Archive for January, 2021

In the cellar of the White Tower are some examples of items brought back from various military campaigns and presented to the Royal Armouries. Many of these are weapons but there are a few curiosities.

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A golden winged lion statue captured by British forces beseiging the French in Corfu in 1809.

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A bronze bell  taken from the Russian fort at Bomersund during the Crimean war. Most metal objects captured were melted down for casting as artillery, but this fine example survived.

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A decorated strongbox captured from the Spanish at Havana Cuba in 1762, It has an interesting security system – the lock on the front is a dummy and the real lock is concealed on the top of the box.

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A Burmese bell presented to Sir William Gomm, whilst he was Commander British forces in India 1850-55. He was later Constable of the Tower which probably explains how it came to be in the Royal Armoury collection.

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There is evidence of the storage of royal treasures at the Tower since the 11th century. It is likely that these were the items that were not for everyday use, these being kept in the Palace of Westminster (a Jewel Tower was constructed within the Palace in 1369) or wherever the royal court was situated.

Wakefield Tower

Wakefield Tower

Initially, the Treasury was housed in the White Tower but in the 16th century, it was transferred to a purpose-built Jewel House. On the execution of Charles I, the keeper of the Jewels, Carew Mildmay, was imprisoned because he refused to turn over the keys of the Jewel House to the republican government. It only delayed the inevitable and they broke down the doors and either sold off or melted down all they found within. Following the restoration of Charles II, the new crown jewels were housed in the Martin Tower and then the Wakefield Tower (from 1869) before being housed in the new jewel house located within the Waterloo Block in 1967.

Waterloo Block

Waterloo Block

Door to Jewel House

Door to Jewel House in Waterloo block

As with Treasury, the White Tower was also used to store the records of the chancery. These related mainly to details of property ownership and taxation. The records office moved to the Wakefield Tower in the late 14th century where it remained until 1858 when with the formation of the Public Records Office they were moved to a purpose-built building in Chancery Lane near Holborn.

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Remains of the Wardrobe tower with the white Tower beyond

The Wardrobe Tower stands adjacent to the White Tower. It was begun around 1190 and its name comes from the fact that it was used to store the Kings Wardrobe – his clothes jewels and personal articles. It is built on the remians of a Roman bastion in the old city wall.

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Only a fragment of the building remains today.

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The White Tower was the original castle keep started by William I in 1070, just 4 years after he won the battle of Hastings. It was located to protect the river approaches to the city but soon became favoured as a royal residence.

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The first reference to it by the name of ‘White Tower’ is in 1240 when the brickwork was painted.

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After it fell out of fashion as a royal residence, the tower continued to functions a the headquarters for royal and governmental administration.

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Happy New Year

Posted: January 1, 2021 in Announcements

Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy New Year