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The Tower of
There is more of London's history in the Tower than anywhere
else. It is the oldest surviving building in London, dating
from the Norman conquest. Even before that the site had been
used by the Romans, and later by the Saxons as a fortress.
From the eleventh century onwards the Tower served many
purposes. It was always a fortress, but at various periods
it was also a royal palace (King Charles II was the last
monarch to reside there). It has a long history as a prison,
and has a long list of unfortunate inmates, including kings,
queens, princes and other nobles. King Henry VIII had
several of his wives beheaded in the courtyard, and William
Wallace was held in the Tower for three days before he was
drawn and quartered just outside the walls.
The oldest part of the Tower fortress is the White
Tower pictured at left. It was built as a family residence
by William the Conqueor in 1078 (his forces invaded and
conquored England in 1066). The name is said to have
originated during the reign of King Henry VIII who ordered
the Tower to be whitewashed.
Today the White Tower houses a unique collection of
arms and armor, as well as various instruments of torture.
The Chapel of St. John, located on the first floor, is one
of the finest surviving examples of pure Norman