William the Conqueror built the massive stone fortress at the heart of London in the early years his reign. It was the center of power in England and each monarch who ruled England added to this impressive tower. You can see Crown Jewel Tour for more information.
William, Duke of Normandy attacked and defeated the English led by King Harold at Battle of Hastings. In order to protect England’s capital, London, William the Duke of Normandy did not directly attack but shattered the nearby countryside. In order to create a stronghold and prepare his entrance to the city, an advance force went to London.
As a result of his coronation on Christmas Day in Westminster Abbey in 1066 the new king moved from Westminster to Barking. The City was then prepared with several strongholds to guard against the fierce inhabitants. William’s strongesthold was located in the southern east corner of Londinium Roman town walls on the same site as the Tower of London, according to historical evidence. A great stone-built tower (the White Tower), displaying the physical strength of the Norman king, replaced these earlier defences.
Henry VIII continued, on a greater scale, the building work started by his forefathers on royal residences. In preparation for Anne Boleyn’s coronation 1533, Henry VIII commissioned many timber-framed dwellings. These were primarily intended for Anne, his second spouse, to use and enjoy.
Henry VIII’s decision, in 1530, to separate from Rome, led to a rise of political, religious, and other prisoners held at the Tower. During this time, England was forced to adjust to its monarch’s new position as head of the Protestant Church of England. Among those held were Bishop Fisher from Rochester, two of Henry’s spouses and Sir Thomas More. All four people were killed.
Mary, Henry’s only daughter (between 1553 and 1588) converted the country from Protestantism.
In the centuries that followed, the Tower fell into disrepair. Duke of Wellington (Constable of Tower 1826-1852) led a spirited campaign to rebuild the tower. The area was cleaned. A moat that was getting increasingly sluggish and smelly was drain and turned into a ditch in 1845. A new barracks was built to hold 1,000 men on the site where the Grand Storehouse had been destroyed in an 1841 fire. Waterloo, the Barracks named for his most famous victory was officially opened by the duke on 14th of June 1845.
With time, however, the Tower ceased to play a protective role. Indeed the last time that it played a role in asserting power and authority over London’s people was when in 1840s London experienced riots and rallies in support of Chartist demands. There were more defences built. One of them was a massive brick and stones bastion which finally fell to an explosion during World War 2. However, the Chartist attack did not happen.
Several of the Tower’s old institutions disappeared at the beginning this century. The Royal Mint left the castle first in 1812 and was followed by the Menagerie which, together with the London Zoo, formed its nucleus in the late 1830s. Following the Office of Ordnance in 1855 was finally the Record Office in 1858.
This is partly due to Victorian fascination with England’s turbulent past. Anthony Salvin (1850s), a key figure of the Gothic Revival architecture, was given the task to bring the Victorian fortress back to its’medieval age’, adding to it a style that appealed to Victorian eye and imagination. Salvin first transformed Beauchamp Tower in order to display prisoners graffiti. Salvin refaced exterior walls, installed new windows, refurbished doorways, and replaced battlements.