The Tower of London may have left its notorious status as a prison and execution site in the past, but it remains a popular attraction today – with hordes of tourists heading to the site every single day and enjoying guided tours, private events, and wanders around the outside boundary and Tower shop.
Located a short walk from the popular hotels near Lancaster Gate station in London, the Tower of London is part of a series of attractions which combine historical London with its grand architecture – with the educational and entertaining structure of each tour making this a particularly good option for families with children and adults who need to be entertained. And that’s before we even start considering the chance that visitors have to see the Crown Jewels…
In this article, we’re sharing a deep dive into the history of the Tower of London and all there is to see and enjoy within the attraction today – whether you know much about the history of the tower already or not.
When was the Tower of London built?
The Tower of London has worn many hats during its history, though it was first constructed in the 11th century to help protect London – creating a form of fortress on the banks of the river Thames.
In a similar way to many other old and historical buildings throughout the UK, such as the diverse accommodation in Lancaster UK and other parts of the country, the Tower of London has retained much of its original look and structure meaning that visitors get to walk on the floors and through the doors that have played host to thousands if not millions of other visitors over the past few centuries – and the popularity of the attraction indicates that such demand is going nowhere anytime soon.
Why is the Tower of London so popular?
One of the major reasons why the Tower of London is such a popular attraction today is because of the role that morbid fascination plays in the modern world – with the notorious brutal nature of the Tower and the stories from within in drawing visitors from all walks of life.
This is because the Tower of London was at one point a prison, with the iconic prisoner’s gate just one part of the tours that you can book onto at the attraction.
An interesting part of the Tower’s history as a prison lies in the hands of a man called Rannulf Flambard, who was the Bishop of Durham at the time and is known as the first man to be held prisoner in the Tower of London. Though he later escaped, it appears as if the Tower was bolstered with extra security, as soon after stories began to appear surrounding the brutal tortures taking place at the Tower, and the executions which took place on the green outside.
Who was executed at the Tower of London?
Most famously, Anne Boleyn was beheaded at the Tower of London, as was Catherine Howard – another wife of Henry VIII. Writer Thomas More was executed at the Tower of London for refusing to recognise King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England, and Guy Fawkes also met his death at the Tower after his failed plot to blow up the houses of Parliament on what we now recognise as Bonfire night.
The last formal beheading at the Tower of London occurred in 1745, when Simon Fraser was beheaded for the role that he played in the Scottish Jacobite Rebellion – however the site itself remained a prison well into the 20th century, holding German spies prisoner during WWI. It was even the execution site for German spies and prisoners of war who were held and tried for acts against England, with the final war-related execution occurring as recently as 1945.
What other stories will you hear about at the attraction?
Moving closer to the 21st century and to the Tower as it stands today, one of the most notable stories comes from WWI when the Tower was hit by bombing in London and a large portion of the structure was damaged. Just like so many of the buildings and hotels in Lancaster England, London, and other parts of the country, the Tower of London was damaged and had to be significantly repaired at the end of the war – combining its history and architectural beauty with modern innovation.
Beyond its history as a prison and a fortress to protect London and England, the Tower of London holds and plays a few other important roles in the city and Great Britain. It is the home of the Crown Jewels, with visitors able to upgrade their ticket and access the room where the jewels are on display. You can also see St Thomas’s Tower which was a royal residence on site and is both comfortable and grand in its design and enjoy the gardens and surrounding decorations which are worked into the dried moat which surrounds the Tower itself. During the summer months, large floral displays adorn this perimeter garden, and it has also been home to the ornate metal poppies for the World War memorial as well.
Finally, if you visit the Tower of London, be sure to look out for the ravens. These black birds are part of the tower’s past and present, with six birds living on site in captivity to continue the tradition of ravens protecting both the tower itself and the crown which lies inside.
How to get to the Tower of London
For those looking to visit the Tower of London, you can access the attraction from the Park Grand London Lancaster Gate by tube, by the Uber boat, or by walking through central London or along the banks of the river Thames.
The Tower of London is sat next to Tower Bridge and is within close proximity of both the Shard on the Southbank and London Liverpool Street for those travelling from outside of London.