London: volume 2
XXXVIII.-The Tower. No. 1: The Progress of the Edifice.
XXXVIII.-The Tower. No. 1: The Progress of the Edifice.
The earliest description of the Tower, that of Fitz-Stephen, who died in , has something striking amidst its brevity.
A strange unmanageable thing is the imagination! There is no real connexion between the fabulous blood-tempered mortar of the old monkish writer and the subsequent history of the . Yet, when we think of that history, how appropriate does it seem that the very foundations of those walls should be laid in blood! Fitz-Stephen was nearer than we are to the period when these foundations were laid, by almost centuries; and yet he tells us not laid them. Tradition says, Julius Caesar; and Poetry is the step-nurse of the children of Tradition:--
Why does the poet himself tell us, in a note upon his well-known line, that the oldest part of the Tower is attributed to Julius Caesar? He had authority enough for his apostrophe to the towers of Julius, even if the belief of the vulgar were not a sufficient basis. Stow tells us,
How does the good, painstaking antiquary disprove the common opinion? how does he show that the old writers who adopted the common opinion had
He knows what was in Julius Caesar's head, and he knows what is not in the Roman writers, but he knows no more. And then come other antiquaries, who would give us something not quite so far off as Julius Caesar to rest our faith upon. Dr. Stukeley would have a citadel raised here, about the time of Constantine the Great; and Dr. Miller that the was the capital fortress of the Romans, their treasury, and their mint, from the circumstance that coins of the Emperors Honorius and Arcadius were found within the Tower walls, in digging for the foundations of some modern building. When we talk of the beginnings of such a place as the , we rejoice in these gropings and mystifications of the learned; for, unmolested by their facts, we desire to look into the depths of a fathomless antiquity. It is little to us that Stow the modern tells us, as if settling the matter,
But mark how the modern antiquary is presently lost in the dim morning of history; and how even he falls back upon tradition :--
Fitz-Stephen is Stow's authority for the fact of the Thames washing away the south wall; all the rest is conjecture. But since Stow's time--that is in , and again in -foundations of buildings long swept away were discovered near the White Tower. They were of stone, of the great width of yards, and so strongly cemented that they were with difficulty removed. Who built these walls which correspond so remarkably with Fitz-Stephen's description? How are we sure that the White Tower was the building of which Gundulph was the architect? Can we be certain that the White Tower was the described by Fitz-Stephen? These are questions which the antiquaries will not solve for us, even while they command us to believe in no vulgar traditions. Let them remain unsolved. We have got our foot upon tolerably firm ground. We see the busy Bishop (it
|was he who built the great keep at Rochester) coming daily from his lodgings at the honest burgess's to erect something stronger and mightier than the fortresses of the Saxons. What he found in ruins, and what he made ruinous, who can tell? There might have been walls and bulwarks thrown down by the ebbing and flowing of the tide. There might have been, dilapidated or entire, some citadel more ancient than the defences of the people whom the Norman conquered, belonging to the age when the great lords of the world left everywhere some marks upon the earth's surface of their pride and their power. That Gundulph did not create the fortress is tolerably clear. What he built, and what he destroyed, must still, to a certain extent, be a matter of conjecture.|
Here then, about the middle of the century, was a Bishop of Rochester, with that practical mastery of science and art which so honourably distinguishes the ecclesiastics of that age, building some great work at the command of the King. The register referred to by Stow speaks of it as . But the chroniclers tell us that in the year the was
There was a mighty tempest in that year, which they inform us blew down more than houses in London. These were houses of wood and mud,--huts not built to brave the elements. But the great White Tower to be sore shaken by the wind! The wind might as well attempt to shake Snowdon or Ben Nevis. This single fact is to us a pretty satisfactory proof that the Tower, in the reign of Rufus, was a collection of buildings of various dates, and of various degrees of strength. Rufus, it is said, repaired the damage, and he added to the erections by a mode which marked his progress very distinctly. Henry of Huntingdon says,
Stow, describing the additional buildings of Rufus and his successor Henry I., says,
The castle under the Great Tower is held to be that anciently called St. Thomas's Tower, beneath which was Traitor's Gate. Here, again, the precise building erected is not very clearly defined. That the Tower gradually assumed the character of a regular fortress, by successive additions, there can be little doubt. At the period of which we are speaking its limits were not very exactly defined; and its liberties or juridical extent continued to be a matter of controversy for several centuries. The chroniclers tell us that the constables of the after the Conquest made a vineyard of the site now known as , which they held by force from the Priory of the Holy Trinity, within , to which it pertained. It was restored to the Church in the year of King Stephen. In the reign of that monarch, during his contest with the Empress Maud, Geoffrey de Mandeville was authorized by the Empress to hold to his own use
This certainly gives the notion of a principal building such as the White Tower, with of an inferior character. It cannot be exactly determined whether, previous to the reign of Stephen, the Tower was capacious enough for a royal residence; but as early as the reign of Henry I. it had been employed (as probably all places of strength were then occasionally employed) as a prison for state offenders. In the year of that king Ralph Flambard, the
|belligerent Bishop of Durham, was here confined. He kept a sumptuous table, and his jovial character was agreeable enough to his keepers, amongst whom he circulated the wine-cup with a very unclerical intemperance. A rope was conveyed to him in a fresh tun of the generous liquor wherewith he made the hearts of his companions glad. Their wassail was prolonged to the point of the most helpless drunkenness; and the bishop escaped from the window by the aid of his good rope, whilst his warders were soundly sleeping. A century or so later, Griffin, the eldest son of Llewellyn Prince of Wales, tried a similar experiment with a rope, with no such happy result. The bishop got safe to Normandy; the Welsh prince broke his neck.|
During the absence of Richard I. in the Holy Land, in , Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, held the Tower against John and his partisans. He
say the chroniclers,
Stow has looked upon this occurrence with the eye of skilled in local boundmarks. He was the feed chronicler of the City, and, by a diligent hunting of records, could tell us of petty oppressions and spoliations with a minute exactness which amusingly contrasts with his brief dismissal of the mighty events by which the boundaries of empires were changed, or the ancient limits of authority subverted. The building of the outward wall of the Tower, and the making of the deep ditch, by William Longchamp, was a pretty sure indication that struggles for power were to take place in the heart of the great city, upon which the happiness and liberties of its inhabitants for centuries after might mainly depend. But the honest local historian tells us, with delightful simplicity,
He complains, too, that the enclosure and ditch took away the ground of the City on , besides breaking down the city wall. The citizens, however, did not complain, because they thought all was done for
But in the reign of Henry III. their opinions underwent a material change. That King saw the weakness of the Tower as a fortress; and, whilst he made it his chief residence, adding to its internal comfort and beauty, he was careful to strengthen its bulwarks, especially towards the west. The work was probably hurried in for the walls twice fell down,
Matthew Paris, who tells us this, adds,
Henry III. had, however, other and fiercer prisoners within those new walls than the valiant citizens of London. They had many contests with him; they insulted his queen and pent her up within the bulwarks of the Tower; but the royal clemency was to be bought with money, and good round sums did the
| citizens pay for it. The prisoners that Henry III. chiefly kept here were leopards; and their abode, and that of their successors, was for centuries in the gate called the Lion Tower. This tower also was built by Henry III. The leopards, which were presented to Henry III. by the Emperor Frederick, formed, no doubt, part of the royal state with which that King here surrounded himself. Although we have no very full traces of what he effected during his long reign in rendering the Tower a fitting palace for the English kings--the records of what he did leave no doubt that he accomplished many things of which there are no record. Mr. Bayley says, |
These fragmentary notices are more interesting to the antiquary than to the general reader; but, like every other such authentic record, they throw light not only upon the state of national industry, but of the manners of the period. The King, for example, orders the garner to be repaired: this was probably a storehouse of corn. The leaden gutters of the Great Tower, through which the rain-water must fall down from the top, are to be lengthened and brought even with the ground. This was a progress in domestic architecture which we should have scarcely expected, when we know that centuries afterwards the roofs of the London houses were furnished with spouts which bestowed their torrents during every shower upon the unhappy passengers below. The Great Tower, and the old wall about it, are ordered to be whitened; and Stow holds that the Great Tower was thenceforward called the White Tower: this we doubt. The church of St. Peter within the Tower was also the object of the King's especial care. It was not only to be brushed and plastered with lime, but its images were to be coloured anew, and a new image of St. Christopher was to be made, and fair tables to be made, painted of the best colours, concerning the stories of the blessed Nicolas and Catherine. The last direction of this letter mandatory (the original of which is in Latin) is very curious:--
Edward I. completed the ditch and bulwarks erected by his father, and he raised some additional fortifications to the west. Mr. Bayley, the historian of the Tower, considers the works of Edward I. to be the last additions to the fortress of any importance. Some of the works of this period were perishable enough, from the nature of their construction. It is recorded, for example, that in the citizens of London pulled down a wall between the and the city, supposed to have been erected by Henry III.: they were compelled to restore the same, and were fined a for their exploit.
In the reign of Edward III. a commission was issued for inquiring into the state of the Tower. The original return to that commission is at the Record Office; and has been printed by Mr. Bayley in his
| have here a detailed estimate of the expense of repairing particular buildings, the several items amounting to It is not very easy to assign the various items to the buildings which now exist: for example, we have the |
as well as the
Other items indicate the palatial character of the fortress, such as the King's hall and chapel; the Queen's kitchen, bakehouse, chamber, and chapel the waiter's chamber; the wardrobe. In the year subsequent to this estimate, , the attention of the King seems to have been more directed towards the strengthening of the fortress than the increase of its domestic comforts. The sheriffs of London were required to pay out of the farm of the city,
and the sheriff of Kent was commanded to bring all the oak timber from Havering to be employed upon the fortress. In the reign of Edward's unhappy grandson we find the outer walls of mud already noticed still remaining. In a document of the year of Richard II. it is stated that
Charles Duke of Orleans, and his younger brother, John Count of Angouleme, who were taken prisoners at the battle of Agincourt, suffered a long captivity in the . We mention this circumstance here, because in a copy of the poems of the Duke, now preserved in the Harleian collection in the , there is a most curious illumination representing the Tower and the adjacent parts of London at the period of the Duke's captivity. The copy on the opposite page will furnish a better idea of the condition of this fortress centuries and a half ago than any description, even if the most full and correct existed. In a design of this nature the artist was more desirous of conveying the most complete notion of a building by something like the union of a picture and a plan, than of adhering to any rules of perspective, even if he had been familiar with them. His ingenious device for showing the interior as well as the exterior of the Great Tower will not pass unnoticed. He has opened the south side by an arch of immense span; and there he exhibits to us the Duke in a large chamber, assiduously wooing the Muse with the unusual accompaniment of a body of guards and attendants. We are to suppose that the Duke also possesses the property of ubiquity; and that, whilst he is writing his poems in the large rim, he is looking out of his chamber window in the upper story, and walking within the bulwarks to welcome some faithful adherent who has recently arrived from his beloved France. Here, then, we have correctly enough represented the Great Tower, with the buildings and bulwarks between that and the Thames; the towers and walls on the west; and those behind the Great Tower on the north. The space within the walls, it will be seen, bears wholly the character of a palatial fortress; with no mean erections growing up beneath the massive walls, utterly unsuited to the character of the place, either as of magnificence or strength. They were the parasitical growth of a later period.
In the reigns of Edward IV. and Richard III. some considerable repairs of the Tower appear to have taken place. In connexion with the fortress-prison, Edward IV. made a movement highly characteristic of the period. His officers set up a scaffold and gallows upon ; but the City of London insisted upon their ancient right of dealing with offenders within their own precincts: so the King's scaffold and gallows were taken down with many apologies, and the sheriffs maintained their ancient privileges of superintending all heading and hanging beyond the Tower walls. In the time of Henry VIII. extensive repairs again took place; and the specifications furnish a pretty accurate notion of the character of the several buildings and of the extent of the royal apartments.
Amongst other towers whose ancient names have now fallen into oblivion, such as
but this, be it remarked, is not the great White Tower, which in later times has been called Caesar's--it is the
at the south-eastern angle.
We are now arrived at a period--that of the reign of Elizabeth--in which we can ascertain with great exactness the condition of this fortress. In a survey was made of the Tower and its liberties under the direction of Sir John Peyton, then governor. A
has been preserved; but before we proceed to exhibit this very curious plan we may transcribe the brief description of the Tower by an intelligent foreigner, Paul Hentzner, who visited England in :--
The plan which we subjoin, being of the exact period of Hentzner's description, gives an additional value to it.
The names which we have affixed to this plan are those which the respective portions of the fortress at present bear, with the exception of those parts here called
Those who are familiar with the Tower will feel little difficulty in tracing upon this plan the exact buildings which remain; but the casual visitor, to whom the Tower has conveyed a notion of a town within a fortress, will not so easily understand how this place could once have been, even in times of comparative comfort and splendour, a palace for the monarch, a treasury for the chief wealth of the Crown, a royal mint, an armoury, a menagerie, a state prison. Here, in the plan before us, are large areas, courts within courts, ranges of offices communicating with the chief buildings upon a common arrangement, unencumbered external walls and bulwarks, .something altogether which gives a notion of power and splendour, such as befit the abode and the defence of a long line of warrior kings. At the date of this plan the Tower had ceased to be the residence of the sovereign. The chattels of the Crown were no longer moved about from the Tower to and Greenwich. had become the centre of courtly splendour; but the Tower was still the seat of all the great attributes of royalty, and it was occasionally occupied by the monarch upon extraordinary solemnities. James I. came here in , previous to his procession through the city to open his parliament. In a Latin oration by William Hubbocke, which was subsequently published with a translation, the King is welcomed to the Tower, in a style inflated enough indeed, but which does not disregard those facts that afford us a very exact notion of the purposes to which the Tower was then applied, as well as a tolerable description of the place itself.
The preceding extract we give from the reprint of Hubbocke's scarce tract in Mr. Nicholls's
In the same valuable collection we have a tract entitled
in which the writer gives an account of the festivals with which the royal brother of James was entertained, and the sights that he went to see, in . At the Tower, says the writer,
How pleasant it is to imagine the fussy King gloating upon all these treasures with a royal rapture, wielding the sceptre, bearing the orb in his palm, putting on the crown, perhaps longing to pocket a jewel or for his private use! Nor less would be his exaltation of mind at the next stage:--
Carefully, however, would the peaceful King walk amidst the dangers of the next building:--
We are not quite sure that the King of Denmark was not left to himself by his royal brother when muskets and daggers were to be seen:--
But there was a place, after the party had viewed the Mint, in which James especially delighted.
The King no doubt fancied that he exhibited a mighty valour when, perched up in a gallery, he could behold the combats of lions with mastiffs and bears. The only additions which this eccentric monarch made to the Tower were in connexion with his favourite amusements.
In the reign of James I. the general condition of the Tower was inquired into by the Privy Council; and it was reported that, through successive encroachments, the splendour and magnificence of this royal castle was much defaced, and the place itself as it were besieged in the wharf, ditches, and liberties. Commissioners, in , reported that on the side of and
This is indeed a curious record of the steady encroachments of peaceful industry upon the outworks of a slumbering despotism. But the cause of these encroachments is pretty obvious. The report of talks of the
and mentions the odious words
Mr. Bayley has preserved a curious paper which appears to have been drawn up by a yeoman warder in , stating the appropriation of the various buildings at that date. It shows us little of the splendour, but a great deal of the melancholy gloom, of the then Tower. It appears to have been some time deserted by the Crown, and almost wholly appropriated to the detention of prisoners of state. The White Tower, according to this, belongs to the Office of the Ordnance, the Martin Tower to the porter of the Mint, the By-ward and Towers to the warders. But of other towers each bears the fearful appellation of
In the latter part of the reign of Charles II. very considerable repairs were effected in the Tower,
The survey which was previously made is accompanied with a plan. Compared with the previous plan of the reign of Elizabeth, we see that during the lapse of less than a century much of the ancient character of the old fortress had been obliterated, and that clusters of small buildings had grown up amidst its towers and courts. During the civil wars and the Commonwealth the place had been left pretty much under the control of its military officers; and after the Restoration Charles troubled himself but little about a gloomy fortress far away from the scenes of his voluptuousness. Pepys has a curious notice of visit
| of the King to the Tower, under date of the :-- |
The notion of Charles going to the Tower to look upon the price of his shame is highly characteristic. In the same month Pepys was himself engaged in an- adventure at the Tower which is also a singular illustration of the point of view in which the old fortress was regarded by the court. Some person, with a prodigious show of mystery, had affirmed that there was treasure concealed in the vaults of the Tower, and Pepys--the busy, prying Pepys--was to be the chief agent in bringing the riches to the light of day. The sum alleged to have been hidden was , of which the discoverer was to get , Lord Sandwich , and the King . A warrant for the search was given by the King, and the Lieutenant of the Tower and the Lord Mayor were to aid and assist.
Again dived Pepys and his labourers into the Tower cellars, and again he says,
A time they went, with a woman who knew all about the matter; but with the like success. A time they applied themselves to work in the garden; and Pepys, somewhat cold and tired, betook himself to the fire in the governor's house, beguiling the time with reading of Fletcher's plays.
Baxter's cellars tell a tale of private appropriation of public property.
In the reign of James II., was commenced the grand storehouse, on the north side of the inner ward. This building was completed in the reign of William III., and was utterly destroyed by fire in the reign of Queen Victoria. The principal buildings that were added to the Tower in the next century were houses for heads of departments, storehouses, and barracks. All these, as it may be supposed, are perfectly incongruous with the ancient character of the place.
The great fire at the Tower on the , has fixed the public attention, with an earnestness previously unknown, on this most interesting of all the monuments of our ancient history. It is not to meet the demand of a mere temporary excitement that we intend devoting a Series of Numbers to a view of the Tower under its most important aspects. Sooner or later we should have taken up this large subject, and have exhausted it, as far as was compatible with the plan of our work. B But the recent destruction of
which is sometimes also named
--not only forces upon
| our attention the present state of the multifarious buildings which form what is called |
but the historical associations of those buildings lead us to consider what the Tower ought to be as a great national monument. In detailing to the reader the course which we intend to pursue in the treatment of this subject, we shall also very slightly indicate our general views of what a government that rightly estimates the value of patriotic feelings ought to do in reference to any plan for the repair of the recent damage.
The brief history which we have given of the progressive increase of the Tower has purposely avoided any notice of the surpassing historical associations which belong to this fortress. We reserve those for or successive papers. They will group themselves somewhat as follows.-We shall regard the Tower as the ancient PALACE of the English Kings. All the fortress buildings which remain once constituted a portion of that Palace; for in the days of arbitrary power the notions of a Palace and a Prison were by no means dissociated. But the White Tower, especially, was a chief part of the Palace, with its Hall, its Chapel, its Council Chamber. Here some of the greatest events in English history took place. Here, Richard II. resigned his crown to Bolingbroke; the Protector Gloucester bared his arm before the assembled Council, and, accusing Hastings of sorcery, sent him within the hour to the block in the adjoining Court. What is the White Tower now? Its walls remain; but modern doors and windows have taken the place of the old Gothic openings; and within, the fine ancient apartments are divided and subdivided into various offices. The Chapel- of the most striking remains of our early architecture, is fitted up as a depository of Records ;--and the vaulted rooms upon the basement are filled with military stores and gunpowder. To none of these places are the public admitted; nor, if they were, could they form any notion of the ancient uses of the building. It would be a wise thing in the Government to sweep away all that encumbers and destroys the interior of this edifice; and to restore it as far as possible to the condition in which it was at some given period of our history--in the time of Richard II. for example. And for what, it will be said,--to make a showplace? Unquestionably. There are buildings, or there ought to be, where Records could be better preserved, because more conveniently; but there is no building which can be shown to the people as so complete a monument of the feudal times, or which could be so easily restored to its former conditions. Let the people here see, as far as possible, what royal state was, , , or centuries ago. Let room be fitted up as in the days of Henry III.; another as in the times of the Wars of the Roses; and another as in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. During the last or years all the ancient armour of the Tower has been beautifully arranged, in a chronological series; and the visitor can understand better than by the best description what the warfare of our ancestors was,--and what were the appliances of their mimic war of tilts and tournaments. In the same way let them be instructed in the domestic history of their country, by walking under the same roof beneath which their old kings sate, surrounded with the same rude magnificence, the same mixture of grandeur and meanness, arras on the walls and dirty rushes on the floor. We would go beyond the restoration of the White Tower; and ask that
of should be restored; and that the ancient courts, which have been destroyed
| that paltry houses may occupy their site, should again be formed, to show how power was obliged to hem itself round with defences, and how its commonest recreations were mingled with fears and jealousies which could never be removed till constitutional government was firmly established. In connexion with the palatial character of the Tower, the exhibition of the Crown Jewels should be regarded. They were formerly kept in a place more immediately appurtenant to the White Tower. Their history is united in the mind of every child in the kingdom with the daring attempt of Colonel Blood to steal them, in the days of Charles II. How easy would it be to restore the Jewel Office exactly to the condition in which it was in those days! Again, the Mint formed a part of the Tower as the chief ancient seat of royalty. The actual coining of money has been very properly removed to a more convenient building. But let of the ancient towers be fitted up for the display of the former rude implements in the manufacture of money, and for the exhibition of the British coins and medals, from the Saxon penny to the coronation medal of Victoria. The |
departed from the Tower to die of the damps of the . But they were a part of the ancient regal magnificence, and we think they ought not to have been removed. We could wish again to see the living emblem of England in his ancient cell. The glory of the place seemed to us to have departed when the last old king of beasts left his massy stone dwelling in the Lion Tower, where his predecessors had dwelt for centuries with the kings of men--to take up with a wooden box, and to be fed by subscription. : But there are more solemn lessons to be learnt at the Tower by people who go there for real instruction. It was the great STATE PRISON of England; and here the most illustrious victims in the world have suffered and perished. With the exception of a room or in what is now called
the public see none of the interesting remains which are full to overflowing with these sublime associations. The room whose walls are covered with the pathetic inscriptions of those who here waited for death--where we may actually look upon the lines which the delicate fingers of Lady Jane Grey traced in her solitude--is a mess-room for the officers of the garrison. The Beauchamp Tower, a most important prison, is inaccessible. Again, the chapel or church of St. Peter--the little building to the west of the large storehouse recently destroyed--is the burial-place of the most renowned victims of their own ambition, the jealousies of power, or the sad necessities of state, that have fallen beneath the axe, from the days of
to those of Lord Lovat. This chapel-perhaps, altogether, the place in all England most interesting in its associations--is fitted up with modern pews; and not a stone is there to tell who lies in that blood-tempered dust. What a noble work it were for a great nation to consecrate this chapel anew as a Temple of Toleration--to erect monuments here to every illustrious sufferer, whether Protestant or Catholic, Republican or Jacobite! During the contests in which they perished was slowly built up the fabric of our liberties, and, like the old bulwarks we have described, it is not now to be shaken by any common storm. The more the people are conversant with our national antiquities, and have an abiding historical knowledge impressed upon them by associations which all can understand, the more will the foundations of this fabric be strengthened.
The last point of view in which we purpose to regard the Tower is that of an ARSENAL. A great deal has been very wisely done of late years to display and classify the many curious relics and spoils of war of the English army, from the days of Cressy to those of Waterloo. Some valuable things have been lost in the recent fire; but many of the most valuable have been preserved. We trust that, in any plans for repairing the destruction, the notion of making the Tower a depository for arms and stores for present use will be abandoned; but that in a few years may be here found the finest ancient Armoury in Europe. [To be continued in No. XXXIX.]