15 Tower of London Facts

Here are twenty facts about the Tower of London castle:

  • The Tower of London is located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and it stands on the north bank of the River Thames separated from the City of London by Tower Hill.

  • The Normans built the earliest parts of the castle. William the Conqueror constructed the White Tower in 1078 and this gives the whole castle its name.
  • Richard the Lionheart added to the castle in the 12th century and Edward I added the outer ward in the 13th century. The layout of the Tower of London has remained pretty much unchanged since.
  • The White Tower is a keep. It has four corner towers and has three storeys. The Normans intended the keep to be used as a home as well a stronghold.

Tower of London

  • Following the death of Edward IV, Richard Duke of Gloucester (later to be Richard III) was named Lord Protector while Edward V (who was 12) was too young to rule. Richard kept Edward V and his brother, Prince Richard, in the Tower of London. They were last seen in June 1483. Many people believe that they were murdered and some people believe that Richard III was responsible.
  • In Tudor Times, the Tower of London wasn’t used very often as a royal residence. Instead, it became a place to house high-status prisoners.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Tower of London did not have its own purpose built torture chamber. However, that’s not to say its prisoners weren’t tortured. Guy Fawkes, for example, was brought to the Tower of London and confessed to the Gunpowder Plot after being tortured.
  • Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both imprisoned and executed in the Tower of London.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned there, and so was Elizabeth I (before she was Queen) on suspicion of her involvement in Wyatt’s Rebellion, a revolt against Mary I.
  • Lady Jane Grey was executed within the walls of the Tower of London on Tower Green.
  • During World War 2 the Tower of London was used as prison to secure prisoners of war. A German spy, Josef Jakobs, was the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. He was killed by a firing squad in 1941.
  • On 23rd September 1940 the Tower of London was bomber during the Blitz. Several buildings in the castle grounds were damaged, but luckily the White Tower wasn’t hit.
  • At all times six ravens must be kept at the Tower of London. Legend says that if anything happens to the ravens the kingdom will fall. The birds are cared for by the Yeoman Warders.
  • The Crown Jewels have been held at the Tower of London since the reign of Henry III.
  • The Tower of London used to house the Royal Menagerie – the Royal Zoo. Over the years the Tower has been home to a polar bear (who used to go fishing in the River Thames), an elephant, lions and leopards.
  • Many people believe that the Tower of London is haunted. People report to have seen the ghosts of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and the murdered Princes.
  • The moat of the Tower of London was the home of the 2014 art installation Blood Swept Lands and Red Seas to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1. Hundreds of thousands of ceramic poppies were planted in the moat, representing the Commonwealth soldiers who were killed during the Great War.

What next? Learn more facts about castles or check out our London facts and resources page.