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Facts About the Tower of London (with Photos)

Updated on June 26, 2013
All images except Delaroche painting are copyright 2010 Jane Grey. Do not use without permission.
All images except Delaroche painting are copyright 2010 Jane Grey. Do not use without permission.

The Tower of London is at the center of nearly all of the dramatic history of London. Many facts about London's people, executions, tragedies, and tyrannies that are seemingly unconnected to each other, have intertwined themselves in this old stone fortress. What are these facts about the Tower of London, and how do they all fit together? Following is a collection of my photos and facts journaling some of the most interesting details of the Tower's story.

The White Tower (from below)
The White Tower (from below)
The Norman Chapel in the White Tower
The Norman Chapel in the White Tower
Norman Chapel
Norman Chapel
Altar in the Normal Chapel
Altar in the Normal Chapel
Spears in the Royal Armories
Spears in the Royal Armories
Side Entrance to the Jewel House
Side Entrance to the Jewel House
The Tower Bridge in background, Traitor's Gate entrance into the Tower of London in foreground.
The Tower Bridge in background, Traitor's Gate entrance into the Tower of London in foreground.

Tower of London Architecture Facts

The Tower of London consists of:

  • The White Tower, built by William the Conqueror to protect the Normans from those who lived in the surrounding villages. Standing 90 ft. high, this is the oldest portion of the Tower of London, and is identifiable by its four turrets --one of which has a circular stairway-- as well as its off-white corner "trim" in puzzle-piece brick-a-brack. St. John's chapel is the only part of the interior of the White Tower that has retained its original appearance, and is also one of the only beautifully preserved pieces of early Norman church architecture in existence today.
  • The Inmost Ward, which was a luxurious dwelling quarter for King Henry the Third during the early 12th century.

Garden Tower Facts

  • The Inner Ward is the space within the Inner Wall that circles around and contains the White Tower and the Inmost Ward. This wall has a total of thirteen towers. The largest of these towers, the Wakefield Tower, was the scene of the murder of King Henry the Sixth as he was praying. Other towers on this wall include Lanthorn, Salt, Broad Arrow, Constable, Martin (where the Crown Jewels were kept until 1842), Brick, Bowyer, Flint, Devereux, Beauchamp, Bell (which is the oldest tower), and the Bloody (or Garden) Tower.
  • The Outer Ward is the space between the Inner Ward and the final outside wall (before the now dry moat). The Outer Wall completely contains the Inner Wall, and has five towers on it, all of which face the River Thames (Byward Tower, St. Thomas's Tower, Cradle Tower, Well Tower, and Develin Tower).
  • The Jewel House is the well guarded residence of the Crown Jewels and many other valuable treasures of historical and royal importance. You'll want to step inside and view the glittering diadems if you have the time!
  • The Royal Armories contain a large collection of (mostly Tudor) arms and armor, beautifully etched and fitted.
  • The Torture Chambers were in the "basement" of the Tower's inner courtyard, under the court green. Now they have been turned into gift shops, but it is not hard to imagine the dank and earthy smell of the Tower of London torture chambers under the bright lawn.
  • The Traitor's Gate is a low and barred entrance on the Thames River by which they rowed "traitors" (prisoners) into the fortress.
  • The Tower Bridge starts at the Tower of London and crosses the Thames River.

The White Tower rising above and behind the Outer Wall, visible from the Thames River.
The White Tower rising above and behind the Outer Wall, visible from the Thames River.
Below this Outer Wall is the dry moat.
Below this Outer Wall is the dry moat.
The Traitor's Gate
The Traitor's Gate
The Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, 1833
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, 1833

Facts on Famous Tower of London Prisoners

The most memorable Tower prisoner was Queen Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry the Eighth. He decided he did not want her anymore because she could not give him the boy heir he desired. To divorce her, he accused Anne of adultery with one of his courtiers. Most accounts agree that Anne was innocent, but King Henry imprisoned and executed Anne anyway. The evidence of this was far below the just requirement of the testimony of one or two witnesses: a handkerchief dropped by Anne at a festival was picked up by a servant of the king, kissed reverently, and handed back to Anne. The king decided this was proof of adultery, and Anne was executed.

The most tragic Tower victim was the Protestant Lady Jane Grey. This story tells of another tyrannical, selfish monarch, Queen "Bloody" Mary, the first daughter of King Henry the Eighth, mentioned just before. Bloody Mary had just ascended the throne in spite of the former king's request that Lady Jane take the throne after him. The former king was the only son of King Henry, a boy king of a weak and sickly constitution but with Protestant loyalties. For nine days, Lady Jane Grey was considered Queen of England, but before her ascension to the throne, however, Mary had rallied enough supporters around her to convince Parliament to declare herself the Queen. The result was Mary sending Lady Jane Grey to the Tower, though Lady Jane had no intention of fighting for the disputed throne and would have much rather led a quiet life than be queen at all. Lady Jane Grey, a highly educated, devout Protestant Christian and innocent of all designs for the throne, was executed by beheading soon after.

Other interesting characters held in the Tower of London include:

  • Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr, a Welsh Prince, who fell to his death from his prison in the Tower.
  • The Duke of Orléans, Charles I de Valois, who was an accomplished writer of 500 poems, all composed during his 25 year captivity after his part in the Battle of Agincourt.
  • King David II and John Balliol of Scotland.
  • Thomas More, executed and buried at the Tower.
  • Henry Laurens, 3rd President of America's Continental Congress.
  • Queen Elizabeth the First, (before she became queen) was imprisoned only two months because she was falsely thought to have been involved in a rebellion.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh, imprisoned in comfort with his wife and two children, wrote a history book and kept a garden on Tower Green.
  • Guy Fawkes, a silly man with a silly name, was captured for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, confessed to it, but escaped and fell to his death from the scaffold before he could be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
  • The last national prisoner was a Nazi German deputy leader named Rudolf Hess, held in 1941.
  • The last prisoners to be held in the Tower of London were the Kray Twins in 1954, held for only a few days because of their refusal to report to national service. I wonder if I would get to stay in the Tower of London if I did the same thing?

A Yeomen Warden on guard outside the Jewel House.
A Yeomen Warden on guard outside the Jewel House.
Two of the ten Tower of London ravens hop around on the lawn above the former torture chamber.
Two of the ten Tower of London ravens hop around on the lawn above the former torture chamber.

The Beefeaters and the Ravens

The Beefeaters are more officially known as the Yeomen Wardens, and over the years their duties have ranged from guarding prisoners to guarding jewels, from escorting and guarding prisoners to escorting and guarding tourists. Their stories and gruff jokes set them apart as a tourist attraction in their own right. The name "Beefeaters" was given because the Yeomen Wardens were always handed a slab of beef as payment for their service.

The Ravens are cared for by a designated Yeomen Warden, who builds a relationship with each raven from birth. Legend says that at least six ravens have to be kept in the Tower of London at all times, for if at any time the ravens depart from the Tower, the kingdom will fall. In all honesty, the ravens were probably originally a part of the Tower's infrastructure because of the abundance of raw or decaying flesh that the gruesome Tower housed at one time. The current ravens range from eighteen to two years old, and feed more on the scraps of fish and chips tossed out by the tourists than on anything else.

© 2010, 2013 Jane Grey

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    • profile image

      Polina 3 years ago

      Hello I would like to know how the Tower of London protected British monarchs

      If u could explain to me that would be great

      Thank u

    • promisem profile image

      Scott Bateman 3 years ago

      Like others, I love your photos. Great hub. It made me remember our own visit there 10 years ago. It was a fascinating place.

    • profile image

      JR Tomlin 4 years ago

      Interesting that James I of Scotland is so often left off such lists.

    • profile image

      Hannah 4 years ago

      Hello I'm also a christian I was wondering how is the tower of london being protected today? :)

      Thankyou!

    • profile image

      jclc314@yahoo.com 5 years ago

      Nice to meet you as well. =]

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      Hello, fellow Christian! :) Glad to meet you!

    • LCaverson profile image

      Leslie Caverson 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA.

      Jane Grey, I knew I liked you. =] I'm a Christian as well, and I wasn't scared. It takes a lot to scare me, but I felt like there were presences there -- it felt demonic. As the day wore on it was changing me, I can't explain it but it was making me angry. When I realized what was going on I went and sat out on one of the benches overlooking the Ravens there in the courtyard. It helped, but I was ready to leave.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      I don't know, LCaverson. It would be interesting to find out. My imagination can run away with me, but I don't remember feeling scared at the tower. I know that, as a Christian, I have nothing to fear because Christ has cast out a "spirit of fear" and given me a mental attitude of "power, love, and a sound mind." That doesn't mean that I've never felt like I've needed to get out of some place because of demonic activity-- I've definitely felt that before, and I think God gives us a sense of that so we can trust Him more and learn to flee evil.

    • LCaverson profile image

      Leslie Caverson 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA.

      Very informative, and I loved the pictures. I've been to London and the Tower twice and can I just say, the first time I felt such an ominous feeling - there was a presence that I couldn't shake, so I couldn't wait to leave. The 2nd time was last summer, I went with several family members and I stayed away from a few of the places I had visited before, like the dungeons/torture areas and the White Tower. It seemed to make all the difference. Am I the only one who has ever had this kind of experience?

    • profile image

      kylee 5 years ago

      its an awsome place to visit

    • profile image

      amy 5 years ago

      i love these facts these told me loads about the tower of london thans amy,

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks, Clinton! I completely agree. I've been to London twice as a visitor, but would love to go back again.

    • clintonb profile image

      clintonb 5 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      London is one city which is extremely breath-taking! good hub..

    • profile image

      whats his face 5 years ago

      cool

    • Harriette Miller profile image

      Harriette Miller 5 years ago from Sairee, Koh Tao, 84360, Thailand

      Very interesting hub. Thanks for the information! Keep it up.

    • profile image

      madi 5 years ago

      This web is great but needs some more info about the executions and beheading. Didn't really help me on my project but good to look at!!!

    • profile image

      wert 5 years ago

      i've gone but i forgot most of the tower

    • profile image

      wert 5 years ago

      helped me on a project

    • profile image

      yau 5 years ago

      It was fantastic, it helped me on a project!!!!!

    • profile image

      bob 5 years ago

      awsome facts thanks they really helped with my research

    • profile image

      Gary bar 5 years ago

      cool

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      Anisha,

      They had better pray to God for His forbearance and grace rather than to throw their pence into the moat for good luck! I too have heard the story about the ravens, and actually they say that if the ravens leave then London will fall, not just the tower. Again, God's protection is what has kept London and it's tower standing all these centuries.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Jane

    • profile image

      Anisha.s 5 years ago

      The facts are so intresting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Buy the way i went to tower of london and there are bloody tower and people threw there coin like 1p or 2p for good luck so nothing happens to the tower of london .

      Even buy the way if the ravens fly away then the tower of london would crumble and crack and even fall apart.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      Cori, the facts are interspersed in the article above, where you'll find them organized by topic. let me know if there is anything else you would like to know that I did not cover!

    • profile image

      coriwbaker 5 years ago

      i was trying to find facts on the tower of london where are they

    • profile image

      coriwbaker 5 years ago

      Great information and nicely taken pictures!

    • profile image

      John nixon 6 years ago

      Very informative and interesting post. Thanks

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 6 years ago from Oregon

      Malcolm, I know the feeling. There's nothing like being present at the location where some of the most dramatic and culture-changing events of history took place. I was not able to look in most of the cells when I visited, but I'll be sure to look for those ancient inscriptions next time I visit. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Malcolm_Cox profile image

      Malcolm_Cox 6 years ago from Newcastle, England

      fantastic hub. I've been and stood in the same room as Mary Queen of Scots! It chills the blood. The most amazing thing I can remember(I was 12 when I went) was the authentic ancient graffiti on the walls of the cells from inmates of the past.

    • zeusspeak profile image

      Celina Martin 6 years ago from London

      Nice Hub for those who want to know about England. Gorgeous Post.

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 7 years ago

      Very informative hub! Brought back the memories of my visit there.

    • ezhuthukari profile image

      ezhuthukari 7 years ago from Kerala

      Wish I could visit this place again..

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      acossairt21, So glad you enjoyed this! It was a lot of fun to put together, as I loved my day at the tower of London. It's fascinating how many vital historical events came together at the Tower!

    • acossairt21 profile image

      acossairt21 7 years ago from Indiana

      I am in love with the Tower of London and really enjoyed reading this! I am a bit of a history geek and loved that you wrote about this aspect of the Tower. Thanks!

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      MarieRyan, thanks for your visit! I am not familiar with that particular play of Shakespeare's but I can imagine how fascinating it would be to hear the Tower described or mentioned in Shakespeare's language. What a treat!

      Jane

    • marieryan profile image

      Marie Ryan 7 years ago from Andalusia, Spain

      Beautiful photographs and such an interesting hub.

      I am teaching Shakespeare's 'Richard III' at the moment. Richard sent most of his opposers to the Tower so I was fascinated by learning about all the other 'guests' who spent some time there.

      Thanks.

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      We'll have to travel there someday together, Rose! I did come across some "legend" that the beefeaters describe from their night watches. It involves Anne Boleyn walking around the courtyard at night carrying her head in her arms. Of course any gruesome castle that big and that famous has to have some ghost stories attached to them, but I don't believe them either!

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan

      Very cool - I really want to go to the Tower someday. I've always been fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn, and I've heard she haunts the Tower. Not that I believe that, but still, legend is legend.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Hi Justin,

      Thank you for your comment! Making money on HubPages is just like building any business: the more you put into it the more it gives you in return, and if you do it right, your articles will continue earning even if you're not producing new ones. Check out my friend Rebecca's hubs for more details and great advice on how to make your articles profitable. Her profile is: http://hubpages.com/profile/Rebecca+E. I've increased my earnings by following her suggestions.

      Hope that helps!

      Jane

    • justinskier profile image

      justinskier 7 years ago

      Very nice! Wonderful! p.s. How can I make money on here? Can anyone help me do this.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      E. Nicholson, Always special to have you stop by, and what's more, you've visited the real Tower too! I would love to go back there some time.

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Mike1242, Glad you enjoyed the history on the Tower! To me, that is always what makes an attraction worth visiting. He who doesn't learn history is doomed to repeat it, I will repeat my history lessons until I learn them -and writing certainly helps!

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      DAL, Thank you for your kind complement! I'm glad it brought you some enjoyment.

      Paradise7, Thanks very much; and yes, this is something you won't want to miss visiting if you can help it!

    • E. Nicolson profile image

      E. Nicolson 7 years ago

      Thoroughly enjoyed your Hub -- the Tower is one of my favourite places to visit. So full of history. Lovely pictures. Thanks.

    • mike1242 profile image

      mike1242 7 years ago from London

      Really need to visit the Tower, thanks for the history of the tower.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Awesome hub, great pics, thank you! A real place to visit--a must-see!

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Jane Grey, a very informative and enjoyable hub with great photographs. You have put a great deal of work into this hub which makes it all the more appreciable.

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Sidney,

      The Beefeaters always have quite a crowd around them! What is it about gruesome stories that attracts such a following? The Tower is certainly full of them, but it also has plenty to tell of the faithfulness of God and the testimony of His followers. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Jane Grey profile image
      Author

      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      You're welcome, Quill! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! As always, I am glad to have your kind and encouraging complements!

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, TnFlash! The pictures were my favorite part to fix up and put together. I'm glad you liked them too!

    • SidneyMorgan profile image

      SidneyMorgan 7 years ago from Australia

      Great Hub, Tower of London, with some of the gruesome stories the Beefeaters tell along the tour is my favorite attraction when visiting London

    • profile image

      "Quill" 7 years ago

      Awesome history and one I have been blessed to read...Thank you for all the hard work...

      Hugs from Canada

    • TnFlash profile image

      TnFlash 7 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Great Hub! This is a very interesting Hub. The pictures are excelent.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Bercton,

      Thank you for your kind comment! I love design and fine art, and medieval architecture has always been one of my favorite things to draw and photograph.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you, Travelesspresso! Yes, my pen name is from Lady Jane Grey of the Tower. I have always loved her testimony of innocence as well as her stand for the truth during the Reformation.

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Kendall,

      Thank you so much! I was glad for a fairly sunny day, so that really helped with getting good lighting for photos. The beefeaters were definitely unique little gentlemen, going from historic fact to ghost stories to legends to jokes!

      I watched Anne of the Thousand Days last year; I agree-- it was well done but very sad. I've always liked her story too, but that's probably because I don't know very much about his other wives. What I've always wondered is why these women married him, when they had to have known what he did to his other wives!

    • Jane Grey profile image
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      Ann Leavitt 7 years ago from Oregon

      Faybe Be,

      So glad you liked it! I was ecstatic the whole time I was there visiting the Tower of London; I just couldn't take enough pictures! It is truly a thrilling place if you love history and stories and drama. The book you recommended sounds fascinating. I'll have to keep it in mind, because I love cathedral architecture as well.

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      Bercton 7 years ago

      Brilliant images of crafted Architecture.You have an eye for great stuff!

    • travelespresso profile image

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Nicely done Jane Grey and incredibly interesting. Is this where you name comes from?

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 7 years ago from Northern CA

      Nice job discussing the immense topic of the Tower of London. You're photos were also beautiful! The beefeaters are my favorite part! Each one had wonderful stories to tell and little anecdotes that made the tour even better! I always felt sorry for Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn. I'm not sure why but Anne Boleyn was always my favorite wife out of Henry's six. Be sure to watch Anne of the Thousand Days for the best portrayal of Anne (Genevie Bujold) and Henry (Richard Burton). It's magnificent!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      Oh this is gorgeous! I have always wanted to go to London. I am bookmarking this and rated you up! It is lovely and filled with fantastic info. I read a book once called The Pillars of the Earth. It was about great cathedral construction, but no pictures. These remind me of the images I would see in that book, if there'd been any. :)