The Tower of London: Millennia of History

hello and welcome back to the channel if

you're new here

hi you're very welcome this is reading

the past

and i'm dr cat and today's video comes

from a viewer question

or suggestion i was asked to speak a

little bit more about the history of the

tower of london

and i'll be honest when i first saw this

question i was daunted

in the extreme i had no idea of how to

even begin to approach this topic

because when i think of the history of

the tower of london i think more

generally of the site

upon which the tower now stands and when

you think about that site

you're talking about millennia of

history because we think that at the

very latest

this site was in use from the iron h

before the roman invasion

how do i cover that much history in a 20

to 30 minute video

make it interesting engaging and


and then i remember the work of an

artist called ivan lapper

and he was commissioned to make a series

of impressions

of the site of the tower of london

throughout its history

and you can find those on

and also some of them in this video i'll

be leaving the ruk link

in the description box as well i think

ivan lappa's work

is a fascinating way to organize this


because it charts the history of the

site and i think that it will be useful

for all of us

to go through it that way i hope you



of course i am aware there is a

potential downside of approaching this

topic in this way

and that is that there may be areas or

parts of the topic that you would like

me to have gone into more depth about

so i think the fairest thing is for you

to watch this video see what you would

like more information on and let me know

either in the comment section underneath

this video or come over to my social

media and comment on the post which i'm

using to talk about this video

over on instagram or twitter as always

i'll be leaving my instagram and twitter

linked in the description box as well

what does the site on which the travel

london now stands offer

well it has the river thames which is a

useful defensive barrier to the south of

the site

it at least at one point would have been

a useful

source for water although i certainly

wouldn't recommend

drinking bathing or washing your clothes

in river thames today

i don't think it's anywhere near clean

enough it was also a

vital means of transporting people and

goods and indeed

it is still used in that way today these

aspects which went

far in allowing london to flourish into

the metropolis we know it as today

have been prized for millennia and they

go some way to explaining the evidence


which suggests there has been continual

activity on the site which now holds the

trial of london

for at least as long as that the roman

invasion of britain

brought a variety of technical advances

to everyday life

the roman skill at road building and

revolutionizing transport

is just one more famous form of this

nevertheless controlling river thames

was still vital for security

and trade the site on which the tower

london now stands

is on the eastern riverside edge of the

walled city of roman londinium

part of this wall still stands today but

where it is lost we are reminded of its


by the road named london wall and also

by place names

like all gate bishops gate moorgate

cripplegate ordersgate newgate and


as well as making life in romano britain

a little easier

and safer this new infrastructure of


and security networks also stamped the

identity of the invading people onto the

land they were claiming

practicality merged with propaganda

and as you will see this would become

the hallmark for the site of the tower

of london

for the rest of its existence and


it remains the case today roman


and its surrounding wall like much other

romano british building work

began to fall into disrepair with the

end of roman britain

however disrepair did not mean the same

as complete destruction

and this fact would prove to be

extremely fortuitous

for another invader of england in the

11th century

william duke of normandy sometime known

as william the bastard

later william the conqueror turned up in


like his roman predecessors he and his

knights were outnumbered by the existing


themselves a hodgepodge of migrants

invaders and indigenous peoples

with william's victory at hastings he

began to fortify his new land

on his orders building work on the tower

of london

and most specifically on the white tower

as it is now known was begun

the first version of williams tower is

believed to have been a

timber structure as indeed many of his

fortifications were

evidently he recognized the defensive

value of the remaining roman wall

and river thames the south he saw the


to fortify london in order to subdue any

rebellious uprising

no doubt this was part of his reasoning

for replacing his wooden structure

with a stone one the norman monk gundolf

who was also bishop of rochester was

tasked with overseeing this building


cairnstone was imported from france to

be carved by norman masons

but ultimately to be erected by a labor

force which was principally made up of

the conquered people

the white tower as it is now known was

to be a multi-purpose space

by being placed at the easternmost edge

of the city of london

on the banks of the river itself this

was a defensive structure

that could protect the political and

commercial heart of the nation

from any attack that might come up river

from the sea

it was a place for the royal household

to stay in safety

and in relative comfort it offered


a place to worship in the beautiful

chapel of saint john

it would be a storehouse and a place to

house troops

but it was also a clear message to the

surrounding community

in a time when the nation's buildings

were predominantly single-story edifices

once finished williams tower which was

built on a hill

would be visible for miles around

it was to be an indelible mark of

subjugation on the landscape

a reminder and a warning

there was a new world order compliance

would be in everyone's best interests

william would not live long enough to

see his tower of london complete it

in fact we don't think it was finished

until towards the end of the next reign

that of his son and heir william ii also

known as william rufus

however it is believed the tower would

have to wait until the next reign

that of william rufus's brother henry

the first

before it would find itself being put to

its most infamous use

that of a prison in 1100

which is the year that some claim the

tower itself was actually completed

ranolf flambard bishop of durham is

believed to have been the tower's first

state prisoner

henry the first saw him as a useful

scapegoat for the unpopular taxation

that had been levied during his brother

william rufus's reign so the story goes

during ranol flambard six months in

prison he managed to hatch a daring plan

allegedly he got his jailers drunk on

barrels of wine that he had brought in

and using a length of rope that he had

also smuggled in in one of those wine


he escaped from a window to a waiting

boat bound for normandy

now is this what happened or did the man

who could believably afford to bring in

barrels of wine

also have the capacity to bribe a guard


guards to help him escape regardless

despite the fearsome reputation that it

would come to have in later centuries

as a prison the tower of london started

out with a 100 percent failure rate

and ranol flambard would not be the last

person to escape

in this image we are being shown an

impression of how the site may have

looked in the year 1200

during the reign of king john the tower

and wall have been completed

however in the wall there is an opening

being shown leading to the river

now we've jumped forward 40 years to

circa 1240

a time when henry iii was king and it

seems that the opening the wall that had

once led the river has now been closed

henry also is said to have been

responsible for ordering the tower to be


making it the white tower staying in

henry iii

reign in 1241 we see the inner curtain

wall as

it would become being re-fortified and

a new moat being dug throughout the


henry iii's work on the tower of london

made it the most secure it had been so


however despite all of these

improvements henry's moat

failed to account for the fact that the

thames is a tidal river

therefore at low tide the moat would be

at best a muddy puddle

henry iii son edward the first widened

his father's moat

and he also added sluice gates which

corrected his father's oversight about

the tidal nature of the thames

now when the moat was filled at high

tide the sluice gates would close

when the tide went out the moat would

remain full

edward fortified the castle in a further

way by adding an extra wall

this outer curtain wall made the tower

of london the nation's largest

and most fortified concentric castle

right next to the river thames thomas's

tower was built also on edward's orders

beneath this tower is the water gate

it is thought that edward had his own

apartments placed in this tower

which on the surface at least doesn't

make much sense it's not the most secure

place for the king to be

right on the edge of his defensive

structure vulnerable to attack from the


however what this would allow was for

edward to

enter and exit the tower of london and

his royal apartments

simply by the watergate he would not

have to move through the body of the

tower itself

and he could avoid potentially being

petitioned or accosted by people within

the tower

during his reign edward the first did

not spend a lot of time at the tower

however the tower of london has

reconstructed what they think the royal

apartments might have looked like

and from this reconstruction we can see

that luxury was still possible

and indeed expected in this image we are

being shown

a close-up of the detail of what the

area in front of the white tower

may have looked like during the reign of

edward the first we have a complex of

royal apartments and other buildings a


and a great hall and this complex in

some way was still standing in 1533

however the hall and royal apartments

which at this point were being used to

house the queen

were being refitted in fine style

further to this

the white tower itself would be spruced

up redecorated

and given the ornamental cupolas that it

still sports

however in 1533 they would have looked

even more splendid

because they were painted and gilded

all of this the outlay of money the

display of magnificence was being done

in honour of the coronation of henry

viii's second wife and queen

anne boleyn like his predecessors

henry viii is using the visibility of

his tower

to announce the legitimacy of his new

marriage and his queen's right to her


it was being written in stone it was

unassailable and immutable

or at least it would be for as long as

henry willed it to be so

because as we know three years later in


and would be back in the royal lodgings

only this time

she would be awaiting her trial and that

trial would take place

in the great hall at the tower of london

once convicted she would return to those


to await her execution i would argue

that the tower's

fearsome reputation its most prominent


was most shaped during the reign of

henry viii

here we see an artist's impression of

the tower of london at the end of

henry's reign in 1547

this is the tower complex in its full


it is a village supporting henry's


a royal mint was installed at the tower

of london by edward the first and

coin was still being minted here during

the reign of henry viii

among many things henry viii is of

course famous for debasing the english


and that great crime against his people

was therefore being perpetrated here as


henry like monarchs before and after him

stored his most valuable possessions in

the tower of london

it was also a place where he had his

munitions made and

kept we can see tower wharf running in

front of the tower

this was completed during the reign of

richard ii

if we are seeking evidence for the way

that henry viii's reign

affected the reputation of the tower of

london then as far as i'm concerned we

need look no further

than edward the first watergate because

that is how it used to be known

but because of the activities and events

that were signed off by henry viii

during his reign we now know the

watergate by a far more common

and ominous name we call it

gate here the artist shows us his

impression of how the tower may have


in 1700. william of orange remains on

the throne

after the death of his wife and co-ruler

mary ii

from this image we see the interior

buildings appear to have been rebuilt in


and the tudor palace that henry and ann

berlin would have known

has been replaced during the reign of

elizabeth the first

she received reports of the growing

dilapidation of this complex of tudor


perhaps unsurprisingly elizabeth

declined to fund their upkeep

and i think we can all understand why if

we think about her mother's connection

to these rooms

and also elizabeth's own connection to


when she was imprisoned on the orders of

her half-sister mary the first

it is believed that she may have been

placed in the same rooms that her mother

was kept in

before her own coronation and execution

it is hard to believe that elizabeth the

first would not have associated the

tower of london

with traumatic and unhappy memories

but nevertheless she still agrees to

fund the upkeep and maintenance of the

exterior walls

of this site i believe that like her

father before her

and indeed the monarchs that came before

him elizabeth the first was

acutely aware of the propaganda power of

the tower of london

that it was a sign and signifier of her

monarchical power

and the strength of her nation in 1841

fire destroyed a range of buildings the

north of the tower complex

this ruined and burnt out area would

become the site for the waterloo block

which today holds the jewel house and


an active duty military barracks filled

with soldiers

who are there to protect the site and

particularly the crown jewels

in addition to this devastating fire

during the 19th century

another era ended at the tower of london

the royal menagerie was moved

here we see an artist's impression of

that move taking place

the tower of london had been home to the

royal menagerie from the 13th century

over the centuries the animals that made

their way into the tower menagerie had

come into the country predominantly

as gifts from foreign rulers made to our


included in their number were lions an


a polar bear tigers various exotic birds

and primates all of which were forced to

make their permanent home at the tower

of london

originally the tower menagerie was

intended to serve the monarch and their


it was there for their amusement and

also as a sign of their status and power

eventually however the keepers of the

monastery at the tower of london

realized they could make

extra money if they are prepared to let

tourists in

people who will be prepared to pay for

the privilege of seeing these

magnificent beasts

up close unfortunately there are a

number of stories

of cruelty of negligent keeping of the


of animals attacking each other and also

members of the public

in 1824 the rspca was founded

two years later in 1826

the then constable of the tower of

london the duke of wellington

sent 150 animals away from the tower

to join a growing collection in regents

park this collection

is on the site of the modern day london

zoo the menagerie finally closed in 1835

and the remaining animals were sold off

either to other zoos

or perhaps more unfortunately to

traveling circuses

this artist's impression imagines the

animals leaving the tower in the


in 2010 kendra haste's wire sculptures

were commissioned

to commemorate the history of animal

keeping at the tower of london

here we have the tower as it may have

looked in the year 1890

the height of the victorian period the


is still clearly a supremely important

artery for the nation

full of boats we are also seeing


of the victorian practice and preference

for industrialization

the moat has been filled in indeed i

would argue that through this image we

are being shown

the most recognizable tower that we have

yet to see

what we can't see because we aren't

close enough in this image

is that it was during the victorian

period the tower really started to come

into its own

as a tourist attraction a place where

people wanted to visit

to see the crown jewels and importantly

to hear the tales of the yeoman waters

tales of bloodshed

torture imprisonment and horror it was

also on victoria's watch

the chapel of saint peter vincular in

the tower of london underwent a process

of restoration

the floor was dug up so the foundations

of the building could be re-fortified

during this time unsurprisingly a number

of skeletal remains were found

some of which were moved to beneath the


of the chapel among their number it is


is the body of ambulance it does seem

that victoria was quite interested by

the fate of henry's wives

and in particular and berlin because so

the story goes

on a visit to the tower of london she

asked one of her yeoman warders

to point out the spot on which amblin

was executed

well he wasn't sure but he didn't want

to say that in front of his queen so he


and just said there ma'am the spot he

indicated is now marks with a memorial

it is said to be the execution site for

a variety of people

including ambulance most scholars

dispute this was the site where anne was

executed they think it was further


but it is during this period we believe

that that myth

or if we're being unkind outright fib

first comes into being here we see the

tower of london as it may have looked

during the nights of 1940

on the occasions when it was subject to

the aerial bombardment of the luftwaffe

during the second world war to support

the war

effort the tower's moat had been

repurposed into an allotment

with the intention that it would help to

feed the people the tower of london was

also a site where prisons of war

could be incarcerated and it was also

where spies

and criminals of this period would face

the firing squad

during the bombardment of the blitz

bombs did fall on the tower of london

on one occasion very sadly a yeoman

warded by the name of reeves was killed

the buildings within the complex the

tower were also affected

the north bastion was destroyed and the

mint and the old hospital block were

badly damaged

additionally the centuries-old ceremony

of the keys which

still runs to this day even during the

pandemic was apparently

shockingly delayed and this was the

first time it ever happened according to

the record

the officer of the guard wrote to

apologize to his king george vi

for this delay and he offered his


the king replied with magnanimous

understanding that no punishment

or resignation would be necessary on

account of the bombs

here is the last of the artist's

impressions that i wish to look at

we are being shown the tower in 1999

as i think we all might recognize it

over the years the tower of london has

played a wide variety of roles

many of them it still continues to play

it has been a prison used to house

accused traitors

spies thieves murderers and even

people avoiding their military service

this was the case for the last known

prisoners to be held at the tower

in 1952 they were the twins

ronnie and reggie cray rather than being

held for

the gangstering that has made them

infamous these

east end lads had been conscripted for

their national service

with the royal fusiliers on their first

day they seemed to decided they weren't

going to stick around

ronnie punched a corporal and the pair

went home

the fusiliers were based at the tower

and so they went

and fetched the twins and brought them

back they were going to be imprisoned

for striking their nco

a non-commissioned officer they were

both imprisoned because nobody could be

completely sure which one of these

identical twins had actually done the


i assumed that in addition to this

violent act they were also being held


desertion after a few days being

imprisoned in the tower

the cray twins were transferred to a

place where they could be


and eventually dishonorably discharged

it's worth mentioning that should the

need arise the tower could still be used

to incarcerate

the tower is a royal palace a place of


but also comfort and luxury it has also

acts as a place of inquisition

torture trial and punishment for

centuries the tower of london has also

provided a home

for people who aren't royal and it

continues to do so today

the majority of the inhabitants now are

the yeoman warders and their families

in this tower they have essentially

their own village

with a doctor surgery a place to worship

and a local pup as i have mentioned


the tower of london at one time was the

home of royal beasts

in the royal menagerie it was also a

place where the currency of the realm

was made in the royal mint

it has and continues to be a storehouse

a jewel house and an archive or records

office an active duty military barracks

remains on the site

it is and has been a world famous museum

in fact it is recognized as a unesco

world heritage site

on this site is consecrated grounds a

place for worship

there is also a burial site at one time

the site also held an

armory a place where weapons would be

manufactured and stored

but what do you think as always i'm

looking forward to reading your

conversation in the comments section

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take care of yourselves bye for now