Posts Tagged ‘Tower of London’

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Tower Green is an open space to the west of the White Tower. It is bordered on the south and west sides by the Queen’s House and on the north side by St Peter’s chapel.

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The Queen’s House is the residence of the Tower officials such as the governor and the chief warder. Although the building dates from 1540 the name dates only from Victorian times and changes depending on the gender of the monarch.

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Tower Green is traditionally the site of the execution scaffold within the Tower. Most executions were carried out in public on nearby Tower Hill, but 10 executions within the grounds are noted on a memorial, these include:

  • Queen Anne Boleyn – 1536
  • Queen Catherine Howard – 1542
  • Lady jane Grey – The ‘nine-day Queen’ – 1554
  • Margaret of Salisbury – last of the Plantagenet line – 1541
  • 1st Baron Hastings – Chancellor of England- 1483
  • Jane Boleyn – sister of Anne -Lady in waiting to Queen Catherine -1542
  • Robert, Earl of Essex – One-time favourite of Elizabeth I – 1601

The remaining 3 names are members of the Black Watch regiment who were found guilty of mutiny and executed by firing squad in 1743,

There is some debate about whether the monument is in the correct spot. In the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen wanted to erect a monument to those who had been executed and this was the spot identified as being the site of the scaffold, but study of other sources suggests that the execution site was actually on the parade ground to the north of the White Tower or may have been different in each case as the scaffold was not a permanent structure but was erected when required..

Current memorial to victims of executions in the Tower (Photo by Wally Gobetz - https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/)

Current memorial to victims of executions in the Tower (Photo by Wally Gobetz – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/)

 

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 which 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 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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Coins minted at Tower mint

Coins minted at Tower mint

In 1279, William de Turemine was appointed Master Moneyer and the mint was moved from the city to more secure premises within the Tower of London. The minting of coins continued at the Tower until 1804 when a decision was taken to build a new purpose built mint on Tower Hill, just outside the walls of the Tower. This was completed and opened in 1810 and production was moved from the mint buildings inside the Tower to the new site.

A Coin press

A Coin press

The history of the mint in the Tower is fairly unremarkable. But there was one attempt at robbery which nearly succeeded. On 20th December 1798, James Turnball, an ex-soldier working in the mint, locked a supervisor in a cupboard and made off with 2,000 newly minted guinea coins (a guinea was 1/4 oz of gold). He was able to make his escape from the Tower and went into hiding. No news of his whereabouts was known until on 5th January 1799 he was recognised, from a wanted poster,  trying to purchase a berth on a boat from Dover to France. He was arrested, tried and was executed on 15th May 1799.

From 1692 one of the public attractions at the Tower was the Line of Kings, a display in chronological order of the armour of the Kings of England.

Artists impression of Line of Kings

Artists impression of Line of Kings

A modern version is currently on display in the White Tower featuring some of the armour used in the original display.

Armour of Henry VIII

Armour of Henry VIII

 

Originally displayed from 1690 as armour of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. Now believed to be Prince Henry, son of James I

Originally displayed from 1690 as armour of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. Now believed to be Prince Henry, son of James I

Armour of young Charles I

Armour of young Charles I

Storage of Weapons and armour has always been part of the function of the Tower. Originally located in the White Tower the armouries were later moved to specialised buildings within the Tower complex. In 1667 it was recorded that 10,000 barrels of gunpowder were stored in the White Tower.

The New Armouries building was built in 1683 and now serves as a restaurant. The Grand storehouse which stood on the North side of the White Tower was burnt down in 1841 and replaced by the Waterloo Block which now houses the Crown Jewels.

New Armouries

New Armouries

 

Waterloo Block

Waterloo Block

The Armouries has a fine collection of guns from across British History.

Turkish Cannon c1530 -captured at Aden 1839

Turkish Cannon c1530 -captured at Aden 1839

British Mortar 1808 -probably used as a saluting gun

British Mortar 1808 -probably used as a saluting gun

Bronze 6 pounders captured at Battle of Waterloo 1815

Bronze 6 pounders captured at Battle of Waterloo 1815

Chinese Canon - Captured from Canyon fort during 2nd Chinese war 1856-61

Chinese Cannon – Captured from Canyon fort during 2nd Chinese war 1856-61

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. Most famous of these was John Balliol, King of Scots from 1296-1299. It has a display of prisoner graffitti.

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 ws 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