1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tower of London, The
|←Tower||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27
Tower of London, The
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TOWER OF LONDON, THE, an ancient fortress on the east side of the City of London, England on the north bank of the river Thames. On a slight elevation now called the Tower Hill, well protected by the river and its marshes, and by woods to the north, there was a British stronghold. Tradition, however, pointed to Julius Caesar as the founder of the Tower (Shakespeare, Richard III., III., i; and elsewhere), and remains of Roman fortifications have been found beneath the present site. The Tower contains barracks, and is the repository of the regalia. It covers an irregular hexagonal area, and is surrounded by a ditch, formerly fed by the Thames, but now dry. Gardens surround it on the north and west, and an embankment borders the river on the south. Two lines of fortifications enclose the inner bail, in which is the magnificent White Tower or Keep, flanked by four turrets. This was built by Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, c. 1078. Its exterior was restored by Sir Christopher Wren, but within the Norman work is little altered. Here may be seen a collection of old armour and instruments of torture, the rooms said to have been Sir Walter Raleigh’s prison, and the magnificent Norman chapel of St John. Among the surrounding buildings are the barracks, and the chapel of St Peter and Vincula, dating from the early part of the 14th century, but much altered in Tudor times. The Ballium Wall, the inner of the two lines of fortification, is coeval with the keep. Twelve towers rise from it at intervals, in one of which, the Wakefield Tower, the Regalia or crown jewels are kept. The chief entry to the fortress is through the Middle Tower on the west, across the bridge over the moat, and through the Byward Tower. The Lion Gate under the Middle Tower took name from a menagerie kept here from Norman times until 1834. On the south, giving entry from the river through St Thomas Tower and the Bloody Tower, is the famous traitor’s Gate, by which prisoners of high rank were admitted. The chief historical interest of the Tower lies in its association with such prisoners. The Beauchamp Tower was for long the place of confinement, but dungeons and other chambers in various parts of the building are also associated with prisoners of fame. Executions took place both within the Tower and on Tower Hill. Many of those executed were buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, such as Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII.’s queens, Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and her husband Dudley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the duke of Monmouth. The Tower was not only a prison from Norman times until the 19th century, but was a royal residence at intervals from the reign of Stephen if not before. The royal palace was demolished by order of Cromwell. The tower is under the governship of a constable. The attendant staff, called Yeomen of the Guard or familiarly “Beefeaters,” still wear their picturesque Tudor costumes.
Authorities.—W. Hepworth Dixon, Her Majesty’s Tower (London, 1869); Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, The Tower of London (London, 1901).