The history of the Tower of London is a massive subject and I hope to provide information as concisely as possible, accompanied by historical detail. The White Tower was the first building to be constructed and the evidence points to this being undertaken on the orders of William the Conqueror. The white limestone imported from Caen, was costly and such that only a King could afford. Soon after his victory in 1066, the Conqueror set about constructing a ring of stone castles around London. He came with seven thousand men, when London had a population of two million people. The White Tower was intended to inspire awe in the population, overshadowing the wooden buildings of the city. Today it is dwarfed by the Shard and other tall buildings but is nevertheless majestic.
The White Tower would probably not have survived for a thousand years, without the building expansion undertake by William’s descendants, Henry III and Edward I. In order to make it impregnable to advances in weapons of war, such as siege towers and catapults, further external walls, a Gate House and a Moat were added as fortifications.
As well as keeping people out, the buildings show evidence of the Tower being used as a prison. In 1674, ten feet below the foundations, a wooden box containing the remains of two children was found. These are thought to be the remains of the sons of Edward 1V, held as prisoners by Richard 111 and never heard of again. There is no way of identifying the bones, but nonetheless they have been laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.
Beauchamp Tower, constructed by Edward 1. has graffiti cut into the stone walls. “Arundel” is thought to have been carved by the Duke of Arundel imprisoned by Elizabeth 1 and the inscription “Jane”, by a supporter of Jane Grey. Under the floor of the Chapel of St. Peter Vincula, constructed by Henry V111, lie what are thought to be the remains of Queen Anne Boleyn, executed on Tower Green, 19th May 1536.
Before the two World Wars of the twentieth century, only seven people were executed within the Tower. Most condemned prisoners were sent to the scaffold on Tower Hill, and their heads were exhibited on London Bridge. These numbered one hundred and twelve prisoners executed over a four-hundred-year period. As well as imprisonment and executions, the Tower was a place where torture was carried out to extract information and confessions of wrongdoing. Staff were required, as they are today, to work in the Tower. Marks scorched onto the walls, and doors of lodgings are thought to have been made deliberately , using the candle flame to ward off ghosts and spirits.
The Tower of London today, is probably most associated with the keeping of the Crown Jewels. These are the Orb, Sceptre and Crown, used in the Coronation of the Monarch and produced at State Openings of Parliament. Originally kept at the Palace of Westminster, they were moved in the seventeenth century to the Tower of London. In 1671 Thomas Blood tried his luck at robbery. Posing as a priest, he succeeded in getting the Keeper of the Jewels to allow him to view them. Big mistake on the part of the Keeper. Blood actually succeeded in breaking the sceptre into two and smashing the Crown, before he was interrupted by the guards. Today the jewels are worth £3,666.226.719 GPP.
The Tower of London hosted a Menagerie, which was started in the reign of King John 1166 – 1216. This gradually grew in size due to gifts from foreign princes. In 1235 the animals included a polar bear, which secured by a chain, which was encouraged to feed from the Thames to reduce the cost of its maintenance. The keeping of a Menagerie was ended by the Duke of Wellington, when he was appointed as Constable of the Tower of London 1825 – 1852. During that time Wellington was also responsible for the reconstruction of buildings, after a great fire, caused by overheated flues in the Bowyer Tower. The scale of the fire was graphically shown in paintings by J.M .W Turner. Wellington also drained the Moat, which over the years had turned into an unpleasant bog.
There is evidence that Edward 1 used the Tower as a place to mint silver coins. Coins with his image have been found during excavations, together with the tools the workmen used for making them. No Monarch has lived at the Tower of London since Elizabeth 1, but the presence of the Crown Jewels ensures that Yeoman Warders, continue to guard the Tower and secure it at night. The Ceremonial Changing of the Keys takes place every evening at 9:55pm. after which the doors are all locked. Yeoman Warders have been appointed as Tower Guards for over five hundred years, They became known as Beefeaters, possibly due to the amount of meat which was provided for their consumption! The Duke of Wellington ended the practice of purchasing this position, so that men and women were then taken from the armed forces, to ensure the smooth running the Tower. Today they act as Guides to the public, as well as cleaning the grounds and buildings. Most important job is to look after the ravens, a flock being present since the reign of Charles 11. Legend has it that if the ravens are lost or fly away the Kingdom and the Tower will fall. No chances must be taken then.
In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.
Maybe you don’t know what that kind of gothic spire is in front of Charing Cross station in London. Don’t worry we explain everything here. Edward I was a king of England in the thirteenth century and was known for his lavish lifestyle. He loved to spend money and had a fondness for extravagant items such as jewellery and tapestries. His wife, Eleanor of Castile, died in 1290 advertisement Harby near Lincoln. Charing Cross is one of twelve crosses called Eleanor Cross that the king had built to mark where his wife’s funeral procession stopped.
The cross was destroyed in the year 1647 by the Puritans during the English Civil War. After the construction of Charing Cross station in 1865, a reproduction of Eleanor Cross was created and placed outside the station and not in its original place in Trafalgar Square where the equestrian sculpture dedicated to Carlo.
The reproduction was created by the architect EM Barry himself who built the railway station. He used uncommon images available from the original. at the top, there are eight images of Eleonora, 4 as a queen, with imperial symbols and 4 represented as a Christian. Below are curved angels and shields with royal weapons and those of Ponthieu, Castile and Leon, all copied from still extant Eleanor Crosses who were at Waltham Cross and Northampton.
King Tutankhamun was the last of his family to rule Egypt 1334 – 1325 BC. He is famous because of the discovery of his treasure, together with his mummy, in his tomb, by Howard Carter in 1922. On the breastplate of the mummy, there was a winger scarab broach, fashioned from yellow glass.
Scarab beetles were worshipped in Egypt, as symbols of death and rebirth. They are active at night, finding their way by the distant rays of light from the Milky Way, rather than by bright stars. The scarab broach, belonging to King Tut, has itself an amazing connection to the cosmos.
It was discovered that the glass used, could not have been produced at the time of his death. Investigation revealed that it is desert glass, that originated in the Sahara desert. It is formed from the impact of a comet that fell to Earth, twenty eight million years ago! The discovery of the remains of a comet, a black pebble, found during excavations in the desert, was an astronomical first. Only dust fragments of comets, had been found before then.
So King Tut’s brooch is indeed a very special broach, as it was made from glass formed by the impact of a comet that fell to earth millions of years ago, an archaeological as well as an astronomical first.
Possibly some people today may not have heard of Mrs Beeton, who in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was a household name. She was well known for Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1859 – 61, which contained everything a prosperous Victorian housewife, would need to know for running the home. The public then and in the years that followed, visualized her as a matronly cook, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Isabella Mary Mayson was born 14th March 1836, in Milk Lane, London. Her father died when she was young and her mother remarried, Henry Dorling, who worked as a clerk at Epsom racecourse. The family had lodgings there, and Isabella was able to see at first hand, the organisation involved in running kitchens, that catered for large numbers of people.
On 10th July 1856 Isabella married Samuel Beeton, a publisher of books and magazines, and she started writing articles on cookery, to be included in his publications. Isabella lived a surprisingly modern married life, commuting with her husband into the London office by train from Pinner. She also made annual trips to Paris, enabling her to write articles on fashion. At the same time, in the short space of eight years,
Isabella had numerous miscarriages and still births, giving birth to four sons, only two of which, survived to adulthood. These experiences were excessive even at a time of high infant mortality rate. Isabella died in 1865 at the age of twenty eight following the birth of her youngest son.
Isabella ‘s publishing success, while facing these health difficulties , was therefore a tremendous achievement. Her famous book on Household Management contained over 1,112 pages, with many coloured illustrations and nine hundred recipes. She taste tested these recipes in her kitchen and in the severe winter of 1858, handed out a nourishing beef and vegetable broth, to poor families for a penny a quart.
Nevertheless, her skill was not in cooking, but in collecting and editing material for the book. In later years, the two sons who survived to reach adulthood, heard some mockery of the scale of the ingredients in some of the recipes. However Mrs Beeton was writing for very large Victorian families, who would require dishes made, for example with twelve eggs!
Samuel Beeton, Isabella’s widower, continued to promote the image of her as a matronly cook, in order to publicise the book, and that is the image of her that has persisted throughout history.