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The Tower of London
Well Preserved Norman Stone Keep Castle in England

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The Tower of London (known simply as "The Tower", is a castle and scheduled monument in central London, England, on the north bank of the River Thames. It is technically Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress.

The Tower lies just outside the City of London, and is separated from the eastern edge of the City by the open space known as Tower Hill where public executions used to take place.

The Tower of London is a concentric castle with two sets of curtain walls and a moat, with numerous buildings within the inner walls, dominated by the White Tower The White Tower is the original square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1077 with a bailey. The tower remains largely unchanged but the baily has been replaced by two rings of castle walls.

The Tower has served as a fortress, a royal palace and a prison, a place of execution and torture, an armoury, a treasury, a zoo, the Royal Mint, a public records office, an observatory, and since 1303, the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Many famous prisoners have enclosed here, especially state prisoners charged with treason.

A Royal Menagerie was established at the tower in the 13th century, possibly as early as 1204 during the reign of King John. William of Malmesbury reported that Henry had lions, leopards, lynxes and camels among other animals there.

At the centre of the Tower of London stands the Norman White Tower built in 1078 by William the Conqueror (King of England 1066–87) inside the southeast angle of the city walls, adjacent to the Thames. To the south of the Tower was the original bailey.

Due to the changes in function and design the Tower’s interior has undergone, little is left of the original interior, except St John’s Chapel. This chapel, on east side of the first level of the White Tower. This is perhaps the “most complete surviving examples of early Anglo-Norman ecclesiastical architecture”.

Today the Tower of London is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.

It is the oldest building still in use by the British government. 

The Tower now is principally a tourist attraction. Beside the buildings themselves, the British Crown Jewels, an armour collection from the Royal Armouries, and a remnant of the wall of the Roman fortress are on display.

The Tower is manned by the Yeomen Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters, who act as tour guides, provide security, and are a tourist attraction in their own right.

Every evening, the warders participate in the Ceremony of the Keys as the Tower is secured for the night. All warders have residence within the Tower.

Although it is no longer a royal residence, the Tower officially remains a royal palace and maintains a permanent guard. This guard is provided by the same unit forming the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace. Two sentries are maintained during the hours that the Tower is open, with one stationed outside the Jewel House and one outside the Queen's House.

The White Tower


An Ariel View of the Tower


Yeomen Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters




The Tower lies in the London Borough of Tower Hamletsd (which takesits name from the Tower). It is adjacent to the River Thames and to Tower Bridge (which also takes its name from the Tower).

Between the river and the Tower is Tower Wharf, a freely accessible walkway with views of the river, Tower and bridge, together with HMS Belfast and London City Hall on the opposite bank.

The nearest London Underground station is Tower Hill on the Circle and District Lines. The nearest Docklands Light Railway station is Tower Gateway. London Fenchurch Street is a nearby National Rail station. River cruise boats and Thames Clipper services stop at the Tower Millennium Pier.

The Tower of London
Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB

Telephone from the UK: 0)870 756 6060
Telephone from the US: 010 44 )870 756 6060
Telephone from France: 00 44 )870 756 6060
Telephone from other countries: +44 (0))870 756 6060


Google map showing the location of The Tower of London


Google map showing The Tower of London



At the centre of the Tower of London stands the Norman White Tower built in 1078 by William the Conqueror (reigned as King of England 1066–87) inside the southeast angle of the city walls, adjacent to the Thames. To the south of the Tower was the original bailey.

The White Tower was built to protect the Normans from the people of the City of London as much as to protect London from outside invaders.

William appointed Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, as the architect. Fine Caen stone, imported from France, was used for the corners of the building and as door and window dressings, though Kentish ragstone was used for the bulk of the edifice.] According to legend the mortar used in its construction was tempered by the blood of beasts. Another legend ascribed the Tower not to William but to the Romans. William Shakespeare in his play Richard III stated that it was built by Julius Caesar and it ispossible that William built on the site of an existing Roman structure.

In the 1190s, King Richard I (Lionheart, reigned 1189–99) a great military strategist, enclosed the White Tower with a curtain wall, and had a moat dug around it supplied with water from the Thames. Richard utilised the pre-existing Roman city wall, to the east, as part of the circuit.

Part of the wall that Richard built was incorporated into the later circuit wall of Henry III and is still extant, running between the Bloody Tower and the Bell Tower, the latter of which also dates to his reign.

In 1240 Henry III had the exterior of the building whitewashed, which is how it came to be called the White Tower.

William depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry


15th century. MS of poems, Charles, Duke of Orléans (British Library).





The original building built by William was Romanesque.

The White Tower is 90 feet (27 m) high Its walls vary from 15 feet (4.5 m) thick at the base to almost 11 feet (3.3 m) in the upper parts. Above the battlements rise four turrets: three of them are square, but the one on the northeast is circular, in order to accommodate a spiral staircase. This turret was briefly used as the first royal observatory in the reign of Charles II.

You can still see, especially in the chapel the characteristic rounded arches, as seen in the arcade, and the vaulted nave and aisles, where respectively barrel and groin vaulting was employed. The nave is flanked by two aisles, which are separated by columns that form an arcade which creates the ambulatory. The columns of the arcade are opposite the pilasters along the outer walls of the aisles. Above is a gallery arcade which lets in more light into the space, but is not a clerestory in the sense that it is above the roof.

The defining element of this space is the design of the columns’ capitals. While at first glance the design is uniform, further examination shows that the capitals are quite varied. Some are block-shaped, some have volutes, and others are cushion capitals. Yet, what these capitals, save three, have in common is the “rare embellishment of Tau crosses, or T-shaped projections”. These crosses are reminiscent of designs common to Anglo-Norman architecture of this period.

The Inmost Ward

In the early thirteenth century Henry III (reigned 1216–72) transformed the Tower into a major royal residence and had palatial buildings constructed within the Inner Bailey to the south of the White Tower. This Inmost Ward was entered by the now ruined Coldharbour Gate to the NW and bounded by a wall, fortified by the Wakefield Tower to the SW, the Lanthorn Tower to the SE, and the now ruined Wardrobe Tower to the NE.[7] The well appointed Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower were integral parts of this new royal palace, and adjoined the now demolished Great Hall situated between them.[7] The Tower remained a royal residence until the time of Oliver Cromwell, who demolished some of the old palatial buildings.

The Inner Ward

The White Tower and Inmost Ward are situated in the Inner Ward, defended by a massive curtain wall, built by Henry III from 1238 onwards. In order to extend the circuit the city wall to the east was broken down, despite the protests of the citizens of London and even supernatural warnings, according to chronicler Matthew Paris. The wall has thirteen towers:

  • Wakefield Tower — the largest of the towers in the curtain wall. According to tradition, this was where the imprisoned King Henry VI was murdered as he knelt at prayer.
  • Lanthorn Tower
  • Salt Tower
  • Broad Arrow Tower
  • Constable Tower
  • Martin Tower. The Crown Jewels were kept here from 1669 until 1842. This was the scene of the attempted theft of the jewels by Colonel Blood in 1671.
  • Brick Tower
  • Bowyer Tower
  • Flint Tower
  • Devereux Tower
  • Beauchamp Tower (pronounced 'Beecham')
  • Bell Tower — the oldest tower in the circuit, built in the 1190s as part of the fortification of Richard I and later incorporated into that of Henry III. Named after the curfew bell which has been rung from this tower for over 500 years.[6]
  • Bloody Tower (or the Garden Tower), so named after a legend that the Princes in the Tower were murdered there.


The Outer Ward

Between 1275 and 1285 Edward I (reigned 1272–1307) built an outer curtain wall, completely enclosing the inner wall and thus creating a concentric double defence. He filled in the moat and built a new moat around the new outer wall. The space between the walls is called the Outer Ward. The wall has five towers facing the river:

  • Byward Tower
  • St Thomas's Tower, built between 1275-1279 by Edward I to provide additional royal accommodation for the King.
  • Cradle Tower
  • Well Tower
  • Develin Tower


On the north face of the outer wall are three semicircular bastions, the Brass Mount, the North Bastion and Legge's Mount.

The water entrance to the Tower is often referred to as Traitor's Gate because prisoners accused of treason are said to have passed through it. Traitor's Gate cuts through St Thomas's Tower and replaced Henry III's watergate in the Bloody Tower behind it. Behind Traitors Gate in the pool was an engine used to raise water to a cistern located on the roof of the White Tower. The engine was originally powered by the force of the tide or by horsepower and later by steampower; this was adapted around 1724 to drive machinery for boring gun barrels. It was removed in the 1860s.

The Tudor Timber Framing seen above the great arch of Traitor's Gate dates from 1532 and was restored in the 19th century.


The Western Entrance and Moat

A moat, now dry, encircles the whole, crossed at the southwestern angle by a stone bridge, leading to the Byward Tower from the Middle Tower — a gateway which had formerly an outwork, called the Lion Tower.

View of the White Tower


St John’s Chapel, the Norman chapel inside the White Tower


Ariel view looking directly down on the White Tower





Castles often acted as prisons, and The Tower provided the king's preferred prison for many English monarchs.

The first prisoner was Ranulf Flambard in 1100 who, as Bishop of Durham, was found guilty of extortion. Ranulf had been responsible for improvements to the design of the tower after the first architect Gundulf moved back to Rochester. Ranulf escaped from the White Tower by the simple expedient of climbing down a rope which had been smuggled into his cell in a wine casket.

Other notable prisoners include:

  • Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr (c. 1200 – 1 March 1244) a Welsh prince, the eldest but illegitimate son of Llywelyn the Great ("Llywelyn Fawr"). He fell to his death whilst trying to escape from the Tower.
  • John of Scotland (John de Balliol) - after being forced to abdicate the crown of Scotland by Edward I he was imprisoned in the Tower from 1296 to 1299.
  • David II of Scotland
  • John II of France
  • Domhnáill Ballaugh Ó Catháin, the last chieftain of Clan Ó Catháin died in the Tower in 1626.
  • Charles, Duke of Orléans, one of the many French noblemen wounded in the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. Captured and taken to England as a hostage, he remained in captivity for twenty-five years, at various places.. Charles is remembered as an accomplished poet owing to the more than five hundred extant poems he produced, most written while a prisoner.
  • Henry VI of England was imprisoned in the Tower, where he was murdered on 21 May 1471. Each year on the anniversary of Henry VI's death, the Provosts of Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, lay roses and lilies on the altar that stands where he died.
  • Margaret of Anjou, consort of Henry VI.
  • George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, brother of King Edward IV of England.
  • Edward V of England and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, also known as the Princes in the Tower, popular legend states that their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester locked them in the tower for their own protection, then, later, ordered their deaths.
  • Sir William de la Pole. A distant relative of King Henry VIII, he was incarcerated at the Tower for 37 years (1502–1539) for allegedly plotting against Henry VII.
  • Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, and his steward Sir John Thynne.
  • Thomas More was imprisoned on 17 April 1535. He was executed on 6 July 1535 and his body was buried at the Tower of London.
  • Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, imprisoned on 2 May 1536 on charges of High Treason, adultery, and incest. She remained a prisoner until 19 May 1536 when she was beheaded by a French swordsman on Tower Green.
  • Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned in the tower from 1553 until 12 February 1554, when she was beheaded by order of Queen Mary I.
  • The future Queen Elizabeth I, imprisoned for two months in 1554 for her alleged involvement in Wyatt's Rebellion.
  • John Gerard, an English Jesuit priest operating undercover during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when Catholics were being persecuted. He was captured and tortured and incarcerated in the Salt Tower before making a daring escape by rope across the moat.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh spent thirteen years (1603–1616) imprisoned at the Tower but was able to live in relative comfort in the Bloody Tower with his wife and two children. For some of the time he even grew tobacco on Tower Green, just outside his apartment. While imprisoned, he wrote The History of the World.
  • Nicholas Woodcock spent sixteen months in the "gatehouse and tower" for piloting the first Spanish whaleship to Spitsbergen in 1612.
  • Niall Garve O'Donnell, an Irish nobleman, a one-time ally of the English against his cousin, Red Hugh O'Donnell.
  • Guy Fawkes, famous for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, was brought to the Tower to be interrogated by a council of the King's Ministers. However, he was not executed at the tower. When he confessed, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster; however, he escaped his fate by jumping off the scaffold at the gallows which in turn broke his neck and killed him.
  • Johan Anders Jägerhorn, a Swedish officer from Finland, Lord Edward FitzGerald's friend, participating in the Irish independence movement. He spent two years in the Tower (1799–1801), but was released because of Russian interests.
  • Henry Laurens, the third President of the Continental Congress of Colonial Americ,. in 1780
  • Lord George Gordon, instigator of the Gordon Riots in 1780, spent 6 months in the Tower while awaiting trial on the charge of high treason.
  • Irish rebel Roger Casement was imprisoned in the Tower during his trial on treason charges in 1916.
  • Rudolf Hess, deputy leader of the Nazi Party, the last state prisoner to be held in the tower, in May 1941. The tower was used as a prison for German prisoners of war throughout the conflict.
  • The Kray twins, were among the last prisoners to be held in 1952.


Various implements of torture were used Inside the torture chambers of the Tower such as the Scavenger’s daughter, a kind of compression device, and the Rack, also known as the Duke of Exeter's Daughter.

Anne Askew is the only woman on record to have been tortured in the tower, after being taken there in 1546 on a charge of heresy. Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered to torture Anne in an attempt to force her to name other Protestants. Anne was put on the Rack. Kingston was so impressed with the way Anne behaved that he refused to carry on torturing her, and Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor had to take over.

Lower-class criminals were usually executed by hanging at one of the public execution sites outside the Tower. High-profile convicts were publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. Seven nobles (five of them ladies) were beheaded privately on Tower Green, inside the complex, and then buried in the "Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula" next to the Green. Some nobles who were executed outside the Tower are also buried in that chapel. The seven beheaded on Tower Green for treason are:

  • William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings (1483)
  • Anne Boleyn (1536)
  • Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1541)
  • Catherine Howard (1542)
  • Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford (1542)
  • Lady Jane Grey (1554)
  • Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1601)


George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV of England, was executed for treason in the Tower in February 1478, but not by beheading (and probably not by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine, as Shakespeare thought).

When Edward IV died, he left two young sons behind: the Princes in the Tower. His brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, was made Regent until the older of his two sons, Edward V, should come of age. According to Thomas More's History of Richard III, Richard hired men to kill them, and, one night, the two Princes were smothered with their pillows. Many years later, bones were found buried at the foot of a stairway in the Tower, which are thought to be those of the princes. Richard was crowned King Richard III of England.

n World War I, eleven German spies were shot in the Tower.

The last execution at the Tower was that of German spy Josef Jakobs on 14 August 1941 by firing squad formed from the Scots Guards.



The military use of the Tower as a fortification, like that of other such castles, became obsolete with the introduction of artillery, and the moat was drained in 1830. However the Tower did serve as the headquarters of the Board of Ordnance until 1855, and the Tower was still occasionally used as a prison, even through both World Wars.

Waterloo Barracks, the location of the Crown Jewels, remained in use as a base for the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) into the 1950s; during 1952, the Kray twins were briefly held there for failing to report for national service, making them among the last prisoners of the Tower; the last British citizen held for any length of time was the traitorous Army officer Norman Baillie-Stewart from 1933 to 1937. The tower is now home to the regimental museum of the Royal Fusiliers.


Royal Armouries

The Royal Armouries can be traced back the middle ages when armour was manufactured at the Tower for the Kings of England.

In 1545, it is recorded that a visiting foreign dignitary paid to view the collection at the Armoury. By the time of Charles II, there was a permanent public display there, making it the first museum in Britain.

From 1414, the Tower was home to the Master of the Ordnance and the Ordnance Office (later the Board of Ordnance) who were responsible for providing weapons to both the Army and Navy.

The Tower was engaged in the development, manufacture and storage of a wide variety of weaponry until the Board was abolished in 1855, however the historic collection remained. Only a small part of this could be displayed and in 1995, much of the artillery collection was moved to Fort Nelson in Hampshire and the following year a new Royal Armouries Museum was opened in Leeds. The Tower still holds an important range of arms and armour dating from the middle ages onwards, notably that belonging to the Tudor and Stuart kings.



A Royal Menagerie was established at the tower in the 13th century, possibly as early as 1204 during the reign of King John, and probably stocked with animals from an earlier menagerie started in 1125 by Henry I at his palace in Woodstock, near Oxford; William of Malmesbury reported that Henry had lions, leopards, lynxes and camels among other animals there.

The Tower menagerie is usually dated from 1235, when Henry III received a wedding gift of three leopards (which may have been lions) from Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.The Tower of London housed a polar bear in 1252, which was a gift from the King of Norway. In 1264, they were moved to the Bulwark, which was duly renamed the Lion Tower, near the main western entrance. It was opened as an occasional public spectacle in the reign of Elizabeth I. A lion skull was radiocarbon dated to between 1280 and 1385, making it the earliest medieval big cat known in Britain.

The menagerie was open to the public by the 18th century; admission was a sum of three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog for feeding to the lions. This was where William Blake saw the tiger which may have inspired his poem The Tyger.

The menagerie's last director, Alfred Cops, who took over in 1822, found the collection in a dismal state but restocked it and issued an illustrated scientific catalogue. Partly for commercial reasons and partly for animal welfare, the animals were moved to the Zoological Society of London's London Zoo when it opened. The last of the animals left in 1835, and most of the Lion Tower was demolished soon after, although Lion Gate remains.



Jewel House - Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels have been kept at the Tower of London since 1303, after they were stolen from Westminster Abbey. It is thought that most, if not all, were recovered shortly afterwards.

After the coronation of Charles II, they were locked away and shown for a viewing fee paid to a custodian. However, this arrangement ended when Colonel Thomas Blood stole the Crown Jewels after having bound and gagged the custodian. Thereafter, the Crown Jewels were kept in a part of the Tower known as Jewel House, where armed guards defended them.

They were temporarily taken out of the Tower during World War II and reportedly were secretly kept in the basement vaults of the Sun Life Insurance company in Montreal, Canada, along with the gold bullion of the Bank of England.

Film Location For:

Elizabeth (1998)    

Unesco World Heritage Site

Unesco name of World Heritage site: Tower of London (added in 1988)

Justification for Inscription: "The Tower of London, founded by William the Conqueror in 1066 has Outstanding Universal Value for the following cultural qualities:

Its landmark siting, for both protection and control of the City of London: As the gateway to the capital, the Tower was in effect the gateway to the new Norman kingdom. Sited strategically at a bend in the River Thames, it has been a crucial demarcation point between the power of the developing City of London, and the power of the monarchy. It had the dual role of providing protection for the City through its defensive structure and the provision of a garrison, and of also controlling the citizens by the same means. The Tower literally ‘towered’ over its surroundings until the 19th century.

As a symbol of Norman power: The Tower of London was built as a demonstration of Norman power. The Tower represents more than any other structure the far-reaching significance of the mid 11th-century Norman Conquest of England, for the impact it had on fostering closer ties with Europe, on English language and culture and in creating one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The Tower has an iconic role as reflecting the last military conquest of England.

As an outstanding example of late 11th-century innovative Norman military architecture: As the most complete survival of an 11th-century fortress palace remaining in Europe, the White Tower, and its later 13th and 14th century additions, belong to a series of edifices which were at the cutting edge of military building technology internationally. They represent the apogee of a type of sophisticated castle design, which originated in Normandy and spread through Norman lands to England and Wales.

As a model example of a Medieval fortress palace which evolved from the 11th to 16th centuries: The additions of Henry III and Edward I, and particularly the highly innovative development of the palace within the fortress, made the Tower into one of the most innovative and influential castle sites in Europe in the 13th and early 14th centuries, and much of their work survives. Palace buildings were added to the royal complex right up until the 16th century, although few now stand above ground. The survival of palace buildings at the Tower allows a rare glimpse into the life of a medieval monarch within their fortress walls. The Tower of London is a rare survival of a continuously developing ensemble of royal buildings, evolving from the 11th to the 16th centuries, and as such has great significance nationally and internationally.

For its association with State institutions: The continuous use of the Tower by successive monarchs fostered the development of several major State Institutions. These incorporated such fundamental roles as the nation’s defence, its records, and its coinage. From the late 13th century, the Tower was a major repository for official documents, and precious goods owned by the Crown. The presence of the Crown Jewels, kept at the Tower since the 17th century, are a reminder of the fortress’s role as a repository for the Royal Wardrobe.

As the setting for key historical events in European history: The Tower has been the setting for some of the most momentous events in European and British History. Its role as a stage upon which history is enacted is one of the key elements which have contributed towards the Tower’s status as an iconic structure. Arguably the most important building of the Norman Conquest, the White Tower symbolised the might and longevity of the new order. The imprisonments in the Tower, of Edward V and his younger brother in the 15th century, and then in the 16th century of four English queens, three of them executed on Tower Green – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey – with only Elizabeth I escaping, shaped English history. The Tower also helped shape the Reformation in England, as both Catholic and Protestant prisoners (those that survived) recorded their experiences and helped define the Tower as a place of torture and execution.

Criterion (ii): A monument symbolic of royal power since the time of William the Conqueror, the Tower of London served as an outstanding model throughout the kingdom from the end of the 11th century. Like it, many keeps were built in stone: e.g. Colchester, Rochester, Hedingham, Norwich, or Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

Criterion (iv): The White Tower is the example par excellence of the royal Norman castle in the late 11th century. The ensemble of the Tower of London is a major reference for the history of medieval military architecture."

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Ann Bolyn, one of the famous prisoners in the Tower


The Imperial State Crown, part of the UK's Crown Jewels


Traitors' Gate


The Constable of the Tower of London





At least six Ravens are kept at the Tower, at all times, in accordance with the belief that if they be absent the kingdom will fall. To be on the safe side ten ravens (6 on duty and 4 young spares) are actually housed at the Tower of London at the expense of the British government.

A Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, has the specific role of Ravenmaster at the Tower and takes care of their feeding and well being. The Ravenmaster builds this relationship with the ravens as he takes the fledglings into his home and hand rears them over a period of about six weeks. Ravens live up to an average of 25 years, but have been known to reach the age of 45 years.

To prevent the birds from flying away one of their wings is clipped by the Ravenmaster.. Clipping their wing unbalances their flight ensuring that they don't stray too far from the Tower. Ravens are members of the crow family, Corvus, and are eaters of carrion and live mainly on dead flesh. The Raven's lodgings are located next to the Wakefield Tower.

It was said that Charles II ordered their removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer.However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower, the monarchy, and the entire kingdom would fall. Charles, following the time of the English Civil War was not prepared to take the chance, and instead had the observatory moved to Greenwich.

The earliest known reference to a tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1885. This and scattered subsequent references to the tower ravens, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told by the Yeomen Warders to tourists. There is evidence that the original ravens were donated to the tower by the Earls of Dunraven.] However wild ravens, which were once abundant in London and often seen around meat markets feasting for scraps, could have roosted at the tower in earlier times.

During the Second World War most of the Tower's ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving a sole survivor named 'Grip'. There is evidence that the ravens were used as unofficial spotters for enemy planes and bombs during the Blitz.

In 2006, during the H5N1 avian influenza scare, the ravens were moved indoors for some months.



The Tower of London is reputedly the most haunted building in England. The ghost of Queen Anne Boleyn, beheaded in 1536 for treason against King Henry VIII, has allegedly been seen haunting the chapel of St Peter-ad-Vincula, where she is buried, and walking around the White Tower carrying her head under her arm.

Other ghosts include Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, and the Princes in the Tower. In January 1816 a sentry on guard outside the Jewel House witnessed an inexplicable apparition of a bear advancing towards him. The sentry reportedly died of fright a few days later.

In October 1817 an even more inexplicable, tubular, glowing apparition was seen in the Jewel House by the Keeper of the Crown Jewels, Edmund Lenthal Swifte. The apparition hovered over the shoulder of his wife, leading her to exclaim: "Oh, Christ! it has seized me!" Other nameless and formless terrors have been reported, more recently, by night staff at the Tower.



The Tower of London and its surrounding area has always had a separate administration from the adjacent City of London. It was under the jurisdiction of the Constable of the Tower who also held authority over the Tower liberties until 1894.

In addition the Constable was ex-officio Lord Lieutenant of the Tower division of Middlesex until 1889 and head of the Tower Hamlets Militia until 1871. Today the Tower is within the boundaries of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The tower is fully staffed with 35 Yeomen Warders (also known as Beefeaters), at all times, the most senior is titled the Chief Yeoman Warder, and his second-in-command is titled the Yeoman Gaoler, they answer to the Constable of the Tower. Yeomen Warders have served as defenders of the Crown Jewels, prison guards, and, since the time of Queen Victoria, tour guides to visitors.


Recent History

In 1974 a bomb exploded in the Mortar Room in the White Tower, leaving one person dead and 35 injured. No one claimed responsibility for the blast.

In 2007, Moira Cameron became the first female Beefeater to go on duty at the Tower of London.

On July 18, 2009, USS Halyburton became the first non-British ship to take part in the Tower's Constable's Dues ritual. Dating back to the 14th century, it involved the crew being challenged for entry into London, following an ancient custom in which ships had to unload some of its cargo for the sovereign before entering the city. Commander Michael P Huck led the crew to the Tower's West Gate where they were challenged by the Yeoman Gaoler armed with his axe. They were then marched to Tower Green, accompanied by Yeoman Warders, where they delivered a keg of Castillo Silver Rum, representing the dues, to the Tower's Constable, Sir Roger Wheeler.

The Priness in the Tower as imagined by Millet


The Ravens at the Tower


The Ceremony of the Keys


The crew of the USS Halyburton at the Constable's Dues ritual at the Tower in 2009


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