Tower of London

Tower of London, London


St Katharine's & Wapping





The Tower of London needs no introduction. Its history mirrors that of England from the occupation of Roman Legions through to the Second World War.

We highly recommend the Twilight tour of the Tower when the gates are closed to tourists, the lights are turned on and the atmosphere of the whole castle changes entirely.

~ History ~


43AD ~ The Romans build a fort, in the walled city they call Londinium.


530 ~ King Bran Hen of Bryneich is killed in battle and requests that his head is buried, as a talisman against invasion, on Gwynfryn (the 'White Mount') where the Tower of London now stands.

'Bran' is the Celtic word for 'raven' - origin of the Tower of London ravens legend


885 ~ King Alfred the Great rebuilds part of the old Londinium Roman Wall.


1066 ~ William the Conqueror invades England and defeats the Saxon army of Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

1067 ~ A Norman Motte and Bailey Castle is built within the old Roman walls of Londinium. William the Conqueror is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.


1078 ~ A stone built, fortified Tower is commissioned by King William to replace the timber tower. The Norman Master Builder awarded the task is Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester.


1087 ~ King William dies at Saint-Gervais near Rouen, France. William's son, William 'Rufus', is crowned King William II of England.

1091 ~ A great storm damages the fortified timber outworks protecting the building of The Tower and requires repairs.


1097 ~ Work on the White Tower is completed and the inner ward of The Tower is enclosed.

1100 ~ William Rufus is killed by an arrow whilst out hunting in the New Forest. His brother Henry, who was with the hunting party, races off shortly afterwards to claim thecrown for himself.

Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham, becomes the first recorded prisoner in the Tower of London.

1101 ~ Bishop Ranulf Flambard escapes from the Tower of London.


1135 ~ Following the death of King Henry I, his nephew Stephen claims the throne against Henry's daughter Matilda. The Kingdom is consumed into bitter civil war.


1154 ~ Empress Matilda's son Henry, is crowned King Henry II.

1190 ~ Under Henry II son, King Richard, work commences on turning the Tower of London into a concentric fortress with two towered curtain walls surrounded by a great ditch as additional defence.

King Richard the Lionheart embarks on the Crusades. William Longchamp, the Bishop of Ely, is appointed his regent - Justiciar of all England and Constable of the Tower of London. Whilst residing in the fortress he seizes land from the city and of St. Katharine's Hospital and expands the Tower further still.

1191 ~ King Richard's younger brother, Prince John opposes the powerful Bishop Longchamp and lays siege to the Tower of London. After only three days, lack of provisions forces Bishop Longchamp to surrender.


1210 ~ King John takes up residence in the Tower.

A moat is dug outside the City of London wall. The City ditch drains into the Tower moat causing a foul smell in the Tower and causes friction between King John and the Londoners


1215 ~ The whole Tower is held in pledge for the completion of Magna Charta following the King's cival war with his Barons.


1216 ~ King John loses the Crown Jewels, which were kept in Westminster Abbey, in quicksand.

Following his death his ten year old son is crowned King Henry III. Further work continues on the additional Tower of London defences


1236 ~ Like his father before him, King Henry experiences opposition to his rule by the Baron's. He takes refuge in the Tower from the Barons


1238 ~ Once again, King Henry is forced to take refuge in the Tower from the Barons.

Extensive building work to further strengthen the Tower of London are commissioned by the King, recognising the key strategic importance of the castle. A massive £21,000 is spent on significant improvements over the next few decades.


1241 ~ The Welsh Prince Gruffydd is imprisoned in the Tower.

1244 ~ In  a bid to escape from the Tower, Gruffydd falls to his death from one of the towers.

1263 ~ King Henry's bitter dispute with his Barons erupts into open Civil War, led by Simon de Montfort. King Henry is forced to submit to the formation of the first English Parliament.


1272 ~ King Henry's son, King Edward I continues the castle building initiated by his father.


1303 ~ The Crown Jewels are moved from Westminster Abbey to the Tower which serves as the treasury.


1307 - The Tower of London plays a crucial role ofroyal refuge during the reign of King Edward II as he struggles maintain royal authority. Improvements are made to the Tower of London defences including the curtain walls


1324 ~ Roger Mortimer, the first Earl of March, leads the Barons in a rebellion against King Edward II.

He is incarcerated in the Tower but manages to escape to France, followed by his lover, Isabella of France, wife of Edward II and Queen of England.


1327 ~ King Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son, Edward III. England is ruled by Mortimer and Isabella who arrange the murder of King Edward II at Berkeley Castle.

1330 ~ Following King Edward III coming of age, he incarcerates Roger Mortimer in the Tower. He is then condemned without trial and hanged.


1338 ~ King Edward III pawns the Crown Jewels in order to pay his troops at the start of the Hundred Years War, This practice is forbidden after his reign.


1348 ~ The Black Death ravages England killing nearly one third of the population. In London it is much worse and the population almost halves to 30,000. Princess Joan, one of the Kings daughters, is killed by the Black Death. The moat is drained as it is feared as an additional health hazard.


1381 ~ Edward III grandson, King Richard II, sees the Tower come under siege by English peasants.

The Peasant's Revolt is instigated by a new poll tax and peasants march on London led by Wat Tyler and John Bull. King Richard II and many of his family and household are forced to shelter in the Tower while over 10,000 rebels plunder and burn London for two days.

Part of  the Tower is occupied by the rebels, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King's Treasurer are captured and beheaded. The fourteen year old King Richard rides out to meet and pacifies the peasants in Blackheath.

Wat Tyler is later killed by Mayor Walworth and his men. John Ball is hung, drawn and quartered.


1387 ~ The King and his Queen take refuge in the Tower again when his Barons clashed with Robert de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.


1399 ~ John of Gaunt dies and King Richard seizes his lands. Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke invades England, whilst Richard is away on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne from the king.


King Richard II is condemned as a tyrant. He isforced to renounce the Crown in his chamber in the White Tower and Henry IV is proclaimed King the next day.


1413 ~ Henry IV dies suffering from leprosy and epilepsy. His son is proclaimed King Henry V.


1419 ~ The notorious Dowager Queen of England, Joan of Navarre, is accused by her stepson King Henry V of witchcraft and necromancy. She is later acquitted.


1465 ~ The mentally unstable and pious Lancastrian King Henry VI and his headstrong and ambitious wife Margaret of Anjou, are imprisoned in the Tower of London by the rival King Edward IV during the Civil War of the Roses.

1470 ~ King Henry is briefly restored to power.


1471 ~ The last Lancastrian King is murdered in the Wakefield Tower, whilst he was at prayer, on the orders of the Yorkist King Edward IV.


1478 ~ George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of King Edward IV is executed for treason in the Tower of London.

1483 ~ King Edward IV young son, Edward V, is on his way to his coronation in London but is intercepted by his uncle, and Protector Richard.  Edward is escorted to London and then to the Tower. He is later joined by his brother Prince Richard. The coronation is cancelled.

The thirteen year old King and his ten year old brother mysteriously disappear in the Tower after being declared illegitimate. It is soon rumoured they have been murdered. Their uncle is declared King Richard III.


1485 ~ A Lancastrian rebellion led by Henry Tudor against the Yorkist King Richard culminates in the Battle of Bosworth. King Richard III is killed in battle when his ally Lord Stanley decides to support Henry at a key point in the Battle. King Henry VII cements his succession and settles the friction between the Yorkists and Lancastrians by marrying the Yorkist heir, King Edward IV daughter, Elizabeth of York.


1487 ~ Lambert Simne, imposter and pretender to the English throne, is defeated at the battle of Stoke, taken prisoner but later pardoned and employed as a scullion in the royal kitchen at the Tower of London.


1499 ~ Perkin Warbeck, also claims to be one of the murdered Princes in the Tower. He is interrogated and executed at the Tower of London.


1513 ~  Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, has a strong Yorkist claim to the throne as a descendent of King Edward III. He is imprisoned for years and is finally executed by King Henry VIII.


1515 ~ Gun emplacements are improvised during the reign of Henry VIII. The roof of the White Tower is strengthened to take the weight of cannon


1530 ~ Extensive building and repairs to the Royal Lodgings are conducted under the orders of Henry VIII in preparation of the coronation of Anne Boleyn. The work is supervised by Thomas Cromwell.


1533 ~ King Henry divorces his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marries Anne Boleyn. The procession takes Anne from the Tower of London  to Westminster Abbey for her coronation.


1534 ~ King Henry VIII breaks with the Church in Rome with the Act of Supremacy, which makes the King head of the Church of England. The Tower expands the role of prison for a large number of religious and political prisoners.


1535 ~ Sir Thomas Moore and Bishop Fisher of Rochester are executed for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the English Church


1536 ~ Anne Boleyn is arrested and taken to the Tower via Traitor's Gate. She is tried for treason, adultery and incest in the Great Hall of the Tower of London and later executed on Tower Hill.

Within 24 hours of Anne Boleyn's execution, Jane Seymour and Henry VIII are formally betrothed.

Later in the same year they marry and Jane dies a premature death after giving birth to Henry's son.

1540 ~ King Henry VIII marries Anne of Cleves but the marriage is annulled. Thomas Cromwell is blamed, imprisoned in the Tower, then executed on Tower Hill.

The 49 year old King Henry then marries the 19 year old Catherine Howard.

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is executed in the Tower.


1542 ~ Catherine Howard executed for adultery


1543 ~ King Henry marries Katherine Parr. She has a near brush with death linked with heretical religious reformers including the tragic Anne Askew who is tortured on the rack in the tower.


1547 ~ King Henry's nine year old son by Jane Seymour Edward is crowned King Edward IV V.


1548 ~ Thomas Seymour is imprisoned in the Tower, then beheaded on Tower Hill.


1552 ~ The young King's protector, the Duke of Somerset, and his confederates meet their death at the Tower.


1553 ~ King Edward dies of tuberculosis leaving the throne to 'the Lady Jane and her heirs male.'

Lady Jane Grey is proclaimed Queen of England. Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley are takento the Royal Apartments in the Tower of London. Nine days later she is deposed by the supporters of Mary, King Henry VIII's  daughter by Queen Katherine of Aragon. Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley are executed at the Tower of London


1554 ~ Mary's younger sister Princess Elizabeth is imprisoned in the Tower for eight weeks.


1556 ~ As part of Queen Mary's persecution of the protestant faith in her persuit to restore Catholicism, 'Bloody Mary' has Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Latimer, condemned to death for heresy, imprisoned in the Tower before being burned at the stake at Oxford. A further 300 protestants meet the same fate before her own death two years later.

1558 ~ Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen Elizabeth I.


1563 ~ When the Black Death breaks out in London, Queen Elizabeth I moves her court to Windsor Castle where she erects gallows and orders that anyone coming from London was to be hanged.


1158 ~ Three relatives of William Shakespeare are sent to the Tower. Edward Arden, the head of the Catholic Arden Family is executed for his Catholic beliefs and for plotting against the life of the Queen. Edward Arden's son-in-law, John Somerville, is also arrested, tortured on the rack and dies in the Tower of London for being supporters of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots


1585 ~ Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, dies in mysterious circumstances in the Tower by three bullet holes in the chest.


1601 ~ Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex is executed on Tower Green.

The Royal Mint is extended and new storehouses are built for royal military supplies


1603 ~ King James I arrives at the Tower on the day of his arrival in London from Edinburgh and stays for several nights.


1613 ~ Sir Thomas Overbury, poet and courtier, is poisoned in the Tower.


1618 ~ Sir Walter Raleigh is held in the Wardrobe Tower and the Brick Tower before being beheaded in Old Palace Yard.


1625 - Charles, the second son of King James is crowned King Charles I.


1629 ~ The King's chief opponent in Parliament Sir John Eliot, is imprisoned in the Tower of London until his death three years later.


1642 ~ Civil war breaks out between King and Parliament.


1643 ~ The Tower is seized from the King by parliamentarians and remains in their hands throughout the Civil War  during which time a permanent garrison is installed.


1649 ~ King Charles I is beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.


1649 ~ The Crown Jewels are ordered to be broken up as being symbolic of the 'detestable rule of kings'. Many precious stones are sold separately but some ancient pieces are sold intact and subsequently returned to the crown.


1660 ~ King Charles eldest son is Crowned King Charles II.

Major improvements to the Tower's defences are made and batteries of guns are set in place along the walls and the arsenal is expanded. The garrison is used to quell disturbances in the City of London.

The function of the Tower declines to a state prison.

Replacements for the lost Crown Jewels are purchased at a cost of nearly £13,000.

1666 ~ The Tower narrowly escapes destruction from the Great Fire of London.

1671 ~ Colonel Thomas Blood and his men triy to steal the Crown Jewels from the Martin Tower.

1685 ~ James, brother of King Charles II is crowned King James II.

James crushes a rebellion of Protestants who rally around his nephew James, Duke of Monmouth, the son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter. Monmouth is captured and beheaded on Tower Hill.


1688 ~ The Catholic King James II is deposed and replaced by by his Protestant daughter and son-in-law, Mary II and William III, who became joint Sovereigns.


1689 ~ Hanging Judge Jeffreys dies in the Tower - he had sentenced 320 at the 'Bloody Assizes' to be executed or transported to the Penal colonies.


1690 ~ At the Battle of Boyne in Ireland the deposed King James makes one final attempt to regain the crown, but his French and Irish forces are soundly defeated.


1694 ~ Following Mary's death William of Orange rules alone until his own death eight years later.


1702 ~ Mary's sister Anne is crowned Queen Anne following the death of William.

The Monarchy no longer use the Tower of London for State apartments and so showed little interest in the castle.


1780 ~ Following the reigns of King James I great grandson George I, his son George II and his son George III, the Tower holds its only American prisoner, former President of the Continental Congress, Henry Laurens.


1804 ~ The Tower of London menagerie is opened to the Public until it leaves the Lion Tower thirty years later.


1841 ~ During Queen Victoria's reign the Grand Storehouse burns down during a great fire at the Tower and many weapons are destroyed.

1843 ~ The moat is drained and filled.


1848 ~ Revolution sweeps across Europe and in London the Chartist movement delivers a petition to Parliament asserting the rights of ordinary people. Fear that a revolutionary  mob might storm the Tower prompts a final refortification of the Tower of London.


1842 ~ Waterloo Barracks are built to house 1,000 soldiers and new loop-holes and gun emplacements are built.


1914 ~ A German bomb falls into the moat missing the castle.


1916 ~ German spies are shot in the tower


1933 ~ Army officer, and Traitor, Norman Baillie-Stewart is the last British citizen held for any length of time in the Tower of London.


1940 ~ The castle receives direct hits from German bombs. Many castle buildings are destroyed.


1941 ~ The last prisoner of the Tower of London, Corporal Josef Jakobs, a German spy, is executed.


1942 ~ Hitler's Deputy Rudolf Hess, is imprisoned in the Tower of London for four days.


1945 ~ The Crown Jewels are returned to the Tower at the end of the Second World War.


1952 ~ The Kray twins are held in the Tower for 4 days for failing to report for national service, making them amongst the last prisoners of the Tower of London.