As the world famous historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London dates back to 1078.
With an amazing 2.8 million tourists visiting the Tower of London in 2017, it continues to be one of the capital’s most visited attractions more than 900 years later, but particularly in the summer months, as people from the UK and overseas flock to soak up the landmark’s rich heritage.
Continuous improvements and developments have taken place over the years to ensure the heritage building remains in tip-top condition. It gives people an opportunity to see the Crown Jewels and enjoy a variety of tours and historical re-enactments.
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England. Fresh from his victory in the Norman Conquests, he was aware there may be rebellion, so in the early 1070s, he set about constructing the biggest stone fortress England had ever seen.
He built his mighty castle to dominate the London skyline, ensuring the defeated Londoners had a constant reminder of his victory. Stonemasons from Normandy arrived to build the castle, with much of the labour carried out by Englishmen.
It was around 20 years before the tower was fully completed, on the open space known as Tower Hill. William lived there for nine years, until his death in 1087.
Over the centuries, the Tower of London has been continually developed. During the reign of King Richard, between 1189 and 1199, £2,881 was spent on refurbishment – equating to £2.1 million in today’s money.
Developments continued through to the early 14th century with the addition of several smaller towers, and the moat was enlarged. The Medieval Tower became England’s largest concentric castle – meaning one ring of defence was located inside another for extra security.
Over the years, the interior was transformed into increasingly luxurious royal accommodation. The monarchy stayed at the Tower of London to protect themselves and their valuables in times of trouble. Until the 1880s, arms and armour were also tested and stored there.
Kings and queens worshipped in the Chapel Royal within the Tower and kept a private zoo of exotic animals until the late 19th century. They also hosted foreign monarchs at ceremonial occasions.
All England’s coins were made at the Tower Mint from the reign of Edward I – who ascended to the throne in 1272 – until 1810. Today, the Crown Jewels are stored safely at the Tower of London and are protected by their own garrison of soldiers.
The Tower was also used as a prison for centuries, with its peak use for this purpose being in the 16th and 17th centuries. It ceased being used as a prison in 1952, when some of its most notorious inmates included the Kray twins of London gangland fame.
Visitors to the Tower of London today will find a host of fascinating things to see and do, including the stunning Crown Jewels. With a total of 23,578 pieces in the collection, these include world-famous diamonds. Visitors can also find out about a daring attempt at a jewels heist in 1671 and learn whether the intruders succeeded!
There’s also a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the famous Tower and enjoy a guided tour, giving you the opportunity to discover how many people lost their heads there after incarceration. The Prisoners’ Exhibition focuses on some of the most famous inmates over the centuries, such as Edward V, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More and Guy Fawkes – executions were still held there up to the early 20th century.
Visitors can also marvel at the splendour of the Yeomen of the Guard, Henry VIII’s armour, the Ravens, the Traitors’ Gate and even the torture instruments in the Lower Wakefield Tower – for those of us who are blessed with a strong constitution!
The Tower of London is open all year round for visitors, with extended opening hours from March to October. Plan your visit through the tourist information office and then make travelling around London easy with the help of H&H Van Hire – our minibus hire is a convenient means for all members of your party to travel together, creating a more pleasant journey and also reducing transport costs.
Please contact us for details of our nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses for group trips.