Few buildings in London can boast such an infamous history as the Tower of London. Its very name has become synonymous with imprisonment, death and unsavoury periods in British history.
Kings, queens and princes have all been unwilling residents of the tower at one point or another, and rarely did the story end well. Only a short journey from the Park Grand Hotel London, you’re ideally placed to see this beautiful – and dark – piece of London history.
To find the first signs of the Tower of London, we have to look all the way back to William the Conqueror. A powerful Norman lord, William famously invaded the British Isles in 1066 and swiftly moved to gain control of the entire nation.
Arriving in London, William saw that the local populace wasn’t so keen on their new French overlords and so endeavoured to build a castle from which his forces could operate. Spying ancient Roman walls, William decided to use these as ready-made defences, with the Thames providing additional protection.
Unlike today’s stone fortress, William’s effort used raised earth and wooden palisades. It wasn’t until the late 11th century that the site was rebuilt and fortified in stone. At the time of building, the White Tower portion of the build, which still stands today in near-perfect condition, was the first stone keep in the country.
Over the centuries, the Tower of London has seen its defences improved by, first, Richard I – as defence against his brother Prince John – Henry III and Edward I. It was the Tudor period that marked a downturn in the use of the Tower of London as a royal residence, and it is in this period that it became a place for storing the dangerous and the unwanted.
It wasn’t until 1687 when purpose-build dungeons and holding cells arrived for prisoners. Guy Fawkes was one of the most famous prisoners held at the tower, confessing to his role in the Gunpowder Plot after gruesome torture. Anne Boleyn and Sir Walter Raleigh also spent time at the tower during this period.
Much later, during World War Two, Adolph Hitler’s deputy Rudolph Hess was held at the tower, as was famed German spy Josef Jakobs.
How to See It
If you want to feel and experience the history of the Tower of London for yourself, you’ve got a couple of options. And you can access them all with ease from our hotels in Queens Gardens.
The first way to see the tower is a Thames Cruise. This will give you a good overview of the Tower of London and just how forbidding a place it is. The second option – and this will appeal to history lovers who want details – is a Beefeater guided tour.
A tour includes access to the Tower of London, admission to exhibitions – including the priceless Crown Jewels, the Yeoman Warder tour and, on many days, live historical re-enactments of famous scenes from the tower’s past.