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The Tower of London London
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
 
Situated on the north bank of the River Thames, beside Tower Bridge is the Tower of London. The Tower has seen nearly 2000 years of history; has been used as a fortress castle, a royal residence, prison and place of execution. Now it is an immensely popular tourist attraction and a World Heritage Site.
 
Apart from the history associated with The Tower there are lots of fascinating things to see – the breathtaking Crown Jewels, a fabulous collection of armour and weapons, the Yeoman Warders in their quaint uniforms, the Ravens, and the rooms where prisoners and royalty lived.
 
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Throughout the tourist season costumed re-enactments are conducted on the lawns within The Tower.
 
Be sure to Visit:
Traitor’s Gate
After entering the castle through the Byward Tower the visitor will see on the right, set in the outer walls fronting the Thames river, St Thomas’s Tower. In the base of the tower is a wide stone arch with a gate. The river comes in through the gate and laps a flight of steps up into the interior of the fortress. This is the infamous Trator’s Gate or Water Gate. Initially it was just used as a convenient entrance when travelling by boat.
 
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Later, when the Tower was a prison and place of execution prisoners were transported by boat following trial at Westminster. Some of the famous people who entered here were Sir Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Queen Catherine Howard, and the Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I).
 
Bloody Tower
The gateway was built as part of Edward IIIs extensions and the tower added by Richard II. Originally called the Garden Tower it got its more common name after the disappearance of the two little princes.
 
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In 1483, the heir to the throne Edward V, and his little brother the Duke of York had been housed in the Tower by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, for their ‘protection’. It was said that Richard wanted to become king (Richard III) so he had the little princes murdered. Richard certainly did become king and the skeletons of two young children were found beneath a stone staircase in the White Tower but whether Richard did actually order their death we will never know.
 
Sir Walter Raleigh 
From 1603-1616 the Bloody Tower was the prison of Sir Walter Raleigh for thirteen years. He had quite a pleasant existence really, he was regularly visited by his wife and son, had two servants, grew tobacco on Tower Green and walked along the rampats waving to the crowd that used to gather.
 
King James 1 eventually released him for a fresh expedition to the West Indies hoping he might die on the voyage but he survived. On his return the King put him back in the Tower and had him executed at Westminster.
 
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White Tower
Built in 1078 the White Tower is an impressive building. It is 90 feet (27.4 metres) high and the walls range from a thickness of 15 feet (4.6 metres) at the base to 11 feet (3.4 metres) at the top. It is partially built of French stone imported from Caen and has four turrets. You will see that three of the turrets are square but the fourth one on the north-east side is circular. This one housed the first royal observatory until the 17th century when it was moved to Greenwich.
 
Access to the White Tower is on the first floor, via an external wooden staircase, much as it was when it was first built. Inside are wonderful exhibits of armour and weapons, including the magnificent armour of King Henry VIII.
 
Chapel of St John the Evangelist
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On the second floor of the White Tower is the tiny 11th century Chapel of St John the Evangelist. It is the oldest complete Romanesque church in England, circular in shape with solid stone pillars. Here, Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth lay in state after dying in childbirth while living in the Tower of London, and Mary Tudor was betrothed by proxy to King Phillip of Spain.
 
Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are made up of articles used in the coronation of a monarch such as the orb, sceptre and anointing oil ampulla and spoon, gold table plate and the several magnificent crowns and regalia. The diamonds and other precious jewels are huge and brilliantly displayed. The sceptre contains the second largest cut diamond in the world (530 carats).
 
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The Annointing Spoon survived Oliver Cromwell’s destruction of the then crown jewels. The interesting thing about these Crown Jewels is that they are regularly in use on state occasions so they are not just pieces of history.
 
The Crown Jewels have been held at the Tower since 1303. The oldest jewel is the chicken-egg sized Edward I’s ruby (1367) in the Imperial State Crown but most of the treasures date from the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.
 
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The Crown Jewels are housed in the Jewel House in what is basically a room sized safe. On the way in to the room are audio-visual depictions of the ceremonies in which the Crown Jewels are used. Although there is no photography allowed, beautiful postcards of your favourite pieces can be purchased from the shop.
 
Beauchamp Tower
Pronounced ‘Beecham’, Beauchamp Tower faces the White Tower, across Tower Green. The prisoners held in this tower have left carved inscriptions and heraldic devices in the stone walls. The guide on duty will gladly make available an interpretive book for closer study of the inscriptions. Some of them are extremely elaborate especially the ones carved by the Earls of Warwick, Dudley and Leicester.
 
St Peter ad Vincula
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The dedication means ‘St Peter in Chains’ and is particularly appropriate for this parish church of the Tower of London. Visitors can only gain entry to the church by joining a Yeoman Warder Guided Tour.
 
The church contains the remains of prisoners executed on Tower Green; the most famous being King Henry VIII’s 2nd and 5th wives (Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard). Lady Jane Grey (the 9 day queen) and Henry VIII’s political and religious advisors John Fisher and Thomas More are also there.
 
The building dates from 1519-20 and contains some magnificent monuments to previous governors of the Tower. The 17th century organ case is carved by the master carver, Grinling Gibbons.
 
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Yeoman Warders
The Yeoman Warders are required to have served in the British armed forces for at least 22 years and have an honourable record.
 
Their wonderful uniforms are the original Tudor design and a detachment of the Yeoman of the Guard has formed the monarch’s personal bodyguard since 1509. The origins of the Guard date back as far as the reign of King Edward IV (1468-83).
 
They are more than happy to talk to visitors, even if not conducting an official tour at the time.
 
The Ravens
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The large black birds strutting around the Inner Ward of the Tower are as important to the Tower as are the Yeoman Warders.
 
It is believed that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower of London (the White Tower), the Monarchy and the Kingdom will fall. No-one knows how the legend started but just to be on the safe side, the birds’ wings have been clipped so they can’t fly away! They have their own Yeoman Warder to look after them and see to their every need. It is no wonder that they live to an enormous age. The oldest bird, Jim Crow lived 44 years.
 
What's On
A wide range of events occur at the Tower, including exhibitions, special activities, tours, talks and live performances. Many are included in the price of your ticket. Check what’s on at  Web:  Tower of London/ Whats On
 
History of the Tower
The Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD and established the city of Londinium at the spot on the River Thames where they could easily build a bridge across the river at what is now London Bridge. The city grew up on the north bank around this river crossing.
 
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About 200 AD the Romans built a defensive wall around the city. The walled city became the City of London. The remains of the Roman walls can be seen outside the Tower of London as you walk towards it, and inside The Tower, close to the White Tower (the Keep). Look for the distinctive thin red bricks so typical of Roman walls.
 
When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 and beat the Anglo-Saxon King Harold at Hastings, he decided to build impressive castles all over England to remind the people who was in charge now. In London he chose to build his castle in the south-east corner of the old Roman defences specifically where London Wall met the old river wall – this Castle we now know as the Tower of London.
 
Building of the Tower of London commenced in 1078 with the building of the Keep. This is the large square tower in the centre of the complex, known as the White Tower. The Keep was finished by 1100 and dominated the London skyline. It was never intended as a fortress to protect London, but more as a stronghold for the King to protect him from his enemies.
 
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Early in the 12th century extra defensive walls were built around the Keep creating the Inner Ward. As soon as Richard the Lionheart became king in 1189 he left England to go on a crusade. He left his fortress Tower in the care of his Chancellor who immediately set about building a curtain wall with 13 towers and a moat. Of these thirteen towers only the entrance tower, the ‘Bloody Tower’, remains.
 
Richard’s brother, John, took advantage of the king’s absence on crusade and tried to seize the Tower. When Richard returned in 1194, John begged his forgiveness and because Richard had no heirs, he named John as his successor.
 
King John of Magna Carta fame
In 1199 John became King John, probably best known for his broken promises and his troubles with the barons which led to the drawing up of the Magna Carta. King John often stayed in the Tower and it was probably during this time that the Royal Menagerie was started to house his lions and other exotic animals. In the 19th century the Menagerie was closed and the animals moved to the newly opened ZSL London Zoo.
 
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John’s young son Henry succeeded him in 1216 as King Henry III. He was only 9 at the time and the kingdom was in crisis. Amazingly, within months, the young King and his regents had restored order. Then they set about improving the Tower’s defences. It was Henry who whitewashed the Keep, hence its name the White Tower. It is no longer painted white but the name has stuck.
 
Two new towers were added to the waterfront and the Wakefield Tower became the king’s lodgings. In 1238 a new curtain wall reinforced with nine towers was built on the north-east and western sides and a new moat. The north-eastern extensions involved demolishing some of the City of London’s defensive walls much to the consternation of the London population. They didn’t like this arrogant expansion by the King.
 
Henry’s son, King Edward I (1272-1307) didn’t take any notice of the rebellious populace and continued to strengthen the Tower. He built an outer curtain wall, filled in the moat and built another moat outside the new outer defences. The Tower was now England’s largest and strongest concentric fortress (with one ring of defences inside another). The Tower has changed little since this time and is basically what the tourist sees today.
 
Although the Tower was a comfortable and safe royal residence, Edward I spent very little time there. It was, however, already being used as a prison for religious dissenters and royal hostages. It was also used for storing royal valuables (the Crown Jewels) and became the Mint.
 
The medieval period was a turbulent time in British history. Royal arrogance, power struggles between The Church and the Crown, and insecure lines of accession led to terrible wars, both internal and external. For the victors the Tower was a place of comfort and celebration, but for the losers it was a terrible place of imprisonment, torture and even murder.
 
Aristocrats who had backed the wrong side were thrown into the Tower, charged with treason, found guilty and taken out to Tower Hill to be executed. Very few were actually executed within the Tower on Tower Green, this was mostly reserved for monarchs and queens. Tourists can see the block and axe and also where the block was placed on Tower Green.
 
With the coming of the Tudors and King Henry VIII England’s official religion changed from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. Supporters of the old religion were imprisoned in the Tower and regarded as treasonable. There followed several centuries of turbulence as successive monarchs fought to return to the Church of Rome or to retain the Church of England with the monarch as its head.
 
The religious upheaval finally finished with the reigns of William & Mary (1689-1702).
 
Plan Your Visit
Opening Times
- Tower Opening Times
Open all year except 24-26th December and 1 January inclusive
 
Summer:   01 March - 31 October
  • Tuesday - Saturday   09:00 - 17:30 hours
  • Sunday - Monday.     10:00 - 17:30 hours
  • Last admission:         17:00 hours

Winter:      01 November - 29 February

  • Tuesday - Saturday   09:00 - 16:30 hours
  • Sunday - Monday.     10:00 - 16:30 hours
  • Last admission:         16:00 hours

All internal buildings close 30 minutes after the last admission. The last Yeoman Warder tour starts at 14.30 (winter), 15.30 (summer).

Visitors will need at least an hour to see the Crown Jewels, the White Tower and the Medieval Palace apartments. A much longer visit is recommended as there is much to see and do.
 
Admission Prices
There are several ways of buying tickets and making savings.
Comprehensive details at Web:  Tower of London/ Admission Costs
 
The Tower of London is an immensely popular tourist attraction
 
Tip
Historic Royal Palaces Membership
If you are spending a few days in London and would like to visit other Historic Royal Palaces it might be worth considering a Historic Royal Palaces Annual Membership.
 
Membership confers substantial savings for visitors to five royal palaces. The five Royal Palaces are: Kensington Palace, The Tower of London, The Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Hampton Court Palace.
 
For details about Membership, go to  Web:  Historic Royal Palaces/ Membership
 
Disabled Access
The Tower of London is a large open-air site with ancient buildings. There are large numbers of steps, narrow passages and low doorways making access difficult.
 
The Crown Jewels are housed in the completely accessible Jewel House. For detailed information go to  Web:  Tower of London/ Accessibility
 
Facilities
- Toilets
- Armouries Restaurant
- Ravens Kiosk
- Gift Shops
- Guide Books. Guide Books are available from the Shop or can be purchased online.
- Audio Guides. Multi Media Guides are available in a variety of languages. There is a charge - concessions are available.
 
Guided Tours
Yeoman Warder Guided tours begin every 30 mins (last tour 15:30 in summer, 14:30 in winter). Tours last approximately 60 mins and start near the main entrance. They are completely free – the cost is already included in the admission ticket.
 
Locking the Tower
At 21:30 hours precisely, the Yeoman Warders officially lock the Tower after all visitors have left. The locking of the Tower is known as the Ceremony of the Keys.
 
This Ceremony can be attended by a limited number of individual members of the public. See the article: Ceremony of the Keys in this website for further information.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   24-hour information line: +44 (0)8707 566 060
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to The Tower of London, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
Tower Hill Station   District and Circle Lines  -  Follow the directional signposts to the Tower. Approximately a 5 minute walk (downhill)
 
- By Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
Tower Gateway Station     DLR  Again follow the directional signposts to the Tower - Approximately 5 minutes walk (downhill)
 
- By Mainline Rail (Nearest stations are:)
Fenchurch Street Station   Exit onto Mark Lane, turn left onto Byward Street which leads to Tower Hill and the Tower of London
London Bridge Station       Cross the bridge over the River Thames and turn right onto Lower Thames Street. After a 15-minute walk the Tower is to your right
 
- By Bus
Route Numbers 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1
We suggest that you visit the TfL 'Journey Planner'
 
- By Open Top Tour Bus
The Tower is a stop on the Sightseeing Bus Tours
 
- By RiverBoat
River Boats for Tower Millennium Pier depart from Westminster, Charing Cross and Greenwich Piers
Tower Millennium Pier is a short walk up to the Ticketing Facility and Tower Entry
 
Google Maps - Tower of London