The Tower of London has been the setting for many great events during its 900-year history as a royal palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, arsenal, mint, menagerie and jewel house. This timeline shows some of the most significant events that took place here.
The Tower of London is by far one of the most famous and well preserved historical buildings in the world. From its earliest structural beginnings by its founder William I of England better known as William the Conqueror 1066-87, the Great Tower or White Tower as it later came to be called was fast becoming the most talked-about building in England. The White Tower was also the most awe inspiring, and frightening structure to the Anglo-Saxon people who were trying to get used to the rule of their new Norman king, the destroyer of their own ruler, Harold II, at the in 1066. Within three months of his victory William the Conqueror had begun to build a castle on the north bank of the river Thames in London.
Beginning life as a simple timber and earth enclosure tucked in the south-east angle formed by the joining of the original east and south stone walls of the old Roman town of Londinium Augusta, the original structure was completed by the addition of a ditch and palisade along the north and west sides.
This enclosure then received a huge structure of stone which in time came to be called The Great Tower and eventually as it is known today The White Tower. This formed the basis of a residential palace and fortress ideally suited for a king or queen and as history has shown, to its regal occupants the Tower of London became the perfect all purpose complex. Since the first foundations were laid more than 900 years ago the castle has been constantly improved and extended by the addition of other smaller towers, extra buildings, walls and walkways, gradually evolving into the splendid example of castle, fortress, prison, palace and finally museum that it proudly represents today. 37118tiu82veu3g
The development of the Tower
The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-87) and remained unchanged for over a century. Then, between 1190 and 1285, the White Tower was encircled by two towered curtain walls and a great moat. The only important enlargement of the Tower after that time was the building of the wharf, begun by Edward III (1327-77) and completed under Richard II (1377-99).
Today the medieval defences remain relatively unchanged, except at the western entrance.
The Tower in the 20th century
The First World War (1914-18) left the Tower largely untouched; the only bomb to fall on the fortress landed in the moat. However, the war brought the Tower of London back into use as a prison for the first time since the early 19th century and between 1914 and 1916 eleven spies were held and subsequently executed in the Tower.
Bomb damage to the Old Hospital Block, recorded by the war artist Alastair Stewart in 1941.
The Tower's role as a place of imprisonment and execution effectively came to an end during the Second World War (1939-45) with the confinement of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's Deputy Reichsführer, in the Queen's House for four days in May 1941, and the execution of the spy Joseph Jakobs on 14 August. Bomb damage to the Tower during the Second World War was much greater: a number of buildings were severely damaged or destroyed including the mid-19th century North Bastion, which received a direct hit on 5 October 1940, and the Hospital Block which was partly destroyed during an air raid in the same year. Incendiaries also destroyed the Main Guard, a late 19th-century building to the south west of the White Tower.
During the Second World War the Tower was closed to the public. The moat, which had been drained and filled in 1843, was used as allotments for vegetable growing and the Crown Jewels were removed from the Tower and taken to a place of safety, the location of which has never been disclosed. After the war, the Tower of London reopened its gates and resumed life as one of the world's major tourist attractions; today, over 2.5 million visitors a year come to discover its long and eventful history, its buildings, ceremonies and traditions.