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Tower of London

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
White Tower; magnae turris Londoniae; Turris Lundoniae

In the civil parish of Stepney.
In the historic county of City of London.
Modern Authority of London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
1974 county of Greater London.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ336804
Latitude 51.50803° Longitude -0.07606°

Tower of London has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace, and also as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Great C11 tower built within Roman wall and by River Thames. Expanded as castle and palace almost continually since then with significant C13 curtain wall and bailey and other masonry work of many other periods. Legge's Mount and Brass Mount are early artillery bastions.

On capturing London, still enclosed by its Roman walls, William I secured his position by the construction of two major castles. One of them (later known as Baynard's Castle) was located in the western part of the city and the other, now known as the Tower of London, was in the south-east corner. The Tower of London takes its name from the White Tower, a keep of distinctive form which served as both a defensible stronghold and a palatial residence. Building was under way by c. 1080, and complete by 1101 when the Tower served as a prison for Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham. The White Tower measures 36m x 32.5m (118 feet x 106 feet 6 inches) and stands 27.5m (90 feet) high with four corner turrets. It is built of Caen stone and the walls were originally whitewashed - hence its name. The entrance on the south side was at first floor level, and was approached by stairs in a forebuilding. The plan is the same on all floors. It is dictated by the presence, on the second floor, of the Chapel of St John with its apsed east end, and a large cross wall which divides each floor into two. To the west of the wall is a large room, to the east a smaller room and the chapel or its crypt or sub-crypt. The present third floor and roof are late medieval additions. William's castle bailey was defended on its south and east sides by the Roman town wall and on the north and west sides by a bank and ditch. In the late 12th century, probably under Richard I, the bailey was extended to the west and a part of the new defences was formed by Bell Tower at the south-west corner and an adjacent stretch of wall to the east. (Parnell)

On the east side stands the royal fortress, of tremendous size and strength, whose walls and floors rise up from the deepest foundations – the mortar being mixed with animal's blood. (William FitzStephen)

This tower is a Citadell, to defend or commaund the Citie: a royall place for assemblies, and treaties. A Prison of estate, for the most daungerous offenders: the onely place of coynage for all England at this time: the armorie for warlike prouision: the Treasurie of the ornaments and Jewels of the crowne, and generall conseruer of the most Recordes of the kings Courts of iustice at Westminster. (Stow)

Although within the city walls of London the Tower of London was never administratively within the the city of London but an independent administrative unit in its own right along with the land within a bow shot around the castle.

World Heritage Site 488

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, March 29, 2014

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