Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

The Tower of London

On the opposite bank sits the Tower of London. For centuries the White Tower dominated the London skyline. Today its ninety feet of height are insignificant against the city background.

The Tower of London
The Tower of London

The Tower was started by William the Conqueror as a fortress stronghold to keep down potential rebellion against the Norman Conquest. Since that time it has been added to and taken centre-stage of so many incidents during its history that it becomes a complete story in itself, far too great to do it full justice here.

Over two million people visit each year, and it is one of the “must-see” heritage attractions on the tourist trail. It houses the Crown Jewels, despite several attempts to spirit them away by various dubious characters. The most famous of these was Colonel Blood, whose attempt in 1671 to steal the collection resulted in the same failure as all those who went before him, as well as all those who tried to follow.

The Tower has also been used as a prison. The first prisoner was one Ranulf Flambard, erstwhile Bishop of Durham, who also became the first prisoner to escape. He accomplished this in comic-book hero style by climbing down a rope that had been smuggled up to him. That was back in 1101. Since then many of the famous and infamous have been incarcerated here over the centuries; the Princes in the Tower, (allegedly murdered by command of the future Richard III), Thomas Moore, Sir Walter Raleigh, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Gray, Guy Fawkes, Rudolf Hess and the Kray Twins.

Once upon a time the Tower of London and its resident “Beefeaters” were synonymous with the city itself, and were used as symbols to represent the capital. However, it is the next object of my attention that has in most peoples minds become the iconic image of London; the magnificent and instantly recognisable Tower Bridge.

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