This is a full day out as it includes the Royal Armouries, the Crown Jewels and the museum of the Royal Fusiliers as well as the Tower itself. Victorious at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, the invading Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, spent the rest of the year securing his holdings, by fortifying key positions. He founded several castles along the way, but took a circuitous route toward London; only when he reached Canterbury did he turn towards England's largest city. As the fortified bridge into London was held by Saxon troops, he decided instead to ravage Southwark before continuing his journey around southern England. A series of Norman victories along the route cut the city's supply lines and in December 1066, isolated and intimidated, its leaders yielded London without a fight. Between 1066 and 1087, William established 36 castles, although references in the Domesday Book indicate that many more were founded by his subordinates. The new ruling elite undertook what has been described as "the most extensive and concentrated programme of castle-building in the whole history of feudal Europe". They were multi-purpose buildings, serving as fortifications (used as a base of operations in enemy territory), centres of administration, and residences. William sent an advance party to prepare the city for his entrance, to celebrate his victory and found a castle; in the words of William's biographer, William of Poitiers, "certain fortifications were completed in the city against the restlessness of the huge and brutal populace. For he [William] realised that it was of the first importance to overawe the Londoners". At the time, London was the largest town in England; the foundation of Westminster Abbey and the old Palace of Westminster under Edward the Confessor had marked it as a centre of governance, and with a prosperous port it was important for the Normans to establish control over the settlement. The other two castles in London – Baynard's Castle and Montfichet's Castle – were established at the same time. The fortification that would later become known as the Tower of London was built onto the south-east corner of the Roman town walls, using them as prefabricated defences, with the River Thames providing additional protection from the south. This earliest phase of the castle would have been enclosed by a ditch and defended by a timber palisade, and probably had accommodation suitable for William.
Most of the early Norman castles were built from timber, but by the end of the 11th century a few, including the Tower of London, had been renovated or replaced with stone. Work on the White Tower – which gives the whole castle its name – is usually considered to have begun in 1078, however the exact date is uncertain. William made Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, responsible for its construction, although it may not have been completed until after William's death in 1087. The White Tower is the earliest stone keep in England, and was the strongest point of the early castle. It also contained grand accommodation for the king. At the latest, it was probably finished by 1100 when Bishop Ranulf Flambard was imprisoned there. Flambard was loathed by the English for exacting harsh taxes. Although he is the first recorded prisoner held in the Tower, he was also the first person to escape from it, using a smuggled rope secreted in a butt of wine. He was held in luxury and permitted servants, but on 2 February 1101 he hosted a banquet for his captors. After plying them with drink, when no one was looking he lowered himself from a secluded chamber, and out of the Tower. The escape came as such a surprise that one contemporary chronicler accused the bishop of witchcraft. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 1097 King William II ordered a wall to be built around the Tower of London; it was probably built from stone and likely replaced the timber palisade that arced around the north and west sides of the castle, between the Roman wall and the Thames. The Norman Conquest of London manifested itself not only with a new ruling class, but in the way the city was structured. Land was confiscated and redistributed amongst the Normans, who also brought over hundreds of Jews, for financial reasons. The Jews arrived under the direct protection of the Crown, as a result of which Jewish communities were often found close to castles. The Jews used the Tower as a retreat, when threatened by anti-Jewish violence.
The death in 1135 of Henry I left England with a disputed succession; although the king had persuaded his most powerful barons to swear support for the Empress Matilda, just a few days after Henry's death Stephen of Blois arrived from France to lay claim to the throne. The importance of the city and its Tower is marked by the speed at which he secured London. The castle, which had not been used as a royal residence for some time, was usually left in the charge of a Constable, a post held at this time by Geoffrey de Mandeville. As the Tower was considered an impregnable fortress in a strategically important position, possession was highly valued. Mandeville exploited this, selling his allegiance to Matilda after Stephen was captured in 1141 at the Battle of Lincoln. Once her support waned, the following year he resold his loyalty to Stephen. Through his role as Constable of the Tower, Mandeville became "the richest and most powerful man in England". When he tried the same ploy again, this time holding secret talks with Matilda, Stephen had him arrested, forced him to cede control of his castles, and replaced him with one of his most loyal supporters. Until then the position had been hereditary, originally held by Geoffrey de Mandeville (a friend of William the Conqueror's and ancestor of the Geoffrey that Stephen and Matilda dealt with), but the position's authority was such that from then on it remained in the hands of an appointee of the monarch. The position was usually given to someone of great importance, who might not always be at the castle due to other duties. Although the Constable was still responsible for maintaining the castle and its garrison, from an early stage he had a subordinate to help with this duty: the Lieutenant of the Tower. Constables also had civic duties relating to the city. Usually they were given control of the city and were responsible for levying taxes, enforcing the law and maintaining order. The creation in 1191 of the position of Lord Mayor of London removed many of the Constable's civic powers, and at times led to friction between the two. The castle probably retained its form as established by 1100 until the reign of Richard the Lionheart (1189–1199). The castle was extended under William Longchamp, Richard's Lord Chancellor and the man in charge of England while he was on crusade. The Pipe Rolls record £2,881 1s 10d spent at the Tower of London between 3 December 1189 and 11 November 1190, from an estimated £7,000 spent by Richard on castle building in England. According to the contemporary chronicler Roger of Howden, Longchamp dug a moat around the castle and tried in vain to fill it from the Thames. Longchamp was also Constable of the Tower, and undertook its expansion while preparing for war with Richard's younger brother, Prince John, who in Richard's absence arrived in England to try to seize power. As Longchamp's main fortress, he made the Tower as strong as possible. The new fortifications were first tested in October 1191, when the Tower was besieged for the first time in its history. Longchamp capitulated to John after just three days, deciding he had more to gain from surrender than prolonging the siege.
Beginning around 1238, the castle was expanded to the east, north, and north-west. The work lasted through the reign of Henry III and into that of Edward I, interrupted occasionally by civil unrest. New creations included a new defensive perimeter, studded with towers, while on the west, north, and east sides, where the wall was not defended by the river, a defensive ditch was dug. The eastern extension took the castle beyond the bounds of the old Roman settlement, marked by the city wall which had been incorporated into the castle's defences. The Tower had long been a symbol of oppression, despised by Londoners, and Henry's building programme was unpopular. So when the gatehouse collapsed in 1240, the locals celebrated the setback. Although he was rarely in London, Edward I undertook an expensive remodelling of the Tower, costing £21,000 between 1275 and 1285, over double that spent on the castle during the whole of Henry III's reign. Edward I was a seasoned castle builder, and used his experience of siege warfare during the crusades to bring innovations to castle building. His programme of castle building in Wales heralded the introduction of the widespread use of arrowslits in castle walls across Europe, drawing on Eastern influences. At the Tower of London, Edward filled in the moat dug by Henry III and built a new curtain wall along its line, creating a new enclosure. A new moat was created in front of the new curtain wall. The western part of Henry III's curtain wall was rebuilt, with Beauchamp Tower replacing the castle's old gatehouse. A new entrance was created, with elaborate defences including two gatehouses and a barbican. In an effort to make the castle self-sufficient, Edward I also added two watermills. Six hundred Jews were imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1278, charged with coin clipping. Persecution of the country's Jewish population under Edward began in 1276 and culminated in 1290 when he issued the Edict of Expulsion, forcing the Jews out of the country. The beginning of the Tudor period marked the start of the decline of the Tower of London's use as a royal residence. As 16th-century chronicler Raphael Holinshed said the Tower became used more as "an armouries and house of munition, and thereunto a place for the safekeeping of offenders than a palace roiall for a king or queen to sojourne in". The Yeoman Warders have been the Royal Bodyguard since at least 1509. Ticket includes access to the Tower and the Crown Jewels display, exhibitions including Coins and Kings and Line of Kings, plus the Yeoman Warder guided tour, live historical re-enactments, White Tower tour, children's activity trails and much more! The Crown Jewels: Information in Braille and tactile models of the Crown Jewels are available. The White Tower: Handling point in the basement (lift access). Audio Guide for blind and partially sighted visitors: Discover the Tower with the new tour written especially for blind and partially sighted visitors. The new tour guides you round the Tower visiting some of the key areas including Traitors' Gate and the Bloody Tower. It gives you the chance to try on a helmet and handle chain mail as well as hear about the defence of the Tower. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about the prisoners who were held in this great fortress whilst exploring the graffiti they left in the Beauchamp Tower. The guide is free with admission and comes with a tactile map. It takes about an hour and half and reveals much of the hidden history of this iconic palace. With interviews the tour tells you what it is really like to live inside a Royal Fortress. The tour can be collected from the multimedia guide desk in the Beefeater shop. The guides have a neck strap making them easy to carry. The sound can easily be controlled and clear detailed instructions are provided on the guide to help you use them. Whilst the Tower welcomes all visitors, this historic building has places with difficult stairs and passageways and wheelchair access is limited. There are also a large number of steps throughout the Tower with cobbles laid in some of the roads. However, the Jewel House and the Crown Jewels are fully accessible to all visitors. A virtual tour of the Medieval Palace and south and east Wall Walks is available; it can be viewed in small chunks, a room at a time, or as a complete sequence. View the video. Toilets: Easy ramped access is available behind the Jewel House, and next to the Salt Tower. Wheelchairs: A limited number of wheelchairs are available from the Welcome Centre at the main entrance to the Tower.
Location : St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:30.
Opening Times: Sunday / Monday 10:00 to 17:30.
Tickets : Adults £23.10 Children (5-15) £10.50 Concessions £17.60.
Prices for online booking without donation
Tel: 0844 482 7777