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History of London

Numerous finds prove that the area around London was inhabited by the Celts from 800 BC onwards. The earliest prehistoric settlers in the London area lived along parts of the Thames valley. Some of their flint tools have been found in river graver. All the time it was mostly wild forested countryside.

In later prehistoric times the settlers became more organized. They lived in villages of huts made of timber, branches & clay. They hunted, fished & farmed.

Following Caesar’s initial landing in Britain in 55 BC, the Emperor Claudius conquered the south-east of Britain & founded the military camp of Londinium on a strategic ford across the Thames. The camp rapidly developed into a flourishing port & trading post. The area of about 1 square mile which the Romans fortified with a massive rampart corresponds approximately to today’s City of London.

They built a bridge over the Thames & there has been a “London Bridge” in the same area ever since.

Roman Londinium grew up on the northern side of the bridge. Products such as olive oil & wine were brought by ships from different parts of the Roman Empire & unloaded into wooden quays along the river.

Londinium was surrounded with a wall of stone & brick which lasted for many centuries.

Inside the Roman wall low houses were built with bright red tiled roofs. There were probably temples, bathhouses, shops & market stalls there.

Around AD 61, the Romans faced an uprising of Boadicea, the warlike Queen of East Anglia, who even succeeded in capturing London. From about 240 onwards, London was the capital of one of the four provinces of Britain under the Emperor Diocletian.

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The History of the Tower of London

Fortress, Palace and Prison

This short history of the Tower of London charts the different stages of its development. Throughout its history, the Tower has attracted a number of important functions and its role as armoury, royal palace, prison and fortress is explained, as well as its modern role as tourist attraction and

home to a thriving community.

The development of the Tower

The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087) and remained unchanged for over a century. Then, between 1190 and 1285, the White Tower was encircled by two towered curtain walls and a great moat. The only important enlargement of the Tower after that time was the building of the Wharf in the 14th century. Today the medieval defences remain relatively unchanged.

The Normans

WestmCastle building was an essential part of the Norman Conquest: when Duke William of Normandy invaded England in 1066 his first action after landing at Pevensey on 28 September had been to improvise a castle, and when he moved to Hastings two days later he built another. Over the next few years William and his supporters were engaged in building hundreds more, first to conquer, then subdue and finally to colonise the whole of England.

By the end of the Anglo-Saxon period London had become the most powerful city in England, with a rich port, a nearby royal palace and an important cathedral. It was via London that King Harold II (1066) and his army sped south to meet William, and to London which the defeated rabble of the English army returned from the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Securing the City was therefore of the utmost importance to William. His contemporary biographer William of Poitiers tells us that after receiving the submission of the English magnates at Little Berkhampstead, William sent an advance guard into London to construct a castle and prepare for his triumphal entry. He also tells us that, after his coronation in inster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, the new King withdrew to Barking (in Essex) ‘while certain fortifications were completed in the city against the restlessness of the vast and fierce populace for he realised that it was of the

first importance to overawe the Londoners.These fortifications may have included Baynard’s Castle built in the south-west angle of the City (near Blackfriars) and the castle of Monfichet (near Ludgate Circus) and almost certainly the future Tower of London. Initially the Tower had consisted of a modest enclosure built into the south-east corner of the Roman City walls, but by the late 1070s, with the initial completion of the White Tower, it had become the most fearsome of all. Nothing had been seen like it in England before. It was built by Norman masons and English (Anglo-Saxon) labour drafted in from the countryside, perhaps to the design of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. It was intended to protect the river route from Danish attack, but also and more importantly to dominate the City physically and visually. It is difficult to appreciate today what an enormous impression the tower and other Norman buildings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral (as rebuilt after 1086) or the nearby Westminster Hall (rebuilt after 1087) must have made on the native Londoners. The White Tower was protected to the east and south by the old Roman city walls (a full height fragment can be seen just by Tower Hill Underground station), while the north and west sides were protected by ditches as much as 7.50m (25ft) wide and 3.40m (11ft) deep and an earthwork with a wooden wall on top. In the 12th century a ‘fore-building’ (now demolished) was added to the south front of the White Tower to protect the entrance. The Wardrobe Tower, a fragment of which can be seen at the south-east corner of the building, was another early addition or rebuilding. From very early on the enclosure contained a number of timber buildings for residential and service use. It is not clear whether these included a royal residence but William the Conqueror’s immediate successors probably made use of the White Tower itself.

It is important for us today to remember that the functions of the Tower from the 1070s until the late 19th century were established by its Norman founders. The Tower was never primarily intended to protect London from external invasion, although, of course, it could have done so if necessary. Nor was it ever intended to be the principal residence of the kings and queens of England, though many did in fact spend periods of time there. Its primary function was always to provide a base for royal power in the City of London and a stronghold to which the Royal Family could retreat in times of civil disorder.

The Medieval Tower:A refuge and a base for royal power

When Richard the Lionheart (1189-99) came to the throne he departed on a crusade to the Holy Land leaving his Chancellor, William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, in charge of the kingdom. Longchamp soon embarked on an enlargement and strengthening of the Tower of London, the first of a series of building campaigns which by about 1350 had created the basic form of the great fortress that we know today. The justification for the vast expenditure and effort this involved was the political instability of the kingdom and the Crown’s continuing need for an impregnable fortress in the City of London.

Longchamp’s works doubled the area covered by the fortress by digging a new and deeper ditch to the north and east and building sections of curtain wall, reinforced by a new tower (now known as the Bell Tower) at the south-west corner. The ditch was intended to flood naturally from the river, although this was not a success. These new defences were soon put to the test when the King’s brother, John, taking advantage of Richard’s captivity in Germany, challenged Longchamp’s authority and besieged him at the Tower. Lack of provisions forced Longchamp to surrender but the Tower’s defences had proved that they could resist attack.

The reign of the next king John (1199-1216) saw little new building work at the Tower, but the King made good use of the accommodation there. Like Longchamp, John had to cope with frequent opposition throughout his reign. Only a year after signing an agreement with his barons in 1215 (the Magna Carta) they were once more at loggerheads and Prince Louis of France had launched an invasion of England with the support of some of John’s leading barons. In the midst of his defence of the kingdom, John died of dysentery and his son, Henry III, was crowned. With England at war with France, the start of King Henry’s long reign (1216-72) could have hardly been less auspicious, but within seven months of his accession the French had been defeated at the battle of Lincoln and the business of securing the kingdom could begin. Reinforcement of the royal castles played a major role in this, and his work at the Tower of London was more extensive than anywhere other than at Windsor Castle. Henry III was only ten years old in 1216, but his regents began a major extension of the royal accommodation in the enclosure which formed the Inmost Ward as we know it today. The great hall and kitchen, dating from the previous century, were improved and two towers built on the waterfront, the Wakefield Tower as the King’s lodgings and the Lanthorn Tower (rebuilt in the 19th century), probably intended as the queen’s lodgings. A new wall was also built enclosing the west side of the Inmost Ward.

By the mid 1230s, Henry III had run into trouble with his barons and opposition flared up in both 1236 and in 1238. On both occasions the King fled to the Tower of London. But as he sheltered in the castle in March 1238 the weakness of the Tower must have been brought home to him; the defences to the eastern, western and northern sides consisted only of an empty moat, stretches of patched-up and strengthened Roman wall and a few lengths of wall built by Longchamp in the previous century. That year, therefore, saw the launch of Henry’s most ambitious building programme at the Tower, the construction of a great new curtain wall round the east, north and west sides of the castle at a cost of over Ј5,000. The new wall doubled the area covered by the fortress, enclosing the neighbouring church of St Peter ad Vincula. It was surrounded by a moat, this time successfully flooded by a Flemish engineer, John Le Fosser. The wall was reinforced by nine new towers, the strongest at the corners (the Salt, Martin and Devereux). Of these all but two (the Flint and Brick) are much as originally built. This massive extension to the Tower was viewed with extreme suspicion and hostility by the people of London, who rightly recognised it as a further assertion of royal authority. A contemporary writer reports their delight when a section of newly-built wall and a gateway on the site of the Beauchamp Tower collapsed, events they attributed to their own guardian saint, Thomas а Becket. Archaeological excavation between 1995 and 1997 revealed the remains of one of these collasped buildings.

In 1272 King Edward I (1272-1307) came to the throne determined to complete the defensive works begun by his father and extend them as a means of further emphasising royal authority over London. Between 1275 and 1285 the King spent over Ј21,000 on the fortress creating England’s largest and strongest concentric castle (a castle with one line of defences within another). The work included building the existing Beauchamp Tower, but the main effort was concentrated on filling in Henry III’s moat and creating an additional curtain wall on the western, northern and eastern side, and surrounding it by a new moat. This wall enclosed the existing curtain wall built by Henry III and was pierced by two new entrances, one from the land on the west, passing through the Middle and Byward towers, and another under St Thomas’s Tower, from the river. New royal lodgings were included in the upper part of St Thomas’s Tower. Almost all these buildings survive in some form today. [2] sights of London.

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