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Tower of London

Tower of London, ancient fortress in London, England, just east of the City and on the north bank of the Thames, covering about 13 acres (5.3 hectares). Now used mainly as a museum, it was a royal residence in the Middle Ages. Later it was a jail for illustrious prisoners. The Tower is enclosed by a dry moat, within which are double castellated walls surrounding the central White Tower. Although Roman foundations have been discovered, the White Tower was built c.1078 by Gundulf, bishop of Rochester; the exterior was restored by Sir Christopher Wren. Various towers subsequently built were used as prisons; one of them now houses a collection of medieval arms and armor. The crown jewels are displayed in the Waterloo Block, a former barracks. The Traitors' Gate (giving access by water from the Thames) and the Bloody Tower are associated with many historically noted persons, including Queen Elizabeth I (when still princess), Sir Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, the 2d earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the duke of Monmouth. Many persons beheaded within the Tower precincts, or on the neighboring Tower Hill, were buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. The Yeomen of the Guard ("Beefeaters"), dressed in Tudor garb, still guard the Tower.

See R. J. Minney, The Tower of London (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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