Tower of London
Greater London, England
County: Greater London
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5081, -0.076111
The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and is separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded in the winter of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The Tower of London is often identified with the White Tower, the original keep built by William the Conqueror in 1078. However, the tower as a whole is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and moat. From as early as 1100, the Tower of London was used as a prison. Although the Tower is popularly known today as a place of imprisonment, that was not its primary purpose. Early in its history, the Tower was a grand palace, serving as a royal residence. The castle underwent several expansions - especially under kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward III - since it was originally founded until it assumed its current general layout in the 13th century. It was sometimes used as a refuge from the general populace in times of unrest.
From the Tudor period onwards, the Tower became used less as a royal residence. Despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle, its fortifications lagged behind developments to deal with artillery. The zenith of the castle's use as a prison came in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many political or religious figures, such as the Princes in the Tower and the future Queen Elizabeth I, were held within its walls. This last use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". The Tower is also known as a place of torture and execution, although only seven people were executed within the Tower; it was more common for people to be executed on the notorious Tower Hill north of the castle. Through its history, the Tower of London has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a zoo, the Royal Mint, a public records office, an observatory, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Although the Tower is today one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, it was once a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted on London by Norman conquerors.