Tower of London
Historically the Tower is the most important building in England and the most visited of London's attractions. It was a stronghold which was many times besieged but never taken; but it was also a royal palace (until the time of James I), a prison (still used during the last war, when one of its inmates was Rudolf Hess), a mint (until the opening of the Royal Mint nearby in 1810), a treasure vault (still containing the Crown Jewels), an observatory (until the establishment of Greenwich Observatory in 1675) and for five centuries (until 1834) a menagerie.
Tower of London Map
Official site: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/
Address: Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB, England
Opening hours: Mar 1 to Oct 31: 9am-5:30pm; Sun: 10am-5:30pm; Mon: 10am-5:30pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee in GBP: Family £46.00, Adult £16.50, Concession or reduced rate £14.00, Senior over 60 £14.00, Child 16 & under £9.50
Useful tips: Last admission 30 mins before closing. Guided tours every half hour. Entering various buildings can be difficult for wheelchair users.
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Transit: Underground: Tower Hill; Bus 15, 42, 78, 100. Embankment Pier, Westminster Pier.
Typical Visit: 3 hours
Tower of London Highlights
Just beyond the entrance to the Outer Tower is the Middle Tower, built in the reign of Edward I (1307) and restored in the 19th century. This tower was formerly accessible only by two drawbridges. Beyond this stands the Byward Tower (from "byword", password), also built in the reign of Edward I and restored in the 19th century. It contains guardrooms and the machinery for the portcullis, which can be seen in the upper rooms. A 14th century wall painting of the Crucifixion was discovered here during restoration work in 1953.In the narrow Outer Ward between the two circuits of walls, to the left, is the Bell Tower, built by Richard I about 1190 but altered in the 19th century. On the rampart running north from here to the Beauchamp Tower is Princess Elizabeth's Walk, so-called because Elizabeth I, as Princess Elizabeth, was confined to the Bell Tower by her half-sister Mary.Through the Traitors' Gate on the bank of the Thames prisoners were admitted to the Tower after being brought by boat from Westminster.Here, too, is St Thomas's Tower, built by Henry III in 1242, with a small chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket.The Bloody Tower, built by Richard II, was in medieval times the only entrance to the Inner Ward. In this tower, the two young sons of Edward IV were secretly murdered in 1483 by order of Richard III, Sir Walter Raleigh, the seafarer and discoverer, was held prisoner for 13 years and Henry Percy, Duke of Northumberland, took his own life.Immediately adjoining is the massive Wakefield Tower, also built by Henry III. Henry VI, the last king of the house of Lancaster, is said to have been murdered in a vaulted room in this tower in 1471. The Crown Jewels were kept in the Wakefield Tower until 1968. At the exit is a cage containing six ravens which were supposed to protect the Empire. The Great Hall, in which Anne Boleyn was tried, formerly adjoined the tower.
Inner Ward / White Tower
In the center of the Inner Ward is the White Tower, the original Norman stronghold, so called from the white Caen stone of which it was built. It now houses a collection of arms and armor. The tower was begun in 1078 for William the Conqueror by Gundulf, later bishop of Rochester, continued by William Rufus and completed by Ranulph Flambard, bishop of Durham, about 1100. Flambard himself was the first prisoner to be incarcerated in the Tower.The White Tower is of four storys, with walls up to 5m/15ft thick. The small cupolas on the corner turrets were added in the 17th century. The exterior was restored by Wren. The collection of arms and armor is displayed on three floors. On the first floor are hunting and sporting weapons from medieval times to the end of the 19th century. The Tournament Gallery contains arms and armor used in tournaments (15th-16th century). On the second floor is a collection of European arms and armor from the early Middle Ages to the end of the 16th century. Finally on the fourth floor are arms and armor which belonged to Henry VIII and a gallery of 17th century Stuart armor (including a suit of gilt armor which was worn by Charles I).In the White Tower, occupying the height of two floors, is St John's Chapel, a well-preserved example of Norman church architecture (1080). On the west side of the Inner Ward are the Queen's House, the tree-planted area known as Tower Green, the site of the execution block, the Beauchamp Tower and the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.Along the north wall of the inner Ward are a series of towers: Devereux Tower, Flint Tower, Bowyer Tower, with a torture chamber containing a collection of old instruments of torture and execution, Brick Tower, Martin Tower. On the east side of the Inner Ward are: the Regimental Museum of the Royal Fusiliers, with regimental relics and trophies, the former Hospital and the New Armouries. The names of the towers on the east wall of the Inner Ward are: Constable Tower, Broad Arrow Tower, Salt Tower, Lanthorn Tower, at the southeast corner of the walls.On the south side of the outer circuit of walls are three other towers: the Cradle Tower, a 14th century water tower, the Well Tower, with vaulting dating from the reign of Henry III, and the Develin Tower. The outer walls are reinforced by two bastions built by Henry VIII: Brass Mount, at the northeast corner and Legge's Mount, at the northwest corner. Between the Cradle Tower and Well Tower is an opening leading to the Tower Wharf, originally constructed in 1228. On Tower Wharf salutes are fired on royal occasions such as the accession and coronation of a sovereign or the birth of a prince or princess. The firing of such salutes is a privilege of the Honorable Artillery Company, Britain's oldest military unit, originally formed by Henry VIII in 1537 as the Fraternity of St George, which still provides the guard of honor on royal visits to the City. From the wharf the Queen's Stairs descend to the Thames.The Tower is guarded by the Yeomen Warders, a body of 40 ex-soldiers who still wear their traditional Tudor uniform and are referred to by their popular name of "Beefeaters". They are often confused with the Yeoman of the Guard.
Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula
The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula takes its name from the day on which it was consecrated, the festival of St Peter in Chains. Probably built about 1100, it was altered in the 13th century, rebuilt after a fire in 1512 and thereafter several times renovated and restored. Here are buried many of those executed in the Tower or on Tower Hill.
British Crown Jewels - Jewel House
The Jewel House is where the Crown Jewels have been kept since 1968. Most of the very valuable Crown Jewels date from after 1660, since the older regalia were sold or melted down during the Commonwealth. Particularly notable items in this unique collection are the following: St Edward's Crown, of pure gold, made for the coronation of Charles II and still used in the crowning of British sovereigns. The Imperial State Crown, set with over 2,800 diamonds and other precious stones, including a huge ruby presented to the Black Prince by Pedro the Cruel of Castile in 1367 and worn by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, and one of the two "Stars of Africa" cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest ever found. This crown was made for the coronation of Queen Victoria (1837), and is worn at the state opening of Parliament and on other state occasions. The Imperial Indian Crown (made in 1911), set with almost 6000 precious stones. Queen Elizabeth's Crown, with the famous 106-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond. The crown was made for George VI's queen, now Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.The Royal Sceptre, with the second "Star of Africa", the largest cut diamond in the world (530 carats). St Edward's sceptre is reputed to contain a fragment of the True Cross. Other interesting items belonging to the collection are the silver font, for children of the royal family, and the golden anointing bowl and spoon, the only relics of the original regalia.
The Beauchamp Tower is named after Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned here in the reign of Richard II (1397-99). This three-story semicircular tower was built about 1300 and was principally used as a prison. On the walls are inscriptions (now numbered) carved by the prisoners, among whom were Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Gray, with his father and brothers. Jane Gray's carving "Jane" can still be seen.
On Tower Green is a small square formation of granite setts marking the site of the execution block on which condemned prisoners were beheaded with an axe. Exceptionally, Anne Boleyn was beheaded with a sword. Most executions, however, took place on Tower Hill, outside the Tower. Only Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Jane Gray, the Countess of Salisbury and Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, were actually beheaded within the precincts of the Tower.
The Queen's House is an attractive half-timbered Tudor house in which Anne Boleyn spent her last days before execution and here was held the trial of Guy Fawkes. Now the residence of the Governor of the Tower, it is not open to the public. In front of the Queen's House is Tower Green.
Ceremony of the Keys
Among the duties of the "Beefeaters" is the ceremonial closing of the gates each evening, the 700-year-old Ceremony of the Keys, in which the Chief Warder presents the keys of the Tower to the Resident Governor. Special passes are required to attend the Ceremony of the Keys and can be obtained by writing to The Resident Governor, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope. The ceremony begins nightly at 9:40 p.m.; visitors with passes are admitted at 9:30 p.m. at the main entrance.While the Yeomen Warders are responsible for the safety of the Tower, the eight ravens which are kept within the precincts have an even wider responsibility for the protection of the whole British Commonwealth, which - legend has it - will fall if they ever leave the Tower. The first raven in 300 years was hatched in May 1989 bringing their numbers up to nine.
Address: HM Tower of London, London EC3N 4AB, England
Opening hours: 9:35pm-10:05pm
Useful tips: Present your pass at the main gate at 9:30 p.m. Request free admission to the ceremony by writing to The Ceremony of the Keys at least two months in advance. Enclosed an international reply coupon or stamped addressed envople and state alternative dates and the number of tickets required.
The Waterloo Barracks were built in 1845 to house the Royal Fusiliers, who occupied them until 1962, but now contains the Jewel House.
Tower Hill Pageant
London's history is brought to life on a "dark-ride" at the Tower Hill Pageant.It features a scenic elevator to a computer-controlled time-car which travels through 26 scenes of London's history, from Roman times to present day. Commentary is available in English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, German and Japanese. It also contains Europe's largest display of holograms.
Address: 1 Tower Hill Terrace, London EC3N 4EE, England
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 9:30am-5:30pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9:30am-4:30pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9:30am-4:30pm
Entrance fee in GBP: Adult £6.95
Useful tips: Commentary available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese. Discount group rate available.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Transit: Underground: Tower Hill
Tower of London Church Parades are held on the Sunday before Christmas. Festivities include a parade and inspection of the Yeomen Warders in full-dress uniform.
Prince Philip's Birthday Gun Salute
On June 10th there is a gun salute in Hyde Park and the Tower of London, celebrating Prince Philip's birthday.
Queen's Birthday Gun Salute
On April 21st a gun salute takes place in Hyde Park and the Tower of London, on occasion of the Queen's birthday.
More Tower of London Pictures
Map - Tower of London
Map of London Attractions