A First-Timer’s Guide To The Tower Of London

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A First-Timer’s Guide To The Tower Of London

Looming over the London skyline and harbouring more than 950 years of human history, the Tower of London may not be the grand fortress it once was, but is still an icon of the London landscape. Located close to the River Thames, this multifaceted fortress has had many roles throughout the years and is still one of the greatest testaments to British tradition in London. There may be many other castles and palaces that are grander and more directly tied to the royal family of England, but the Tower of London probably has the most interesting stories to tell. This is why it’s such a popular destination for guests at the Montcalm Marble Arch Hotel London and other accommodation across the city. 

With the recent easing of lockdown restrictions and safety measures in place such as the Montcalm COVID 19 update protocols, it’s now easier than ever for visitors to the city to enjoy the myths, legends and  of London’s best tourist attractions. It goes without saying that with the Tower of London’s long history, one that tells the story of London through the ages, it’s a must-visit for those interested in how London as we know it came to be. Below is an outline of the artefacts, areas and history of the Tower of London, providing you with a starting point from which to explore further. 

Early History Of The Tower Of London

Still standing in the Tower Hamlets area of South London, the Tower of London was one of a number of fortifications and castles built by William The Conqueror after his victory at the 1066 Battle of Hastings. The Tower of London was originally intended to be a symbol of control by the French over the city and was designed to have a variety of functions as armoury, defence tower and prison. The first building of the tower’s complex to be completed was the White Tower, and it was sometimes used as a homestead for William the Conqueror and his successors, whilst also having earned a reputation as an impenetrable fortress due to its many successful defences against invaders.

Tudor, Elizabethan and Beyond

By the late 12th century, the tower was no longer used as a royal residence but still maintained many of its other functions. Over the next centuries, this tower was used as a prison, armoury and between the 11th and 18th century, was used as a royal menagerie to house the animal gifts bestowed by fioreign nations to the king or queen. From the 16th century onwards, the Tower had been open as a tourist attraction for foreign visitors interested in seeing the royal mint and armouries, even then being a symbol of London’s power and authority over the world.

The Tower In The 20th Century

During the 20th century, the Tower of London was still being used as a prison tower, albeit less frequently. During the First and Second World Wars, the tower was used to hold prisoners of war, including several prominent Nazis. During the later part of the 20th century, the tower grew in popularity as a tourist attraction and now draws in over 2 million visitors a year.

What’s The Tower Like In The Modern Day?

For tourists on a getaway in London, the Tower of London is a great starting place on your journey into the city’s history. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the tower’s many attractions, and what they’ll tell you about the history of the city. 

Ravens

If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of the 6 ravens who are traditionally kept in the tower keep. Whilst they are mostly used for pest control, their symbolic status as tower birds is thanks to a tradition that if there were ever less than 6 kept in the Tower of London, then the country would fall to invading forces.

Beefeaters

Buckingham Palace guards have a regiment located in the Tower of London, differentiated from the Palace guards thanks to their mediaeval inspired uniforms of black and red. The tower guards, known as Yeoman Warders or “Beefeaters” still carry out ceremonial duties like the Ceremony of the Keys, and the locking and unlocking of the tower every day. You can watch the procession every day if you time your visit right.

Tower Armoury And The Line Of Kings

Utilised as a tourist attraction since the 17th century, the Tower Armoury and the Line of Kings have been regular staples of a Tower of London tour. The armoury was used to store, test and build weapons and armour up until the 18th century, whilst the Line of Kings is an exhibit of armour used by kings such as Henry VIII’s jousting armour and Charles I’s gilded armour ceremonial armour. Also on display are gifts from foreign dignitaries as well the armour of noblemen and knights, many of which have their own stories to tell.

The White Tower

The above-mentioned Armoury is just one of several exhibitions included within the White Tower, the oldest of the lot and therefore a great example of Norman architecture. The White Tower is also home to what was once the Royal Mint, where much of the money used in Mediaeval England was engineered and where Kings and Queens apartments would have been placed. Furthermore, St John’s Chapel was located in the White Tower and used as a place of worship for the king and nobility staying at the tower. Many of the rooms in the White Tower have been renovated to their former glory for tourists. 

The Bloody Tower

This tower within the inner ward gained its name due to its links to the murders of various kings and the notorious disappearance of the “Princes in the Tower” that sparked the reign of Richard III.

Jewel House

Home to the famous Crown Jewels of England, this guarded exhibit of Royal jewellery and precious stones and metals has been in use for over 600 years. Whilst many older pieces were destroyed or melted down during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, there are still a great number of the artefacts to see and learn about here, many of which have been worn or adorned on monarchs from the 17th century onwards.