Sir Walter Raleigh spent most of his 13 years of imprisonment in the Bloody Tower, but he was able to perform many scientific experiments. He is credited with having discovered a method of distilling fresh water from salt water. Also during his imprisonment he wrote his vast History of the World which was published in 1614, four years before he was beheaded at Westminster.
The Salt Tower
This tower, yet another built by Henry III, about 1235 was used in later days as a prison for Jesuits. It contains a number of interesting inscriptions, the most notable being a complicated diagram cut in stone for casting horoscopes. The inscription records that "Hew Draper of Brystow made this sphere the 30 daye of Maye anno 1561". Draper was imprisoned for attempted witchcraft in 1561.
In several places on the walls a pierced heart, hand, and foot have been carved. This symbol signifies the wounds of Christ. As in other towers where the Jesuits were imprisoned. The monogram I.H.S, with a cross above the H, occurs in several places -- the sign made by the Society of Jesus.
The Beauchamp Tower
Henry III and his son, Edward I, are to be attributed to the creation of the Beauchamp Tower. Henry III is responsible for many of the towers and structures in the Tower of London, with eight wall towers built during the latter part of his reign. It was during Edward's reconstruction of the western section that he replaced a twin-towered gatehouse built by Henry with the Beauchamp Tower around 1275-81.
Architecturally, the large amount of brick used, as opposed to solely that of stone, was innovative at its time for castle construction. The tower takes its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, imprisoned 1397-99 by Richard II. The three-storey structure was used often for prisoners of high rank.
Of special interest are the inscriptions carved on the stone walls here by prisoners. The most elaborate is a memorial to the five brothers Dudley, one of whom was Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey. This unhappy pair were executed in 1554.
The Wakefield Tower
Opposite Traitors Gate is the Wakefield Tower built in the early 13th century. Here the Crown Jewels were housed from 1870 until 1967. The tower has 2 chambers, the ground floor acting as a guardroom to the postern which led to the royal apartments above. These apartments were destroyed by Cromwell. The upper floor now contains a large and magnificent octagonal vaulted chamber in which there is an oratory.
Wakefield Tower was probably named after William de Wakefield, Kings Clerk and holder of the custody of the Exchanges in 1334. In the 14th century the State records were transferred to the Wakefield Tower from the White Tower, and in surveys of the period the building is referred to as the Records Tower.
Henry VI died in the Wakefield Tower on May 21st 1471. Henry VI, who was also founder of Eton College, and of Kings College, Cambridge, is supposed to have been murdered on the orders of the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.
The Martin Tower
Built by Henry III this tower is famous as the scene of Colonel Thomas Bloods fruitless attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. After the Restoration, the newly-made regalia was kept in the Martin Tower (known at the time as the Jewel Tower) in sole custody of the Deputy Keeper of the Jewels, a man named Talbot Edwards who lived with his family in the tower.
Blood, disguised as a clergyman, became very friendly with Edwards, even to the point of proposing a marriage between the old mans' daughter and a supposed nephew of his. Early on a May morning in 1671, the colonel appeared by appointment with his "nephew" and a friend to arrange the marriage. While awaiting the ladies, Blood suggested that his friends might see the Crown Jewels. As soon as the chamber was opened Edwards was attacked and badly injured. Blood hid the State Crown beneath his cloak; one accomplice slipped the Orb into his breeches, while the other began filing the sceptre in half to make it more portable. They were then unexpectedly disturbed by Edward's son returning from abroad and a running fight followed during which all three were captured.
Blood eventually obtained an audience with Charles II to whom he remarked that "it was a gallant attempt." Charles -- with uncharacteristic leniency -- immediately pardoned Blood, granted him a pension and promised that his Irish estates, seized at the Restoration, would be restored.
Edwards, on the other hand, was granted 200 pounds by the Exchequer and his son was given 100 pounds. The old man, however, was forced to sell off his expectation for half its value, and he died of his injuries soon afterwards.
The White Tower
The great central keep was built by William the Conqueror and finished by his sons and successors, William Rufus and Henry I. It is 90 feet high and is of massive construction, the walls varying from 15 feet thickness at the base to almost 11 feet in the upper parts. Above the battlements rise four turrets; three of them are square, but that on the Northeast is circular. This turret once contained the first royal observatory.
The original single entrance was on the south side and it was reached by an external staircase. There were no doors at ground level. The walls on the upper floors were penetrated by narrow slits positioned in wide splays. On the southern side, four pairs of original double slits remain. In late 17th and early 18th centuries all others were replaced by Sir Christopher Wren with the windows seen today.
In the White Tower the medieval kings of England lived with their families and their court. Here was the seat of government and here the laws of the land were made. The royal family lived in the top storey; the council chamber was on the floor below. In this chamber in 1399 Richard II was forced to sign away his throne, and in 1483 Richard III summarily sentenced Lord Hastings to death.
Chapel of St. John the Evangelist
On the first floor of the White Tower is the exquisite Chapel of St John the Evangelist where the royal family and the court worshipped and where the knights of the Order of the Bath spent their vigil the night before a coronation. It is one of the most perfect specimens of Norman architecture in Great Britain. Roman influence can also be found in the White Tower's basement where there is two-millennium-old well. The White Tower also contains one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world.
The Arms and Armour (Part One)
The White Tower and the New Armouries contain the national collection of arms and armour. As the most important fortress in the kingdom, the Tower must have held armour and arms from the time it was first built, but in their present form the Armouries date from the time of Henry VIII. The collection -- one of the greatest in the world -- illustrates the development of arms and armour from the Middle Ages to 1914.
The White Tower is entered through the Tournament Room. The display here is devoted entirely to armour specially designed for use in warlike exercise. This collection includes the tilt armour for the German form of joust known as the Scharfrennen, in which sharp lances were used, and the splendid Brocas helm. The armour was made about 1490 in Germany for use at the court of Emperor Maximillian I; the tilt helm was probably made in England in the same period.
In tournaments mounted men ran different courses against each other, each course requiring armour of a special design. Men also fought against one another on foot and this required armour of yet another pattern. The Armouries contain three foot-combat armours made for Henry VIII, the first dates to about 1512 and the second about 1515, when he was slim and active. The third one was made in 1540 when he was forty-nine and very portly. The middle armour is remarkable in that all the plates fit together, over flanges, thus enabling his height of six-feet one-inch to be accurately determined.
In the adjacent room the collection of hunting and sporting arms includes crossbows and firearms. Here can be traced the technical advances in firearm mechanisms, from the match lock, the snaphance and the wheel lock to the flintlock. The development of decorative techniques is also evident. Craftsmen applied or inlaid precious metals, ivory, bone and even mother-of-pearl to enhance the wood they carved and chiselled with such consummate skill; the contemporary artistic styles from the 15th to the 19th centuries can thus be compared.
An especially interesting exhibit is the elegant silver-decorated sporting gun made in Dundee in 1614. It came from the personal gun-room of Louis XIII of France. Another unique exhibit is the Scottish gun made entirely of engraved brass for Charles I when he was a young man. Through the Chapel of St John is the Mediaeval Room, which is now devoted to the earliest arms and armour in the Tower. The exhibits are mostly of the late 14th and 15th centuries and include a superb Italian visored bascinet with its original neck protection of mail. There is also one of the few Gothic horse armours surviving. It was probably made to order for Waldemar VI of Anhalt-Zerbst (1450-1508).