UNESCO World Heritage Challenge: The Tower of London

I’ve had the opportunity to visit this site many times, though the pictures shown here are from my trip in 2009.

In 1598 John Stow in the Survey of London described the Tower of London as:

“This Tower is a citadel to defend or command the city; a royal palace for assemblies or treaties; a prison of state for the most dangerous offenders; the only place for all England at this time; the armoury for warlike provision; the treasury of ornaments and jewels of the crown; and general conserver of the most records of the king’s courts of justice at Westminster”

Tower of London

Made a UNESCO site in 1988, the Tower of London was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. When it was establised the Tower was essentially a gateway to the Norman Kingdom as it is situated on the bend of the River Thames. throughout British History the Tower has been a focal point of historical events and site that represents the power of the monarchy. These include:

  • The imprisonments in the Tower, of Edward V and his younger brother in the 15th century.
  • Prison to Princess Elizabeth who was brought to the tower in March 1554 under suspicion of conspiring with a rebellion against her sister Mary Tudor, who was at the time Queen of England.
  • In the 16th century of four English queens, three of them were executed on Tower Green – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey – with only Elizabeth I escaping this fate.

The tower is considered  the most complete 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.

White Tower, Tower of London

The White Tower, once a fortress, a ceremonial location and permanent reminder to the Norman nobility and native population of the kings authority is now home to a museum of arms and armour. For many people though the highlight is not the buildings that make up the Tower of London but the Crown Jewels that are kept in the Waterloo Barracks. The jewels on offer include those used in the coronations ad ceremonies. The crown jewels have been at the Tower of London since at least the 17th century in various locations.

In many periods of British history, the Tower of London has been more than a mere object of defense but a prison. There are several towers in the complex with the most famous being the Bloody Tower. The tower is believed to have been the place where the ‘Princes in the Tower‘ were murdered by their uncle Richard III. However, this is not proven. It was also a secure home for Sir Walter Raleigh where, although a prisoner, he was often visited by his family.

Imprisonment at the Tower of London has in this way always varied from the luxurious to the lethal. Some certainly enjoyed particularly comfortable ‘imprisonments”. King John the Good of France enjoyed a royal diet; and the company of a section of his court, including an organist. But for many others, the reality of imprisonment was grim indeed; real physical torture, mental anguish and the threat of a trial or summary execution’  The Tower of London, 2009

Prisoners would often have entered the Thames Traitors gate:

Tower of London

I visited the Tower of London around 6 times, and every time I discover something I hadn’t seen before, so now doubt I will return to a site considered one of the most important in British history.

  • You can view some pictures from the Tower of London, and London more generally on Flickr here.
  • You can find out more in formation about the Tower of London as a UNESCO World Heritage site here:
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