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Tower Part 2

Map - Tower 3

Continue to your left and to the entrance to the White Tower ( map location A ). This structure was started during the reign of William the Conqueror ( 1066 - 1087 ) and was completed around 1097. When it was completed it was the tallest structure in London at 27 metres ( 90 foot ) in height. The walls are 4.6 metres ( 15 feet ) thick at the base and 3.3 metres ( 11 feet ) at the top. They were built of Kentish rag, a rough limestone quarried near Maidstone. Caen stone, a finer limestone from Normandy, was used sparingly. For visual effect as well as protection from the weather, the walls were regularly whitewashed.

As a palace fortress, the White Tower was designed to accommodate both the Monarch and the Constable of the Tower, who commanded the garrison. Both occupied different regions of the building. The Constable occupied the lower floor near the entrance while the Monarch occupied the upper floor.

After a century, as the castle was enlarged, the Constable took up residence at a key point in the new defences while the royalty moved to new palaces outside the White Tower structure. However, the monarchs still worshipped in the chapel located in the White Tower and used its security in times of crisis and for secure meetings with their advisors.

Walls of the White Tower

By the end of Elizabeth I's reign, the White Tower had become an armoury, a storeroom for palace furnishings and a wardrobe. By the eighteenth century most of the rooms were given over to military stores and the rest to public records.

Inside the White Tower you will a vast array of exhibits spread over a number of different floors. An extensive displays of arms and armoury includes items for war, for tournaments, for hunting for self-defence, for display and fashion. You will find displays from all over Europe ranging from the Saxons and Vikings up to modern times. On the second floor you will find the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist. Although simple and relatively bare it is good example or Norman architecture with undecorated but finely finished stones.

Exhibit inside White Tower

South of the entrance to the White Tower and just inside the inner Tower wall you will find the Raven's lodgings ( map location B ). As well as the Yeoman Warders these birds are probably the most famous residents of the Tower. They have been here for over 900 years and legend has it that Charles II was warned that should the Ravens leave the Tower then the monarchy would fall so to the White Tower. He therefore ordered that a small population should always remain there. Since this time the Ravens have been protected by royal decree.

Entrance to the White Tower

The fortunes of the Ravens reached a low point during the Second World War  when only a single Raven remained. Fortunately for the monarchy new recruits were added and the Tower now maintains a full complement of birds.

Each resident Raven of the Tower can be identified by their coloured leg-rings. Each has their own territory and respond only to The Ravenmaster and may attack if approached too closely by strangers.

Walls of the White Tower

From the Raven's home head north west towards Tower Green and the Scaffold Site ( map location C ). This area of the Tower was home to some of the more famous inhabitants of the Tower. One of these being Sir Walter Ralegh who was held in the Bloody Tower ( to the south ). The Scaffold Site is where two wives of Henry VIII's were beheaded ( being Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howeard ). The Chapel Royal of St Peter as Vincula ( just to the north of the Scaffold Site ) is open to the public, as part of the Yeoman Warder guided tour, except Sunday mornings when services are held. The Chapel is also approximately open one and a half hours before Tower closing. You can also take a look inside Beauchamp Tower, which is nearby the Scaffold Site.

From the Scaffold site head east towards Waterloo Block which houses the Crown Jewels ( map location D ). The Waterloo Block ( or Barracks ) was built while the Duke of Wellington was Constable of the Tower ( 1826 - 1852 ) to provide accommodation for about 1,000 soldiers. The Tower of London has been home to the Crown Jewels of England since early in the fourteenth century. The Jewels are still used by the Royal family. The Jewels are on display in a number of cabinets throughout various rooms and have been on display in the Tower ( in various locations ) since the 17th century. For some of the more popular displays you will need to stand on a moving walkway. This ensures a continuous flow of traffic.

Guard outside Waterloo Block

Much of the collection dates from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, when Charles II ascended to the throne after the defeat of Oliver Cromwell, who had ordered that the old jewels be 'totally broken, and that they melt down all the gold and silver, and sell the jewels to the best advantage of the Commonwealth'. The collection houses such notable pieces as the Imperial State Crown made for the Queen Victoria in 1837 and used at every coronation since. The Crown Jewels also incorporate such valuables as the largest top quality cut diamond in the world, The First Star of Africa, which weighs just over 530 carats and is set in the head of the Scepter with the Cross. 

Once you have finished with the Crown Jewels head east towards the Fusiliers' Museum ( map location E ). Because this is an independent museum there is a small admission charge.

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was founded in 1685 by James II ( 1685 - 1688 ) to protect the royal guns kept within the Tower. The Fusiliers were the first regiment to be armed with an improved musket, a fusil, which gave them their name. Inside you'll find information about the history of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers including conflicts such as the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, Boer War, both World Wars, Northern Ireland and the recent Gulf War.

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