If you’re into history and/or Game of Thrones, then the Tower of London is somewhere you absolutely must see. This old-timey Guantanamo Bay is not only an iconic symbol of London, but it is home to the Crown Jewels and lots of great examples of medieval furniture and weapons. The actual Tower of London is the bit in the centre (the White Tower), and was used as a prison for over 800 years – from 1100 until 1952, when the famous London gangsters the Kray twins were imprisoned there! It’s also been used as a Royal residence, and these changing purposes really contribute to the Tower’s history, and the way we see it today. It gets over 2 and a half million visitors a year, and has been mentioned in lots and lots of films that are set in London.
The White Tower was built in 1078, and the area around it grew a lot bigger in the period up until 1200. William the Conqueror (who had recently won the Battle of Hastings) wanted to make sure his invasion was successful and permanent, so he built lots of castles and fortresses in the South East of England. The Tower of London was built on the site where some of the old Roman city walls were, which shows just how steeped in history the Tower is. Fun fact about its first prisoner – he was also the first to escape the Tower! Bishop Ranulf Flambard was held there, and although he was hated by the English, he was allowed to have servants and live in relative luxury. He smuggled some rope into the Tower via a barrel of wine, and after getting his captors drunk, he took the rope and escaped out the window.
The main expansion of the Tower of London took place in a time of conflict, after the Magna Carta was signed. The King and much of the aristocracy were quarrelling a lot, but King Henry III didn’t seem to listen to them very much. He spent huge sums of money on making the Tower of London both a formidable prison and a comfy place to live. The Tower was generally reserved for high-ranking (i.e. those with political significance) prisoners, and its most famous inmate was possibly Queen Elizabeth I. She was imprisoned before she was Queen, by her sister Bloody Mary, as someone had led an uprising against Mary in Elizabeth’s name.
As well as the Tower itself being a fascinating sight to see and explore, it’s also home to the Crown Jewels. This includes the crown and the sceptre the Queen wears for many formal State functions and events, as well as a lot of other riches belonging to the crown – for instance, the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Very cool stuff.
The Tower of London can be reached by Tube at Tower Hill station, or DLR at Tower Gateway. You can also walk there via London/Tower Bridge if you get to London Bridge underground station. Admission costs £11 for a child, and £18.70 for a student ticket for those of you who are over 16!
Image from: http://www.tracyanddale.50megs.com/England/London/tolondon.html