Archive for the ‘Medieval History’ Category

The Salt Tower was built around 1230 as part of Henry III’s curtain wall. It has an upper chamber which has been used as accommodation for prisoners. The most famous of these was John Balliol, King of Scots from 1296-1299. It has a display of prisoner graffiti.

The E is thought to refer to the future Elizabeth the First. The signature is of John Baptiste Catiglione, Elizabeth's Italian tutor who was imprisoned here by Queen Mary.

The E is thought to refer to the future Elizabeth the First. The signature is of John Baptiste Catiglione, Elizabeth’s Italian tutor who was imprisoned here by Queen Mary.

This globe is by Huw Draper, Bristol inn-keeper and Astrologer who was imprisoned on charges of socery

This globe is by Huw Draper, Bristol inn-keeper and Astrologer who was imprisoned on charges of sorcery.

John Lyon ws  imprisoned  in the Salt Tower on charges of importing a Catholic book into the country

John Lyon was imprisoned in the Salt Tower on charges of importing a Catholic book into the country

The Wakefield Tower was built by Henry III sometime between 1238 and 1272. In early records, it is sometimes known as the Record or Hall Tower as from 1360 it was used to store the records of the Kingdom. Its current name seems to date from the holding of prisoners in the tower following the battle of Wakefield in 1460. Its most famous prisoner was King Henry VI who lived here from 1465 until he was briefly restored to the throne in 1470.

Wakefield Tower

Wakefield Tower

However, it was not long before he was returned to his prison on 21st May 1470. He was murdered in his chamber the following day.

Entrance to lower chamber of Wakefield Tower

Entrance to lower chamber of Wakefield Tower

In the lower chamber is an exhibition on torture at the Tower. Surprisingly torture was not as frequently used in the middle ages as we might think. Between 1540 and 1640 records show only 81 cases in which its use was sanctioned – of these 48 were carried out at the Tower of London. In this exhibition is a replica of a medieval rack, which is based on plans drawn up in the 18th century from the remains of an original medieval rack discovered in a Tower store room.

Replica of Rack

Replica of Rack

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The cradle tower was built around 1350 as a personal watergate entrance for King Edward III. It later became another tower for holding prisoners. Two prominent prisoners held and tortured in the Cradle Tower were John Gerard, a Jesuit priest, who was arrested in 1597 but subsequently escaped and Anne Askew, a protestant martyr who was burned at the stake in 1546 for heresy.

The upper floor of the tower was rebuilt in the 19th century.

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The Bloody Tower is probably the most famous location within the Tower of London. It was built in the 1220’s as the Garden Tower and was the main entrance into the Tower from the river. However with the addition of the outer wall, it became the gateway from the outer ward into the inner ward.

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Important prisoners held here include the young princes, Edward and Richard, 2 Bishops and an Archbishop and a notorious judge. In 1483 Edward, the heir to the throne as Edward V, and his younger brother Richard were placed in the tower on the death of their father, Edward IV, by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, who became regent. He then had the boys declared illegitimate and took the throne in Edward’s place as Richard III. The young princes were never seen after the summer of that year. Tradition held that Richard had them murdered, although in more recent times a second theory has been put forward that they survived in prison throughout Richard’s short reign and were in fact murdered by Henry VII when he took the throne following Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth. The princes were a threat to both King’s claim to the throne, but the major difficulty is that 2 year period between the summer of 1483 and the summer of 1485 when there are no records of anyone seeing the princes alive.

Other prisoners have included the protestant Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley before their executions on the orders of Queen Mary; Sir Thomas Overbury, jailed for refusing a diplomatic mission in 1585 and subsequently poisoned by his wife and a close friend and ‘Hanging Judge’ Jefferys who was imprisoned in the tower when caught fleeing the country following the Glorious Revolution during which James II was forced to flee the country and William of Orange was invited to take his place on the throne. Jefferys died a natural death before it could be decided what was to become of him.

The name ‘Bloody Tower’ seems to date from the 16th century. The Tower’s own website says it relates to the murder of the princes although another source says it was because of the suicide within the Tower of Henry Percy 8th Duke of Northumberland, who was found shot through the head, whilst awaiting trial in 1585. It was concluded that he had committed suicide although rumours circulated that he had in fact been murdered.

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Traitors’  Gate was built by King Edward I in around 1275. It may surprise many visitors to the Tower that this now infamous gate leading to the river was originally built as the main entrance to the Tower. In medieval times it was far healthier and safer for the members of the King’s court to travel between royal castles and palaces by boat rather than through the crowded and dirty streets of the city. It was part of St Thomas’ tower and was probably known as St Thomas’ Gate. The first record of it being called Traitors’ Gate is on a map of 1544.

The walkway between the two southern walls. The top of the steps leading to Traitor's Gate is just out of shot to the right

The walkway between the two southern walls. The top of the steps leading to Traitors’ Gate is just out of shot to the right

The Gate was connected to the river by a short canal that passed through the river wall, under the outer wall of the tower and into a small pool between the two walls on the southern side.

The blocked up entrance to the Tower from the river. Named the Traitors gate because prisoners were often brought to the Tower by boat.

The blocked up entrance to the Tower from the river.

The inner entrance to Traitors Gate. the steps leading up to the tower can be seen in the bottom left corner

The inner entrance to Traitors’ Gate. The steps leading up to the tower can be seen in the bottom left corner

Here steps led to the walkway between the internal and external walls and to the towers along this way which were used for housing prisoners such as the Bloody Tower. Its most famous prisoners were probably in Tudor times, when such prisoners as Edward, Duke of Buckingham, Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I) and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex all entered the Tower by the fearsome Traitors’ Gate.

"Traitor's Gate - geograph.org.uk - 455483" by Stephen Henley. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Traitor%27s_Gate_-_geograph.org.uk_-_455483.jpg#/media/File:Traitor%27s_Gate_-_geograph.org.uk_-_455483.jpg

Traitors’ Gate as it would have looed when Gate was in use.[“Traitor’s Gate – geograph.org.uk – 455483” by Stephen Henley. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]-

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The combination of the Middle Tower and the Byward Tower linked by a causeway across the moat form the landward entrance to the Tower precincts.

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On the outer side of the moat the Middle Tower, dating from around 1280 protects the access to the causeway. The coat of arms over the door leave no doubt as to whose castle you were entering. At one time the defences would also have been enhanced by the addition of portcullis within the towers and a drawbridge.

Byward Tower

Byward Tower

At the Tower side of the moat is the Byward Tower, which also dates from around 1280. It is believed the name came from its proximity to the warder’s hall – ‘By the warders’ becoming shortened in time to ‘Byward’. The tops of the Tower have been redeveloped in the 17th and 18th century replacing the original medieval structures.

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View back across the causeway from inside the Byward Tower

View back across the causeway from inside the Byward Tower

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The moat surrounding the Tower of London was originally built by Henry III as a defensive ditch rather than a moat. It was not until the 13th century that it was connected to the Thames and flooded with water. However over time, the changing level of the river meant that there was little water flow between the river and the moat meaning that the moat water became stagnant. In the 19th century, the Duke of Wellington, concerned at the health risk the stagnant moat posed to the garrison ordered it drained and it has remained dry every since.

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It has been used as a site for filming and in recent winters as the site of an ice skating rink, but perhaps most memorably as the site of the ceramic poppies display during the World War 1 commemorations in 2014.

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Tower of London with the modern city skyline in the background

Tower of London with the modern city skyline in the background

 

The Tower of London lies at the eastern end of the medieval walled city. Its foundation dates from 1066, shortly after King William arrived as the conqueror in London. However the earliest remaining part of the Tower today is the White Tower, which now forms the central keep, which he began in 1078.

The White Tower

The White Tower

 

The White Tower

The White Tower

The Tower has served over the years as a royal palace, prison, treasury and mint, armoury, public records office and the site of London’s first zoo – all of which I shall be looking at in future posts.

Map of the Tower as it is today

Map of the Tower as it is today

 

The outer wall and moat

The outer wall and moat

At the end of the 12th century, relations between the military and the clergy, whose cathedral church was sited within the castle defences, at Sarum, just north of the city were bad. So early in the 13th century the clergy decided to move to a new site in the river valley a few miles to the south. The foundation stone was laid in April 1220 and the cathedral buildings were finished by 1260. The iconic tower and spire were added in the 14th century – when the spire at Lincoln cathedral collapsed in 1549, it became the tallest spire in the country. However, it has taken a lot of rebuilding work over the centuries to prevent it from going the way of many of its contemporaries and collapsing.

This church was built within the walls of Portchester Castle around 1130. Originally it was intended to be part of an Augustinian Priory within the walls of the castle. There is evidence of a cloister and some domestic buildings present on the site, but shortly after it was completed the Canons moved to Southwick, perhaps because they lacked space to expand their monastery within the confines of the castle. The church was damaged by a fire set by Dutch prisoners of war in the castle in 1653 and was repaired in 1706 and further restored in 1888.

Adjacent to the church is a lovely cafe, which is highly recommended as a place to stop for a drink or lunch.