls on the upper floors were penetrated by narrow slits positioned in wide splays. On the southern side, four pairs of original double slits remain. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, all others were replaced by Sir Christopher Wren with the windows seen today.

Another view of the White Tower. The U-shaped extension of the tower is the part that contains the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist.

In the White Tower, the medieval kings of England lived with their families and their court. Here was the seat of government and here the laws of the land were made. The royal family lived in the top storey; the council chamber was on the floor below. In this chamber in 1399 Richard II  was forced to sign away his throne, and in 1483 Richard III summarily sentenced Lord Hastings to death.

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