Tower of London

History of the tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the most important historic pieces in the British capital. Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, the fortress was a centerpiece in the control of the city and thus of the whole of England. It was later rebuilt in stone (it was originally made of wood), then undergoes two improvement campaigns before it is no longer modified (or almost), which explains why the story bequeathed it to us.

Tower of London

The tower of London by night

The rest of this document details his story.

Architecture and design of Tower of London

William invited Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, to design the Tower on the banks of the Thames, within the south-east angle of an old Roman town wall. Described as “very competent and skillful at building in stone,” Gundulf also supervised the construction of the tower, which began in 1078.

The great rectangular stone keep, earliest of its kind in England and one of the largest ever built in Europe, was completed in the early 1090’s, after William’s death.

Measuring 118 feet by 107 feet (36 x 33 m) the tower rises to a height of 90 feet (almost 30 m) its four corner turrets are higher still. At its base, the walls are 15 feet (4.6 m) thick, thinning out in the upper sections to 1.1 feet (3.4 m).

Numerous arrow slits once pierced these walls, but only a few survive the rest were replaced in the late 17th century by the window openings of the great English architect Sir Christopher Wren, who also decreed that the whitewashing of the tower should cease.

The original entrance, on the southern side. was reached by a flight of wooden stairs that could be quickly dismantled in time of danger.

The interior, organized on three levels, contained “all the essential accommodation of a royal residence.” The King’s apartments, with their fire-places and garderobes, were on the upper two floors, and within quick and easy reach of the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist.

This perfectly preserved Norman chapel is flanked on either side by a narrow aisle, with a gallery above, merging as one with the ambulatory and gallery at the eastern end the interior is stone-vaulted throughout.


Today located at London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom, the Tower of London’s architecture and design evolved over centuries.

After the reign of the Conqueror, it would be another 225 years before the tower assumed its familiar concentric configuration.

William’s son Rufus (William II, 1056-1100) built a wall around the tower in 1097 Richard I (1189-99) extended the defensive perimeter by constructing a new wall beyond William’s. Henry III (1216-72) enlarged the enclosure yet again and established the alignment that now makes up the inner curtain.

Most of the mural towers that punctuate this curtain are his additions as well, including the Garden Tower, which was later renamed the Bloody Tower after the alleged murder there in 1483 of the “Little Princes”-12 year old-Edward V and his younger brother Richard York.

Finally, Edward I (1272-1307) carried out extensive work on the tower, including the moat surrounding the castle, Traitor’s Gate, the new river gate through St. Thomas’s Tower, where prisoners came by boat before being tried at Westminster.

Edward also instigated improvements to the castle’s residential facilities. Later monarchs followed suit, including Henry VIII (1509-47), who built the Queen’s House in the south-west angle of the inner enclosure, possibly for the use of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Henry VIII also rebuilt the fire-damaged early 12th century chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains) to the north of the “Queen’s House.” The chapel tells a tragic story according to one Elizabethan writer, under the pavement are the remains of “two dukes between two queens, to wit, the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Northumberland, between Queen Anne and Queen Katherine, all four beheaded.”

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Now the Tower of London is quite old. In fact, parts of the tower are very old indeed – much older than my Gran’s Gran… and her Gran before her!

More to click.

The Tower’s been around since Roman times and has seen many changes over the years. Here’s some handy history facts!

Roman Origins

The Tower dates back to AD 200 – that’s Roman times, when the original structure was built at the corner of a wall around Londinium. The line of this wall is still visible within the Tower site on the east of the White Tower and parts of the wall are visible by the Ravens shop.

William the Conqueror

After the successful Norman invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror (1066-1087) set about building his capital and the Tower was one of three fortifications which controlled and protected the eastern entry to the City from the river, as well as serving as his palace.

Work on the White Tower began in around 1078 and they say took 25 years to complete. It was one of the first great stone towers to be built in Britain and the tallest tower in the country.

Medieval Times

During the reigns of Richard I (1189-1199) and Henry III (1216-1272), the Tower was strengthened by the addition of a curtain wall surrounding the keep. Henry III’s son Edward I (1272-1307) built a second curtain wall, which was surrounded by a moat (which is today drained and now a great grass area).

By the end of the 14th century, Richard III (1377-1399) had completed building a wharf separating the outer wall from the river. Apart from some later minor changes, his fortress is the one we see today.

The Tudors

During Henry VIII’s long reign (1509-1547), how the Tower was used changed as the Tudor dynasty grew. Royal palaces were no longer used as defensive strongholds and became residences to show off the monarch’s wealth and power. Henry spent lots of money on improvements to the Tower for the splendour of Anne Boleyn’s coronation.

Because of its strong defences, the Tower was the perfect home for the London Mint and a great place to keep important prisoners. During the Tudor period, famous prisoners included Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Walter Raleigh, as well as a young Princess Elizabeth (who later became Elizabeth I).

People sometimes think of executions at the Tower but only 7people were executed within the Tower. Most were executed outside the Tower on Tower Hill.

The Stuarts

The 17th century was a topsy turvy time for Britain with a civil war and many political changes. During the reign of King James 1 (1603-1621), the failed gunpowder plotter, Guy Fawkes, was imprisoned, interrogated (in the Queen’s House) and tortured at the Tower.

After the Civil War (1642–1651), Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector, ordered the original crown jewels to be melted down during the 1650s, possibly within the Mint itself! After the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II (1660-1685) had the Crown jewels remade.

During the Stuart period, the Tower was used as a prison and storehouse for munitions, as well as for the Royal Mint.

Victorian era

During the Victorian period leisure time for workers increased and so the Tower began to see more visitors. The White Tower also became home to some important government departments during Victoria’s reign, including the Public Records Office and the Board of Ordnance (which controlled supplies to the army and navy).

20th Century

During the Second World War, parts of the Tower were destroyed by bombing, including part of a building used by the Royal Mint and the Main Guard.

War Prisoners, including the German deputy leader, Rudolph Hess, were kept as prisoners in the Tower.

The one I love

Anne was not short of admirers on her return to England.

This seems to have been partly due to her glamorous French fashions. Henry Percy, later Earl of Northumberland, and the poet Thomas Wyatt both courted her, but these dalliances seem to have remained within the accepted boundaries of flirtatious ‘courtly love’ and romantic poetry.

In 1526, the King’s interest significantly upped the stakes.

Henry VIII’s long marriage to Katherine of Aragon had produced only one surviving child, Princess Mary. By the mid-1520s, Henry was becoming increasingly desperate for a legitimate son and heir to secure the future of the Tudor dynasty.

Image: Henry VIII, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Growing infatuation

Henry may have originally courted Anne as a prospective mistress, but, if that is the case, she refused.

Either driven by her own virtue or ambition, or by her scheming relatives, and aware of the King’s dynastic dilemma, Anne held out for the possibility of marriage.

Image: Cardinal Wolsey and courtiers with, on the right, the King meeting Anne Boleyn at the Cardinal's residence, York Place, later Whitehall Palace. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Tower of London - History

F ather John Gerard was a spy. In November 1588 he was among a team of four Jesuit priests sent from Rome and secretly landed on the shores of England with the mission of making contact with and ministering to that country's Roman Catholic community. He joined a clandestine network of Catholic operatives controlled from their headquarters in London.

Born in England, Father Gerard mingled easily among English society, passing himself off as a gentleman of leisure. It was a

dangerous existence as evidenced by the fact that Father Gerard's three companions in the landing party were eventually discovered and executed. Gerard remained undetected for six years until his betrayal by a servant in a household in which he was staying.

After three years in captivity he was taken to the Tower of London where he was subjected to torture in an effort to force him to confess that his mission was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and to reveal the identity of the leader of the spy ring. Despite the pain, he refused to divulge any information. On the night of October 4, 1597 he made a daring escape from the Tower with the help of friends on the outside. He slipped into the English countryside and remained undiscovered for another eight years.

Finally, with the attempt to blow up Parliament and the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the political atmosphere became too dangerous. Father Gerard slipped out of the country and sailed to the European continent disguised as a member of the Spanish diplomatic mission.

Father Gerard wrote a book detailing his adventures shortly after his escape to Europe. He describes his torture in the Tower of London:

The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all. Then he asked me again whether I would confess.

I fell on my knees for a moment's prayer. Then they took me to a big upright pillar, one of the wooden posts which held the roof of this huge underground chamber. Driven into the top of it were iron staples for supporting heavy weights. Then they put my wrists into iron gauntlets and ordered me to climb two or three wicker steps.

My arms were then lifted up and an iron bar was passed through the rings of one gauntlet, then through the staple and rings to the second gauntlet. This done, they fastened the bar with a pin to prevent it from slipping, and then, removing the wicker steps one by one from under my feet, they left me hanging by my hands and arms fastened above my head. The tips of my toes, however, still touched the ground, and they had to dig the earth away from under them. They had hung me up from the highest staple in the pillar and could not raise me any higher, without driving in another staple.

Hanging like this I began to pray. The gentlemen standing around me asked me whether I was willing to confess now.

'I cannot and I will not,' I answered.

But I could hardly utter the words, such a gripping pain came over me. It was worst in my chest and belly, my hands and arms. All the blood in my body seemed to rush up into my arms and hands and I thought that blood was oozing from the ends of my fingers and the pores of my skin. But it was only a sensation caused by my flesh swelling above the irons holding them.

The pain was so intense that I thought I could not possibly endure it, and added to it, I had an interior temptation. Yet I did not feel any inclination or wish to give them the information they wanted. The Lord saw my weakness with the eyes of His mercy, and did not permit me to be tempted beyond my strength. With the temptation He sent me relief. Seeing my agony and the struggle going on in my mind, He gave me this most merciful thought: the utmost and worst they can do is to kill you, and you have often wanted to give your life for your Lord God. The Lord God sees all you are enduring - He can do all things. You are in God's keeping.

With these thoughts, God in His infinite goodness and mercy gave me the grace of resignation, and with a desire to die and a hope (I admit) that I would, I offered Him myself to do with me as He wished. From that moment the conflict in my soul ceased, and even the physical pain seemed much more bearable than before, though it must, in fact, I am sure, have been greater with the growing strain and weariness of my body.

Sometime after one o'clock, I think, I fell into a faint. How long I was unconscious I don't know, but I think it was long, for the men held my body up or put the wicker steps under my feet until I came to. Then they heard me pray and immediately let me down again. And they did this every time I fainted - eight or nine times that day - before it struck five.

A little later they took me down. My legs and feet were not damaged, but it was a great effort to stand upright. "

Life with the lions: the Tower of London menagerie

To the people of London in 1252, a giant white bear must have been an unusual sight. The animal was a gift from the king of Norway to Henry III, and as such he was placed in the Tower of London menagerie that had been established to contain royal beasts by Henry’s predecessor, King John.

The bear was not always to be found in the menagerie, however. He had arrived in London with instructions that he be allowed to swim in the Thames while attached to a long cord. At this time the river was well stocked with fish and the likely intention was that the Arctic visitor could sustain himself with the bounty in the waters.

In the medieval period and beyond, the feeding of animals at the menagerie was something of a haphazard process. Without modern zoological knowledge, there was no guarantee that the inhabitants would receive the required nutrients and myths abounded about what they could and couldn’t eat. There was, for example, a popular misconception that ostriches could digest iron nails. In the 1750s one unfortunate bird died after consuming a nail (most likely thrown by a visitor) “that stopt its passage”.

The lion that killed the queen

Although a wide range of animals made their home at the Tower, it was always the lions that the menagerie was best known for. Representing one of England’s national symbols, the lions were, in the words of exhibition curator Dr Sally Dixon-Smith “a kind of living heraldry”.

They were closely connected with royalty as well, to the extent that lions were often named after the reigning king or queen of the period. A legend even arose that when the namesake beast expired then the days of the monarch were numbered. So when Elizabeth I the lion died in 1603, its keepers would not have been unduly surprised that the Virgin Queen herself passed away shortly afterwards.

Another legend was that the animals would become agitated if a woman came close by who wasn’t a virgin. This surfaced in Tobias Smollett’s 1771 novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker where a servant, Win Jenkins, was disconcerted to see one of the Tower’s animals “roaring and bouncing” when her mistress walked up to it. Convinced that “my lady is as good a firchin, as the child unborn”, Jenkins determined that “the lion oft to be set in the stocks for bearing false witness”.

The badly behaved leopards

The menagerie was a popular visitor attraction ever since John II of France slipped a keeper three gold coins to see the lions while detained in the Tower in 1360. People came in their droves to see the beasts but, unlike visitors to modern zoos, they did so at no little risk.

Leopards seemed to be among the most frequent miscreants. Diarist Ned Ward recalled in 1699 how a leopard “loves not to be looked at” and would be liable to “piss on you”, if you came too close, with urine that “stinks worse than a polecat’s”. An 1829 book on the menagerie complained that one female leopard had “always evinced a particular predilection for the destruction of umbrellas, parasols, muffs, hats, and such other articles of dress as may happen to come within her reach”.

Some incidents were of a much graver nature. In 1830 a man called Joseph Croney had been hired to remove unwanted bones from the menagerie. One Saturday he was at work when a leopard escaped from its den and flung itself upon him.

The Times reported: “The poor fellow shrieked out in the most excruciating pain, and expected nothing but instant destruction.” Fortunately a couple of keepers heard Croney’s cries and came to his assistance, beating the leopard over its head until it relinquished its victim. Croney was taken to a surgeon and it was reported that despite being in “excessive agony”, he was “considered to be doing well”.

The tigers that fought a lion

While the tower’s inhabitants could be a danger to keepers and the public, they also posed a risk to each other. During the reign of James VI and I, this was actively encouraged, with regular displays of lions being baited by dogs, bears, bulls and other ferocious beasts. The king even had a viewing platform installed to watch these blood sports.

Yet there were also occasions when animals accidentally came into contact with different species. Here too the consequences were predictably violent. In 1828 a secretary bird was left without a head after coming too close to a hyena, but the most shocking incident occurred a couple of years later when a keeper accidentally removed the barrier between a lion and two tigers.

Tigers, who had a long history at the Tower, were often given decidedly unthreatening names such as Will, Dick and Phillis. However when it came to a fight, even the king of beasts stood little chance. A contemporary wrote that “the various agitation, the roaring, howling, and shrieking, the signs of fierceness and horror of the other inmates of the Tower… surpassed all description”. The animals were eventually prised apart, by which point the lion had been fatally wounded.

The grizzly bear that outlived the menagerie

One of the most celebrated inhabitants of the early 19th-century menagerie was Martin, a grizzly bear presented to George III by the Hudson Bay Company in 1811. He arrived at a time when the menagerie was undergoing a period of decline but its fortunes were soon reinvigorated by an energetic new keeper, Alfred Cops, who was appointed in 1822.

Under Cops’s auspices, the collection of animals was greatly increased so that by 1828 it included three kangaroos, an African porcupine and over 100 rattlesnakes, among other creatures. The grizzly was still there, now going by the name of Old Martin. An observer related: “His size is far superior to that of any other bear that has ever been seen in this quarter of the globe and his ferocity, in spite of the length of time during which he has been a prisoner, and of all the attempts that have been made to conciliate him, still continues undiminished.”

Yet the menagerie’s heyday would be short-lived. The Duke of Wellington had been made constable of the Tower in 1826 and he feared that the wild animals were impeding the fortress’s military functions. Furthermore, the Iron Duke was an inaugural member of the London Zoological Society, which had very different views about the way animals should be studied and displayed. William IV had little interest in the menagerie and was happy to allow Wellington to dismantle the centuries-old institution.

So it was that the royal beasts were transferred to the new London Zoo in 1831 and 1832, leaving a few of Cops’s own animals at the Tower until they too were removed three years later. Old Martin outlasted both the Tower menagerie and William IV, finally dying in London Zoo in 1838.

Rob Attar is deputy editor of BBC History Magazine.

Tickets and prices

Experience the Tower of London like never before without the usual crowds. With visitor numbers limited daily, we have measures in place to ensure your visit is safe and enjoyable.

Your admission ticket gives you entry to:

  • The Crown Jewels
  • The White Tower
  • Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula
  • Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition, Fusiliers Museum and Royal Mint exhibition

You’ll also be able to hear captivating stories of the history of the Tower of London from the famous Yeoman Warders and see the legendary ravens.

Peak ticket prices apply Friday – Sunday and every day throughout July and August.

Off-peak prices apply on Wednesday and Thursdays throughout May and June (excluding half term week when peak prices apply).

Tickets for dates up to August are available to book now. Tickets for September onwards will be released shortly.

Tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys are sold out for June. Tickets for 1–16 July are now available.

Tower of London

The massive White Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture, whose influence was felt throughout the kingdom. It was built on the Thames by William the Conqueror to protect London and assert his power. The Tower of London &ndash an imposing fortress with many layers of history, which has become one of the symbols of royalty &ndash was built around the White Tower.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Tour de Londres

La massive tour Blanche, archétype de l'architecture militaire normande, qui exerça son influence dans tout le royaume, fut construite au bord de la Tamise par Guillaume le Conquérant pour protéger la ville de Londres et affirmer son pouvoir. Autour d'elle s'est développée la Tour de Londres, imposante forteresse riche de souvenirs historiques et devenue l'un des symboles de la monarchie.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

برج لندن

تم بناء هذا البرج الأبيض الضخم الذي يجسد نموذجاً مثالياً للهندسة العسكرية النورماندية والذي مارس تأثيراً هاماً في مجمل انحاء المملكة على ضفاف نهر التايمس على يد غليوم الغازي بهدف حماية مدينة لندن واثبات سلطته. وقد نشأ حول هذا البناء برج لندن وهو قلعة مهيبة تزخر بالذكريات التاريخية وتجسد رمزاً للملكية.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Лондонский Тауэр

Массивная Белая башня (White Tower) &ndash это типичный образец норманнской военной архитектуры, чье влияние ощущается по всей территории королевства. Она была построена Вильгельмом Завоевателем на Темзе как выражение его власти. Лондонский Тауэр &ndash внушительная крепость с богатейшей историей. Построенная вокруг Белой башни стена стала одним из символов страны.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Torre de Londres

Imponente fortaleza cargada de historia, la Torre de Londres se convirtió con el tiempo en uno de los símbolos más importantes de la monarquía británica. Fue construida en torno a la Torre Blanca, erigida por Guillermo el Conquistador a orillas del Támesis para proteger Londres y consolidar su poder. Esta última edificación, modelo ejemplar de la arquitectura militar normanda, ejerció una gran influencia en las construcciones defensivas de todo el reino.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Tower of London

De massieve Witte Toren is een typisch voorbeeld van Normandische militaire architectuur. Willem de Veroveraar bouwde de toren aan de Theems om Londen te beschermen en om zijn macht te doen gelden. De Tower of Londen - een imposante vesting met een rijke geschiedenis en geworden tot koninklijk symbool - werd gebouwd rondom de Witte Toren. De iconische toren heeft een grote rol gespeeld bij de bevordering van nauwere banden met Europa. Ook had de toren grote invloed op de Engelse taal en cultuur en op het creëren van een van de machtigste monarchieën in Europa.

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Tower of London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) © OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Tower of London is an internationally famous monument and one of England&rsquos most iconic structures. William the Conqueror built the White Tower in 1066 as a demonstration of Norman power, siting it strategically on the River Thames to act as both fortress and gateway to the capital. It is the most complete example of an 11th century fortress palace remaining in Europe. A rare survival of a continuously developing ensemble of royal buildings, from the 11th to 16th centuries, the Tower of London has become one of the symbols of royalty. It also fostered the development of several of England&rsquos major State institutions, incorporating such fundamental roles as the nation&rsquos defence, its record-keeping and its coinage. It has been the setting for key historical events in European history, including the execution of three English queens.

The Tower of London has Outstanding Universal Value for the following cultural qualities:

For both protection and control of the City of London, it has a landmark siting. As the gateway to the capital, the Tower was in effect the gateway to the new Norman kingdom. Sited strategically at a bend in the River Thames, it has been a crucial demarcation point between the power of the developing City of London, and the power of the monarchy. It had the dual role of providing protection for the City through its defensive structure and the provision of a garrison, and of also controlling the citizens by the same means. The Tower literally &lsquotowered&rsquo over its surroundings until the 19th century.

The Tower of London was built as a demonstration and symbol of Norman power. The Tower represents more than any other structure the far-reaching significance of the mid-11th century Norman Conquest of England, for the impact it had on fostering closer ties with Europe, on English language and culture, and in creating one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The Tower has an iconic role as reflecting the last military conquest of England.

The property is an outstanding example of late 11th century innovative Norman military architecture. As the most complete survival of an 11th-century fortress palace remaining in Europe, the White Tower, and its later 13th and 14th century additions, belong to a series of edifices which were at the cutting edge of military building technology internationally. They represent the apogee of a type of sophisticated castle design, which originated in Normandy and spread through Norman lands to England and Wales.

The property is a model example of a medieval fortress palace, which evolved from the 11th to 16th centuries. The additions of Henry III and Edward I, and particularly the highly innovative development of the palace within the fortress, made the Tower into one of the most innovative and influential castle sites in Europe in the 13th and early 14th centuries, and much of their work survives. Palace buildings were added to the royal complex right up until the 16th century, although few now stand above ground. The survival of palace buildings at the Tower allows a rare glimpse into the life of a medieval monarch within their fortress walls. The Tower of London is a rare survival of a continuously developing ensemble of royal buildings, evolving from the 11th to the 16th centuries, and as such, has great significance nationally and internationally.

The property has strong associations with State Institutions. The continuous use of the Tower by successive monarchs fostered the development of several major State Institutions. These incorporated such fundamental roles as the nation&rsquos defence, its records, and its coinage. From the late 13th century, the Tower was a major repository for official documents, and precious goods owned by the Crown. The presence of the Crown Jewels, kept at the Tower since the 17th century, is a reminder of the fortress&rsquo role as a repository for the Royal Wardrobe.

As the setting for key historical events in European history: The Tower has been the setting for some of the most momentous events in European and British History. Its role as a stage upon which history has been enacted is one of the key elements which has contributed towards the Tower&rsquos status as an iconic structure. Arguably, the most important building of the Norman Conquest, the White Tower symbolised the might and longevity of the new order. The imprisonments in the Tower of Edward V and his younger brother in the 15th century, and then, in the 16th century, of four English queens, three of them executed on Tower Green &ndash Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey &ndash with only Elizabeth I escaping, shaped English history. The Tower also helped shape the story of the Reformation in England, as both Catholic and Protestant prisoners (those that survived) recorded their experiences and helped define the Tower as a place of torture and execution.

Criterion (ii): A monument symbolic of royal power since the time of William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has served as an outstanding model throughout the kingdom since the end of the 11th century. Like it, many keeps were built in stone, e.g. Colchester, Rochester, Hedingham, Norwich or Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

Criterion (iv): The White Tower is the example par excellence of the royal Norman castle from the late 11th century. The ensemble of the Tower of London is a major reference for the history of medieval military architecture.

All the key Norman and later buildings, surrounded by their defensive wall and moat, are within the property boundary. There are few threats to the property itself, but the areas immediately beyond the moat and the wider setting of the Tower, an ensemble that was created to dominate its surroundings, have been eroded.

The Tower&rsquos landmark siting and visual dominance on the edge of the River Thames, and the impression of great height it once gave, all key aspects of its significance, have to some extent been eroded by tall new buildings in the eastern part of the City of London, some of which predate inscription. Some of these have, to a degree, had an adverse impact on the views into, within and out of the property.

The Tower&rsquos physical relationship to both the River Thames and the City of London, as fortress and gateway to the capital, and its immediate and wider setting, including long views, will continue to be threatened by proposals for new development that is inappropriate to the context. Such development could limit the ability to perceive the Tower as being slightly apart from the City, or have an adverse impact on its skyline as viewed from the river.


The role of the White Tower as a symbol of Norman power is evident in its massive masonry. It remains, with limited later change, as both an outstanding example of innovative Norman architecture and the most complete survival of a late 11th century fortress palace in Europe. Much of the work of Henry III and Edward I, whose additions made the Tower into a model example of a concentric medieval fortress in the 13th and early 14th centuries, survives. The Tower&rsquos association with the development of State institutions, although no longer evident in the physical fabric, is maintained through tradition, documentary records, interpretative material, and the presence of associated artefacts, for example, armour and weaponry displayed by the Royal Armouries. The Tower also retains its original relationship with the surrounding physical elements &ndash the scaffold site, the Prisoners&rsquo or Water Gate, the dungeons &mdash that provided the stage for key events in European history, even though the wider context, beyond the moat, has changed.

Its form, design and materials remain intact and legible as at the time of inscription, accepting the fact that extensive restoration had been undertaken during the 19th century by Anthony Salvin in a campaign to &lsquore-medievalise&rsquo the fortress. The Tower is no longer in use as a fortress, but its fabric still clearly tells the story of the use and function of the monument over the centuries. The fabric also continues to demonstrate the traditions and techniques that were involved in its construction. The ability of the Tower to reflect its strategic siting and historic relationship to the City of London is vulnerable to proposals for development that do not respect its context and setting.

Protection and management requirements

The UK Government protects World Heritage properties in England in two ways. Firstly, monuments, individual buildings and conservation areas are designated under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and secondly, through the UK Spatial Planning system under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The property is protected as a scheduled ancient monument and buildings within it are protected as statutorily listed buildings.

Government guidance on protecting the historic environment and World Heritage is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and Circular 07/09. Policies to protect, promote, conserve and enhance World Heritage properties, their settings and buffer zones are also found in statutory planning documents.

The Mayor&rsquos London Plan provides a strategic social, economic, transport and environmental framework for London and its future development over 20-25 years. It contains policies to protect and enhance the historic environment in general and World Heritage properties in particular. The London View Management Framework Supplementary Planning Guidance published by the Mayor protects important designated views, including a protected view of the Tower of London from the south bank of the River Thames. Locally, the Tower of London falls within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and is adjoined by the City of London and the London Borough of Southwark. Each of these local planning authorities has an emerging Local Development Plan, which provide a framework of policies to protect and promote the Tower of London World Heritage property.

The Tower of London World Heritage Site Management Plan is reviewed regularly. Its implementation is integrated into the activities of Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity responsible for caring for the Tower of London. The Tower of London World Heritage Site Consultative Committee, a group consisting of on-site partners, local authorities and heritage specialists, monitors implementation and review of the plan and provides a forum for consultation on issues affecting the Tower of London and its environs.

The most significant challenges to the property lie in managing the environs of the Tower of London so as to protect its Outstanding Universal Value and setting. At a strategic level, these challenges are recognised in the London Plan and the Boroughs&rsquo emerging Local Plans. These documents set out a strategic framework of policies aimed at conserving, protecting and enhancing the Outstanding Universal Value of the Tower and its setting. The challenges are also identified in the World Heritage Site Management Plan, which defines the local setting of the Tower and key views within and from it. Objectives in the Plan to address the challenges are being implemented (for example, through a local setting study that informed understanding of the immediate setting of the property, and through work on the property&rsquos attributes), although pressures remain significant, particularly in the wider setting. Discussions take place as part of the Management Plan review regarding how best to ensure continued protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and its setting.

Other challenges include pressures on funding. However, Historic Royal Palaces has put in place robust measures to ensure that the Tower of London is properly protected, interpreted and conserved in accordance with its key charitable objectives. These measures include long-term conservation plans, prioritised and funded according to conservation needs, and cyclical maintenance plans. Plans for the visitor experience respond to the Historic Royal Palaces&rsquo Cause &mdash to help everyone explore the stories of the palaces &mdash and are subject to rigorous evaluation. All plans are regularly monitored and reviewed.

Watch the video: Secrets of the Tower of London History Documentary (December 2021).