Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Tower of London: A Virtual Tour

The Tower of London.

What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read that? Probably imprisonment and death, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, while it’s true the Tower was used as a prison from 1100 to 1952, this famous London landmark was and is much more than that. Initially built as a castle and fortress by William the Conqueror, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress (The Tower’s official name) is a complex of buildings protected by two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. Over the years it has served as a palace, an armoury, a storehouse, a public records office, a mint, an observatory, and of course, a prison.

My husband and I recently visited London where we took an entire day exploring this fascinating site nestled between the River Thames and streets lined with modern skyscrapers. Let me take you on a tour.

Our first stop was The White Tower, so named after Henry III whitewashed it in the 13th century, A keep (fortified structure-usually a tower) it is the centerpiece of the complex. Considered a grand palace in its early history, The White Tower was (and still is) the official royal residence and included a great hall where official business was conducted. On the first floor, St. John’s Chapel is the oldest surviving church in London. Currently, most of the rooms in the White Tower hold the Royal Armoury’s collection of cannons, guns, and suits of armor (for men and for horses). Our guide referred to the Armoury as the original Man Cave.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! It is believed the Royal Menagerie began during the reign of Henry III (1207-1272), although its exact location within the castle is unknown. At its height, there were nearly three hundred animals in the collection representing sixty species from all over the known world. At some point during the 1700s the public was invited to view the menagerie for a small fee. Displays at The Tower include diary references from many famous persons such as Benjamin Franklin who wrote about the resident polar bear that went fishing in the Thames. In the mid-1800s the animals were moved to Regent’s Park after a lion was accused of biting a soldier. Since 2011, life-sized, wire sculptures by Kendra Haste have graced the walls of the Tower.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.” The ravens are an important part of the Tower’s history and still
reside there today. According to legend, if the birds leave, the Tower and the kingdom will fall. As a result, Charles II issued a decree stating there must be six ravens in residence at the Tower at any one time. According to Chief Yeoman Warder, Alan Kingshott, “We tend not to provoke legends, so generally we have eight birds.” The Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster is responsible for the flock’s care. There were four ravens out and about during our visit, and they entertained us with their antics of preening and prancing.

Have you been to the Tower? I’d love to hear about your experience. Visit Stitches Thru Time next Tuesday for Part Two of my visit.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win James Callhan’s Cleansed by Fire.

A freelance writer for over twelve years, Linda Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com


  1. I would love to visit the Tower. So much history. Interesting about the ravens.

  2. I wandered around outside the Tower during a one-day visit to London. I remember the Beefeaters.

  3. The Tower of London was a highlight of my visit to London. What surprised me was the small size of the armor for men. And the ravens...very smart birds. Looking forward to your next article, Linda!

    1. Thanks Deb! It was the highlight for me too. My husband's favorite was Westminster Abbey.

  4. I absolutely loved my day at The Tower. I was amazed by the shear size of the ravens. I thought a raven was about the size of a crow. Boy was I wrong. Huge bird. Okay, not condor size, but much bigger than a crow. I really enjoyed the history and the zoo elements of The Tower. I was surprised to discover that it is much more than a former prison. Newton lived there. Big surprise that.

    Can't wait to discover more of your trip.

  5. Such rich history and so much to do here !

  6. Really enjoyed the tour! And I would love to go there.

  7. I have not visited London, but The Tower sounds fascinating. Thank you for sharing this interesting post; I look forward to Part Two.

  8. i saw tower of london last year it's really beautiful Places