The term ‘the Tower’ used to strike fear into the heart of many throughout England and beyond. Used mainly as a prison and a torture chamber, the Tower of London has an infamous reputation of shedding blood and making heads roll. Today, it is open to the public and allows them to explore its towers, gardens and famous execution site, all under the watchful eyes of the ravens. This guide aims to help you get the most out of this historic landmark and to immerse yourself in the British culture and history that it holds.
Hotel suites in Shoreditch can provide the perfect accommodation for your trip to the Tower of London. Shoreditch is slightly out of the main city which attracts millions of tourists each year, this means that rooms can be found at a slightly cheaper price so suites in Shoreditch are an absolute must. It is less than 45 minutes walk away from the Tower and will allow you to take in the sights and sounds of East London, giving you a different insight and a different vibe. Arriving at the Tower of London takes your breath away as it is simply striking with its vast surrounding wall, the White Tower peeking over the top and the wide remnants of a deep moat.
Brief History of the Tower of London
The construction of the Tower of London began with William the Conqueror in 1080 who built the White Tower as a fortress and a symbol of power. As time went on, each monarch made their stamp by expanding and adding more defense. Throughout its life, the Tower has had a multitude of uses; it was used by King John as accommodation to house exotic animals, it was used as a Royal Mint from the reign of Edward I until the 1800’s; it was used as a place of refuge for Edward II, a place of celebrations for coronations and celebratory parties and, most famously it was used as a prison and place of torture.
During its tumultuous time, the Tower has held some of the most famous prisoners in its walls, such as Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lady Jane Grey, Rudolf Hess and Elizabeth I. It was extensively used during the Tudor times after the reformation to house traitors and religious extremists and was the place of execution for many and these deaths are beautifully commemorated by a glass sculpture designed by Brian Catling.
Today, the Tower is one of London’s main tourist attractions and has been added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sights. Not only can you see the Bloody Tower, the stairs where the two Princes were found and the burial place of the two tudor queens, but you can also visit the extensive exhibition of the Crown Jewels. This tradition began in the 13th century with Henry III and, when the Jewel House was built, each monarch has kept the Crown Jewels safe at the Tower. The English Civil War saw many of the Medieval crown jewels sold, melted and defaced under the orders of Oliver Cromwell; only a handful of objects from the Medieval collection still remains.
Top Things to See at the Tower of London
1. The Line of Kings Exhibition
One of the longest exhibitions in the world, the Line of Kings groups together displays of suits of armour, coats of arms, figurines of Kings and their horses. For over 300 years, people have taken in these sights and, after years of being separated in different exhibits all over the world, the entire collection was brought back together to celebrate the Monarchy and the restoration of it in 1660. Highlights include Henry VIII’s armours, King James II bullet proof armour and a carved head of Charles II.
2. The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula
This Tudor chapel is still used today as a place of worship for the Tower’s residents. It is the burial place of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Thomas More and John Fisher, all of which now have memorials in place.
3. Medieval Palace
These stunning rooms that were created for Kings and Queens have been beautifully restored to their former glory. Henry III and Edward I were the two kings who made the biggest improvements to the Tower and this palace was created for them to stay, as well as the rest of the Kings and Queens of Britain. The decor is simply breathtaking and it is well worth a visit.
4. Traitor’s Gate
A name that struck fear into many English heart, Traitor’s Gate was the only way a prisoner entered the Tower. Iconic figures were brought to the gate by boat and entered through the gate to begin their life as a prisoner in the Tower and the gate can still be seen today but don’t worry, it is out of use now and simply serves as a reminder.