Tower of London

Tower of London.Tower of London.
The Tower of London .—This famous structure, or rather group of structures, is a cluster of houses, towers, barracks, armouries, warehouses, and prison-like edifices, situated on the north bank of the Thames, and separated from the crowded narrow streets of the city by an open space of ground called Tower-hill.  The Tower was founded by William the Conqueror, probably on the site of an older fortress, to secure his authority over the inhabitants of London; but the original fort which he established on the spot was greatly extended by subsequent monarchs; and in the twelfth century it was surrounded by a wet ditch, which was improved in the reign of Charles II.  This ditch or moat was drained in 1843.  Within the outer wall the ground measures upwards of twelve acres.  Next the river there is a broad quay; and on this side also there was a channel (now closed) by which boats formerly passed into the main body of the place.  This water-entrance is known by the name of Traitors' Gate, being that by which, in former days, state prisoners were brought in boats after their trial at Westminster.  There are three other entrances or postern-gates—Lion Gate, Iron Gate, and Water Gate—only two of which, however, are now used.  The interior of the Tower is an irregular assemblage of short streets and courtyards, bounded by various structures.  The White Tower , or Keep , is the oldest of these buildings; and the Chapel  in it is a fine specimen of a small Norman church.  Other towers are the Lion Tower , near the principal entrance; the Middle Tower , the first seen on passing the ditch; the Bell Tower , adjacent to it; the Bloody Tower , nearly opposite Traitors' Gate ; the Salt Tower , near the Iron Gate; Brick Tower , where Lady Jane Grey was confined; Bowyer Tower , where the Duke of Clarence is said to have been Chapel in Towerdrowned in the butt of malmsey; and Beauchamp Tower , where Anne Boleyn was imprisoned.  These old towers are very curious, but few of them are open to the public.  The principal objects of interest are a collection of cannon, being trophies of war; the horse armoury, a most interesting collection of suits of mail on stuffed figures; and the crown and other insignia of royalty.  In the Horse Armoury , a long gallery built in 1826, is an extensive collection of armour, arranged by Sir Samuel Meyrick, a great authority on this subject.  It comprises whole suits of armour, consisting of hauberks, chausses, surcoats, baldricks, breast-plates, back-plates, chain-mail sleeves and skirts, gauntlets, helmets, frontlets, vamplates, flanchards, and other pieces known to the old armourers.  About twenty complete suits of armour are placed upon stuffed figures of men, mostly on stuffed horses.  Four of the suits belonged to Henry VIII., Dudley Earl of Leicester, Henry Prince of Wales, and Charles I.; the others are merely intended to illustrate the kinds of armour in vogue at certain periods.  One suit, of the time of Richard III.,Traitor's Gate, Chapel White Towerwas worn by the Marquis of Waterford at the Eglinton tournament in 1839.  The gallery also contains some other curiosities relating to the armour of past days.  Queen Elizabeth's Armoury  is in the White Tower, the walls of which are 13 feet thick, and still contain traces of inscriptions by state prisoners in troubled times: the armoury contains many curious old shields, bows, Spanish instruments of torture, petronels, partisans, beheading axe and block, thumb-screws, Lochaber axes, matchlocks, arquebuses, swords, &c.  Immediately outside these Armouries, in the open air, are some curious cannon and mortars belonging to different ages and different countries.  The new Barracks  occupy the site of the Small Arms Armoury, destroyed by fire in 1841, when 280,000 stand of arms were destroyed.  The Lions  in the Tower were among the sights of the place for nearly 600 years; they were in a building near the present ticket-office, but were given to the Zoological Society in 1834.  The Jewel House , a well-guarded room to the east of the Armouries, contains a valuable collection of state jewels.  Among them are the following:—St. Edward's Crown , used at all the coronations from Charles II. to William IV.; the New State Crown , made for the coronation of Queen Victoria, and valued at more than £100,000; the Prince of Wales's  and the Queen Consort's Crowns  (the most recent wearer of the last was Queen Adelaide); the Queen's Diadem ; the Royal Sceptre Queen's Sceptre , and Queen's Ivory Sceptre ; the Orb  and the Queen's Orb St. Edward's Staff  and the Rod of Equity ; the Swords of Mercy and of Justice ; the Coronation Bracelets  and Royal Spurs ; the Ampulla  for the holy oil, and the Coronation Spoon ; the silver-gilt Baptismal Font , used at the christening of royal children; and the famous Koh-i-noor , or ‘Mountain of Light,' the wonderful diamond once belonging to Runjeet Singh, chief of Lahore, but now the property of Queen Victoria,—it was an object of great interest at the two great Exhibitions in 1851 and 1862.  Strangers, on applying at an office at the entrance from Tower-hill, are conducted through a portion of the buildings by warders, who wear a curious costume of Henry VIII.'s time—some years ago rendered incongruous by the substitution of black trousers for scarlet hose.  These warders, or beef-eaters  (as they are often called), go their rounds with visitors every half-hour from 10 till 4.  The word “beef-eaters” was a vulgar corruption of beaufetiers , battle-axe guards, who were first raised by Henry VII. in 1485.  They were originally attendants upon the king's buffet.  A fee of 6d. is charged for seeing the Armouries, and 6d. for the Jewel House.  From time to time, when foreign politics look threatening, the Tower undergoes alterations and renovations to increase its utility as a fortress; and it is at all times under strict military government.