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Things to do in London: Explore the terrifying and cryptic history of the Tower of London

Published: Tuesday 9th of April 2013

There is hardly a better fortress than the Tower of London and if you're a visitor looking for things to do in London, then this is a fantastic place to muse over the history of this mysterious building.
This ancient tower was built in 1066 and was erected by William the Conqueror which was originally built as a royal residence but quickly degenerated into a torture chamber for prisoners.

The colourful and varied history of this historic castle has made it something of an iconic landmark in England, which is located in the heart of the city.

Famous prisoners

Also known as the White Tower, it has played host to many unfortunate souls in times gone by and has also been home to kings, queens - and animals throughout history. Animals? Well throughout its 9,00 year reign it has served as a palace, prison, zoo and armoury over the years.

Although in many ways, it has quite a grim reputation, it really takes guests on a fascinating tour of crime and punishment, royal betrayals, activism and intrigue.

Some of the most famous characters to be incarcerated there included Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. King Henry, who had a notorious reputation for eliminating unwanted partners, saw to it that Boleyn was beheaded, after ordering her arrest and accusing her of  adultery and incest.

Anne Askew was another woman who died at the hands of Henry VIII. She became something of a martyr for the protestant religion, after being sent to the tower and tortured.

Despite her suffering, she refused to give up her religion and was later burned at the stake.

Other famous prisoners include the two sons of King Edward IV, 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard. The young prisoners were declared "illegitimate" and disappeared forever. Their uncle was crowned Richard III.

Another interesting 'convict' to emerge from the towers was a man called Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham. He made himself incredibly unpopular by collecting taxes on behalf of William Rufus and becoming rich in the process.

His fortunes were short-lived however and following the death of King Rufus, he later became a hapless resident of the tower, courtesy of the deceased King's brother, Henry I.

But perhaps one of the best known prisoners is Guy Fawkes who was tortured at the tower following a foiled plot to blow up the tower.

Even the lions didn't escape captivity at the tower. Animals were often kept there as symbols of power and to entertain guests.

Over time, all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures from tigers, to kangaroos and ostriches were kept in what became known as the the Royal Menagerie.


If you're a bit of a thrillseeker with a penchant for scary stories, then you will also get the chance to hear the ghosts stories and urban myths associated with the tower.

Some of the famous resident ghosts alleged to roam the tower include cousin of James I Arbella Stuart, who is said to haunt in The Queen's House, believed to be one of the spookiest buildings at the Tower of London.

It is also thought to be haunted by a grizzly bear, who reportedly caused the demise of a guard there many years ago, who is said to have died of fright!

So if you are a braveheart who is interested in delving into the fascinating history of the tower and the way in which it influenced the lives of both royals and ordinary citizens, then this is sure to be an unforgettable visit.

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