Memorials of the Tower of London

De Ros, William Lennox




The Beauchamp Tower had from the earliest times been appropriated as a state prison for those unfortunate persons who were to be kept in close confinement without indulgence for air and exercise within the outer wall. There are three stories in this Tower, but the middle one, with a small dungeon beyond, was the prison. Its walls tell a truly dismal tale, covered as they are with the sad memorials of the names of successive prisoners of all ranks, engraved in many instances with an elaborate care which bears witness to the dreary weight of time which hung upon their hands, and rendered the inscribing of their names a melancholy resource under the privation of all other interests and occupation. For a number of years previous to the appointment of the late Sir G. Cathcart as Lieutenant-Governor of the Tower, this State prison had been disgracefully neglected, and fitted up by the Board of Ordnance as a mess-room for the Officers of the garrison, the niches being filled with cupboards and


shelves, to the concealment, as well as injury, of the inscriptions. Sir George was called from the Tower to active service at the Cape, before his judicious plans for restoring the Beauchamp Tower were yet completed, but he had so efficiently set the work on foot, that no difficulties were found by his successor in carrying them out. The detail was intrusted to Mr. Salvin, the architect, whose admirable taste in restoration had been fully displayed at Alnwick, Warwick Castle, and other historical edifices of baronial times. Certainly a better choice could not have been made, and nothing could exceed the pains and care which he bestowed upon this work, diligently tracing out every nook and corner where restoration was practicable; and where that was no longer possible, from the dilapidations having gone too far, following implicitly the old models before him, till, by the end of the second year, he had succeeded in the perfect restoration of this celebrated tower.

To avoid any future injury to the inscriptions on the inner walls, a preparation of an indurating nature was repeatedly rubbed over them to harden the stone, so that there is every reason to hope that the Beauchamp Tower, and its sad and interesting inscriptions, are now as secure against the effects of age, as skill and care can render them.

A Warder is always in attendance in the prison room during the hours of visitation by the public, and it is his special duty to caution visitors against touching, even with the finger, any part of the walls and inscriptions.

From the Beauchamp Tower, the Ballium wall is continued to the north-west corner of what may be called the


inner fortress, where stands the Devereux Tower, designated in Henry VIII.'s time as Robin the Devil's Tower, perhaps a corruption of Robert le Diable. Along the north face we find four towers, namely, the Devereux, the Flint Tower, the Bowyer Tower, and the Brick Tower. The Bowyer Tower is supposed to have been the scene of the murder of the Duke of Clarence, Edward IV.'s brother.

Were there no other notoriety attached to the Tower of London, the fact of our immortal dramatic poet having selected its various localities for some of the finest scenes of his historical plays, should be enough to invest it with a more than common interest.

It is enough to find in Shakespeare a scene headed "A Room in the Tower," to be certain that what follows will strike our imagination, or excite our sympathy, by some powerful exhibition of the passions and feelings of characters, who have acted conspicuous parts in the history of the early reigns of our monarchs, or the cruel and implacable enmities of the Wars of the Red and White Roses-wars which cut short the lives of nearly a third of the nobility of England, either in the field or on the scaffold. To quote Shakespeare, as an infallible historical authority, would be as absurd, as it would be, on the other hand, unreasonable not to give him credit for faithfully handing down to us the " tale as 'twas told to him," and commemorating in dialogue, as picturesque as natural, those tragedies of real life, with which our early history abounds. Whether he be always as correct in his facts, as he might have been, by a more diligent investigation


of the chronicles existing in his day, it is at least certain that he seldom fails to portray with a spirit and fire, unequalled by any who have ventured on the path of historical drama, the chivalrous character of the ancient nobility of England, and the brave and honest nature of the yeomen and soldiers who followed them to those bloody fields, where the flower of English youth were sacrificed to the ferocity of civil war. In proceeding with the description of the interior of the Tower, a reference to the Scenes which Shakespeare has located in some of its most remarkable chambers and prisons, will, it is hoped, be acceptable to most readers. One of the first which occurs has been attributed by tradition to the Bowyer Tower.[1] 

The north-east corner of the Ballium wall is formed by the Jewel Tower, and, following round to the eastern face, we come to the Broad-arrow Tower, at which point, owing to the destruction of the Royal Palace and adjacent buildings by Cromwell, the Ballium wall disappears.

With an utter disregard of the character and requirements of the Tower, whether as an historical monument of unequalled interest, or as a place of security for military stores, for the crown jewels, and for the curious and very valuable ancient armoury, the whole of this south-eastern portion of the Fortress has for many years been given up to degradation by the erection of a modern range of military storehouses and sheds.

Obscured by one of these buildings, stands the


ancient Salt Tower, lately restored by Mr. Salvin, to whose judgment and skill the public were indebted for the restoration of the Beauchamp Tower before mentioned, as well as for the beautiful inner elevation of the northern and eastern casemates.

The south-east corner of the Tower, where the Salt Tower stands, was the site of the royal palace, an irregular building (to judge from some old prints which are extant), extending from the south side of the White Tower, over the ground now occupied by those modern buildings of the Military Store department, which stand forth as a monument of all that is low and unsightly in modern architecture.

During the Government of Oliver Cromwell, he gave orders to put the Tower in a condition of defence, and is believed to have procured most of the material for this purpose from the ruins of the Royal Palace, which he took early occasion to pull down to the very ground. So effectually was this destruction accomplished, that the buttress of an old archway adjoining the Salt Tower is now the only vestige of a Palace which was the secure and stately residence of so many of our earlier monarchs. The modern buildings of the Military Store department, which resemble a large factory rather than a public edifice suitable to the character of the Tower, are continued along the south or river face, to near the centre, where the ancient Hall Tower, better known as the Wakefield Tower, marks the re-commencement of the Ballium wall.

Next to the Wakefield Tower stands the Bloody


Tower, opposite the celebrated water entrance of the Traitors' Gate; then comes a massive curtain-wall, at the back of which stands the Governor's house, and some Warders' quarters, the windows of which are pierced through the thickness of the wall (in most cases above eight feet), but unfortunately disfigured by modern brickwork at the top. This curtain-wall terminates westward at the Bell Tower, from whence the description of the Ballium wall was commenced.

The exterior defences of the Tower on the southern front consist of a low rampart (a prolongation of the exterior casemated wall with the Tower wharf), between it and the Thames, at the west end of which is a small river terrace, laid down in gravel, and shaded by a row of trees. The eastern part of this wharf is encumbered and disfigured with modern workshops, wooden sheds, and storehouses. Opposite to the Wakefield Tower, in the Ballium wall, stands the fine old tower known as St. Thomas's, under which, the wide stone archway, called by the fatal name of the Traitors' Gate, admitted the barges in which state prisoners were brought to the Tower from Westminster. From this arch there is an ascent of stone steps, by which prisoners were conducted through the Gate of the Bloody Tower to their cells or prison-rooms within the inner or Ballium wall. From the Traitors' Gate, the wharf extends westward to the Queen's Stairs, and thence to the Byward Tower and Main Gate, ending with the Tower stairs, which are just outside the defences of the Tower. A beautiful restoration of St. Thomas's Tower, the Traitors' Gate, and its noble arch, has just


been completed by Mr. Salvin, under the authority of the Hon. W. Cowper, First Commissioner of Works, who deserves every praise for this restoration of so curious an historical building, and for intrusting the execution of the work to such able hands as those of Mr. Salvin.


[1] RICHARD III., act i. scene 4. A room in the Tower. Enter CLARENCE and BRACKENBURY.