TOWER OF LONDON

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Published: 24th June 2010
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The Tower of London-historically known as The Tower, and named Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress-is the oldest building still used by the British Government, and lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, on the north bank of the Thames. It is often identified with the White Tower, which is the central structure, and the oldest part of the complex, but the Tower of London is a complex consisting of several buildings, ringed within two concentric defendable walls, and a moat, the entirety of which is separated from the historic City of London by the Tower Hill.


The Tower of London has served at various times as fortress, palace and prison. As a prison, the Tower served as place of detention for aristocratic prisoners as well as a place of torture and execution. The Tower has housed an armoury, a public records office, a treasury, a zoo, an observatory, and the Royal mint-since 1303, it has also housed the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.


The White Tower that forms the centre of the Tower of London, is a 90ft tall Norman fortress. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 A.D., and served the dual purpose of protecting London from invaders, and protecting the Norman invaders from the people of the City of London. Legends say the mortar used was tempered by animal-blood, while others ascribe the creation of the White Tower to the Romans-this last is most famously done in Shakespeare's Richard III.


The Inmost Ward was added in the early thirteenth century by Henry III, who transformed the Tower into a major royal residence, and constructed several palatial buildings to the south of the White Tower. This area was surrounded by a boundary wall, and fortified by the Wardrobe, Lanthorn and Wakefield Towers, of which the latter two were integral parts of the new palace, and adjoined the Great Hall-the Great Hall and Wardrobe Tower are both now in ruins.


The Inner Ward comprises the White Tower and the Inmost Ward, and is surrounded by a massive curtain wall built by Henry III, who demolished part of the city walls in order to do so. The curtain wall has thirteen towers, of which Wakefield Tower, Martin Tower, Bell Tower, and Bloody Tower are the best-known, usually because of assassinations, executions, and attempted robberies that have occurred within the walls.


Edward I built an outer curtain wall enclosing the inner wall, thus creating the Outer Ward. The outer curtain wall has five towers facing the river-Byward Tower, Cradle Tower, Well Tower, Devlin Tower, and St. Thomas' Tower, which last was built by Edward I to provide additional accommodation for the monarch. The water entrance to the Tower, known as Traitor's Gate, cuts through St. Thomas' Tower, and is so called since prisoners accused of treason-most famously Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn-were brought to the Tower through it.








The Tower of London has served at various times as fortress, palace and prison. As a prison, the Tower served as place of detention for aristocratic prisoners as well as a place of torture and execution. The White Tower that forms the centre of the Tower of London, is a 90ft tall Norman fortress. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 A.D.



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