Tower of London
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Greater London Authority
- Tower Hamlets (London Borough)
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 33585 80570
The Tower of London, 256m ESE of All Hallows church.
Reasons for Designation
The Tower of London was initially built as a tower keep castle but later developed, from about the 13th century, into an enclosure castle.
A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid-15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples.
An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this served mainly to provide accommodation. At the Tower of London, the central tower keep became less significant in defensive terms during the 13th century and greater emphasis was placed on the surrounding curtain walls. Enclosure castles can have more than one line of walling and there are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.
Despite later alterations and additions, the Tower of London is an outstanding example of a tower keep and, later, enclosure castle. The White Tower is widely recognised as a landmark in the development of military architecture. It enabled the monarchy to exert considerable control and power over London from the 11th century onwards. The successive development of the surrounding curtain walls and moat from the 12th to the 14th centuries represent the pinnacle of castle design. The Tower of London is of historic importance as a principal fortress and redoubt of the Crown, a major arsenal and ordnance store, the home of the Royal mint and Royal menagerie (the first zoo in England) for hundreds of years, the setting of the Royal Wardrobe, a royal palace and a prison and place of execution of many notable historical figures.
The site contains archaeological and environmental remains relating to over 2000 years of human activity and occupation. These include buried remains and deposits relating to the development of the ground plan of the castle, its medieval use and history. A large amount of the site has not been excavated and retains considerable potential for further archaeological investigation.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a medieval tower keep and, later, enclosure castle situated on low lying ground at Tower Hill on the north side of the River Thames.
Roman remains are known to survive on the site and are included in the scheduling. London Wall, the Roman and medieval city wall, originally ran north-south across the site and survives in places as upstanding and below-ground remains. It has a rubble and mortar core faced with Kentish ragstone, banded at intervals by tile courses. The Wall includes a ditch on the eastern side, which will survive as a buried feature. Further Roman remains include part of the riverside wall, dating from about the mid 3rd century but partly rebuilt in about AD 390, as well as buried remains of buildings associated with the probable alignment of a Roman road across the site.
The White Tower, the tower keep of the medieval castle, is positioned near the centre of the castle surrounded by an Inner Curtain Wall, Outer Curtain Wall and Moat. The White Tower is dateable to 1075-1100 but was altered principally in the 15th, 18th and 19th centuries. The keep is rectangular in plan, 36m by 32.5m, with an apsidal projection at the south-east angle and a cylindrical stair turret at the north-east angle. It is three storeys high, except for the four five storey turrets, and constructed of ragstone rubble with Portland stone dressings (replacing earlier Caen stone) and lead-covered roofs. The keep is Anglo-Norman in style with flat pilaster buttresses defining each bay, round-headed windows and a crenellated parapet. The first floor accommodates the former Great hall and the second floor includes the Royal Hall, the Chapel of St John the Evangelist and a chamber. The third floor was first formed, along with the existing roof, in the late 15th century. The Chapel of St John has an aisled plan with an eastern apse and ambulatory. It is of two storeys with a barrel-vault roof and contains a series of Anglo-Norman capitals.
The Inner Curtain Wall dates from 1170 but a large amount of the structure, including eight of the towers, was reconstructed for Henry III and Edward I as an outer curtain in the 13th century. It was restored in the 19th century, firstly to the design of Anthony Salvin, and the gunports, loops and crenellation were reworked. The wall is built of squared and coursed ragstone with ashlar dressings, although that between the Bell Tower and Devereux Tower, built under Edward I, is of brick faced in stone. Thirteen towers, largely of D-shaped plan with lead and copper roofs, punctuate its length. The earliest standing remains here are the late 12th century Bell Tower and curtain wall (of which the lower courses remain) to the Bloody Tower. The Wakefield Tower, Lanthorn Tower (totally rebuilt in the 19th century by Sir John Taylor, HM Office of Works) and the curtain wall and postern between them were initially constructed in 1220-40. The curtain wall and towers from the Devereux Tower in the north-west corner to the Salt Tower in the south-east corner were built between 1238 and 1275. The west side of the curtain wall, including the Beauchamp Tower, was built for Edward I between 1275 and 1285. The southern side of the curtain wall was heightened and crenellated in about 1339 and the rectangular Bloody Tower was remodelled in 1360-2, incorporating the remains of the earlier water gate.
The Outer Curtain Wall was built as a further line of defence by Edward I from about 1275. The south section of wall was constructed under Edward III and the curtain wall was raised in height during the 14th century. In the 19th century restoration work was carried out to the gunports, loops and crenellation. It is built of squared and coursed ragstone with ashlar dressings. The wall has some scored quoining to imitate masonry, indicating that it was originally whitewashed. This line of defences is lower than the Inner Curtain Wall, allowing free fire over it from inside the castle. It is punctuated by eight mural towers with lead and copper roofs. These include the massive Brass and Legge’s Mounts at the north-east and north-west corners of the wall, and the landward and river entrances of the Byward and St Thomas’s Towers respectively. The Byward Tower, at the south-west corner, is approached by a causeway over the moat, the western end of which is controlled by the Middle Tower, formerly fronted by the Lion Tower barbican. The Cradle Tower and Byward Postern are respectively a 14th century privy water gate and 16th century addition.
The Moat surrounding the exterior of the castle is approximately 34m wide to the west and 26m wide to the north. It is considerably narrower to the east where it has been diminished by the Tower Bridge approach road. It dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, with many later modifications. In the 14th century, the construction of the Wharf separated the castle from the River Thames to the south and allowed a wet moat to surround the whole perimeter. In the 17th century, a revetment wall was built around the outer edge. In 1843-5, the moat was drained and back-filled and ‘Tower Gardens’ and its railings laid out at the west and north. The revetment wall is largely constructed of Flemish bond brick with stone coping. The construction of Tower Bridge in the 1880s cut into the east side of the moat. The area in and around the moat contains a significant amount of below-ground structures and archaeological deposits. These include medieval timber beams from bridge crossings, stone remains of a mill and dam at the south-east corner, and the buried remains of the Lion Tower.
The open areas of the Tower of London, between the fortifications, are known as the Inmost Ward, Inner Ward and Outer Ward. The Inmost Ward relates to William I’s primary castle and was originally a bailey surrounding the keep. The walls of this bailey were partly altered or replaced in the 12th century. It includes the Wardrobe Tower, Main Guard Wall and Coldharbour Gate. The area is defined by the line of the Roman city wall on the east side, inner curtain on the south, Main Guard Wall on the west and previously would have extended north of the White Tower to a ditched defence. The Wardrobe Tower is to the east of the White Tower. It is the remains of a 12th century tower that was later surrounded by buildings of the Royal Wardrobe; hence its name. The tower was built in about the 1190’s under Richard I. The lower part incorporates the base of a Roman bastion and a section of London Wall with an external face of ragstone rubble and tile bonding courses. The tower is D-shaped in plan and built of ragstone rubble with Caen and Reigate ashlar and with additional repairs in 18th century red brick. The upper part of the tower was demolished in the late 19th century. The Main Guard Wall is to the south-west of the White Tower. The wall is the standing remains and core of Henry III’s inner curtain built in the 1220’s and 1230’s. It is built of ragstone rubble and includes several loop windows. Coldharbour Gate, to the immediate north, is the exposed ragstone rubble foundations of a 13th century gate-tower with two cylindrical towers either side of an entrance passage. It originally formed a gateway to the medieval palace.
The Inner Ward of the castle is that bounded on its outside by the 13th century Inner Curtain Wall (Henry III’s outer curtain) and includes the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, the Queen’s House, No’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 Tower Green, the New Armouries, Hospital Block, Waterloo Block and the headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula is situated at the north-west of the Inner Ward. The Chapel’s origins date back to the 9th century but it was rebuilt in the early 16th century with substantial alterations in 1670-1, 1876-77 and 1971-3. It is constructed of ragstone rubble and flint with dressings of Reigate stone. The windows are of three lights under depressed arches with a five light window in the east end of the nave. On the west side is a brick tower with stone quoins capped by a bell lantern. Interred in the chapel are many notable 16th century figures, such as St Thomas More. Attached to the inside of the Inner Curtain Wall are the Queen’s House, No’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 Tower Green and the New Armouries. The Queen’s House (6 Tower Green), at the south-west corner, was originally the Lieutenant's lodgings built in the mid-16th century. It is a three-storey timber-framed L-shaped building with four gabled bays to each range and a plain-tiled roof. It incorporates 14th century fabric from an earlier building and was altered in the late 17th and 18th centuries. To either side, running along the west and south of the Inner Curtain Wall, are Nos 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 Tower Green; domestic houses and dwellings dating from the 17th to the 19th century. The New Armouries, attached to the southern half of the east wall of the Inner Curtain, is a red brick small arms store of 1663-64. It is a two storey U-shaped building with heraldic cartouches on the west and south façades. Immediately to the north is Hospital Block; a brick terrace constructed for Ordnance clerks in 1718-19, the northern house of which was rebuilt in 1950. Waterloo block on the north side of the Inner Ward is a three-storey barrack block of 1845. It is built of limestone in castellated Gothic Revival style with domestic Tudor details. The main façade has a central bay with a pointed-arched doorway, flanked by two octagonal turrets, two end turrets and a crenellated parapet. The headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, to the east, is an Officers’ Mess built from 1845 to the same style.
The Outer Ward of the castle, bounded by Edward I’s late 13th century Outer Curtain Wall, was occupied by a number of buildings in the post-medieval period including barracks, stores and taverns. These were demolished in the 19th century, however the buried remains, including foundations and hearths, are known to survive in-situ below-ground. The inside of the Outer Curtain Wall is now lined with late 18th century Royal Mint buildings (No. 1-3, 4, 4a-5 Casemates) on the west side and 19th century casemates (No. 7-10 Casemates, The North Bastion and No. 13-29 Casemates) on the north and east sides. The former Royal Mint buildings are constructed of yellow stock brick with Portland stone dressings and sash windows. Some were rebuilt following bomb damage during the Second World War. No’s 7-10 casemates are built of London stock brick with Portland stone and red brick dressings. The North Bastion on the north side is a ragstone building in Victorian Gothic style with trefoil headed windows and a crenellated parapet. Originally built in timber in 1848 due to fears of an attack by the Chartists, it was later replaced in stone and partially rebuilt following Second World War bomb damage. No’s 13-29 Casemates were constructed by the War Office in about 1856. They are built in Victorian Gothic style of ragstone and Portland stone with trefoil and Caernarvon headed windows.
The earliest presence on the site is evidenced through prehistoric finds such as flint flakes, pottery, and an Iron Age inhumation discovered below the castle in 1976. Roman London (Londinium) was established shortly after AD 43 and the site came into settled use in the late second century. The construction of the city walls in stone in about AD 200 influenced the later siting of the castle and defined its eastern limits until the mid-13th century. There is little evidence for occupation in the early medieval period until the 9th century when the walled city was restored by King Alfred and, most probably, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula was founded. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, William the Conqueror ordered the building of a castle in the south-east corner of the city as a means to control London. The White Tower was constructed under the supervision of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, and completed by about 1100. It was probably enclosed by a rampart and ditches, a timber palisade and the Roman wall to the south and east at this time. Improvements were carried out under Henry I and Henry II whilst Richard I extended the castle further west. Between the 1220s and 1240s, major alterations were carried out under Henry III, including expansion to the north and east with the construction of a curtain wall surrounded by a moat, and the rebuilding of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. The exterior of the keep was whitewashed at about this time, giving it the name it still retains. More remarkably, a menagerie, probably begun under King John, developed under Henry and continued to flourish at the Tower until 1835. Further major works to the castle were implemented by Edward I from about 1275. A second (outer) curtain wall was built with an elaborate entrance to the west including twin-towered gatehouses, the Middle and Byward Towers, and a semi-circular barbican, the Lion Tower. In addition, a Royal mint was established, a new gate was built projecting into the Thames and the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula was rebuilt again. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, a Tower Wharf was constructed to the south, completing the basic form of the castle as it is now.
The Tower of London functioned as an armoury, arsenal and store, a mint, a prison and a military fortress for times of emergency. In the first half of the 16th century, a programme of repair was initiated. The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula was rebuilt a third time, following a fire, and the Queen’s House was constructed. In the 17th century, the castle entered its final phase as a Royal residence. Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plotters, among others, were held captive in the Tower. The New Armouries Building and the Grand Storehouse, destroyed by fire and replaced by the Waterloo Block in 1845, were also built. In the 19th century, attempts were made to ‘restore’ the Tower’s medieval appearance according to the principles of the Gothic Revival. By 1916, much of the castle was open to the public and it now (2015) forms a major visitor attraction. Partial excavation in the 20th century, particularly between the 1960’s and 1990’s, recorded buried remains of the Roman city wall and settlement, and many of the former buildings and structures associated with the medieval and post-medieval use of the site. A number of buildings and structures are listed including the White Tower (Grade I); the Waterloo Block and headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Grade II); the Old Hospital (Grade II*); the Inner Curtain Wall, with Mural towers; the Queen's House, Nos 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7 Tower Green and the New Armouries (all Grade I); the Outer Curtain Wall with casements and mural towers (all Grade I); the Middle Tower, with Causeway to Byward Tower and remains of Causeway to Lion Tower to the west (all Grade I); the north and west revetment walls (Grade II) and the south revetment wall (Grade II*). The Tower of London is a World Heritage Site.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- LO 10
- Legacy System:
- RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Impey, E, Parnell, G, The Tower of London: The Official Illustrated History , (2000)
Impey, E, The White Tower , (2008)
Historic Royal Palaces Tower of London Conservation Plan, March 2000.
Historic Royal Palaces Tower of London World Heritage Site Management, June 2007.
Keevill, G, The Tower of London Moat: Archaeological Excavations 1995-9, Historic Royal Palaces Monograph No.1 (2004).
NMR TQ38SW1152, TQ38SW1508, TQ38SW1514. PastScape 405480, 1099876, 1100681. LBS 206494, 206495, 206496, 206497, 206498, 206499, 206500, 206501, 206502, 206503, 206504.
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing