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Stephen down to the reign of James II.—the Tower was used as a royal palace, the occasional or permanent residence of the court. As the
armoury warlike provisions, it is also replete with interest ; for it not only contains a vast store of the modern implements of war, (200,000 stand of arms,) but also an unrivalled collection of arms and armour, for horse and foot, offensive and defensive, of all periods; and a vast number of the spoils of our great national
the best vouchers of victory. When the vanity of our neighbours, on the eastern side of the Straits of Dover, leads them to deny that their countrymen were beaten at Waterloo—and hotheaded patriots are still found equal to such a denial -the best way is to answer quietly, Where did the emperor die ? Borodino is a disputed battle ; for it has no material monument. The grave in St. Helena, the cannon in the Tower, the colours in the Invalides, the column in the place Vendôme—these are evidences of victory not to be gainsaid. Even the history of the crown jewels is full of interest and romance ; the attempt of Colonel Blood and his associates to steal them, is one of the most extraordinary incidents in the annals of our country ; and if common rumour may be credited, there have been strange doings in that jewel-room since the time of Colonel Blood. All that sparkles is not diamond. It is said, there is a curious story to be told one day thereupon, of which the public as yet know nothing.
As a place of deposit for the records of the nation, the Tower has a present and a future, as well as a past interest. No country in the world has so large and so complete a collection of monuments, in the shape of written records of the various courts of law, as England. Above all, however, the most enchaining interest which connects itself with the Tower of London—that which attracts pilgrims to its dismal nooks and corners, from all parts of England, of Europe, of the world, which makes us linger with hushed breath about its dreary cells and corridors, and pause with solemn stillness in the aisles of its antique chapels—is the fact, that for eight hundred years it has been the great state-prison of England; and in that time has been the home of some of the most illustrious men which our country has given birth to : Chaucer and More, Bacon and Fisher, Raleigh and Eliot, Harrington and Vane, Russell and Sidney, and a host of others! Of the seventy or eighty dungeons which may still be traced in the Tower, there is, probably, not one free from the curse of innocence unjustly charged and punished; hardly one in which men have not been immured, whose names, when mentioned now-a-days, are always pronounced with reverence and love. The saddest pages in our country's history are to be found scratched on the walls of the dungeons in the Tower of London. Who can ever forget a visit to that saddest of all sad cells, the Beauchamp tower ?
When this site was first used as a place of strength, has been debated for several centuries. Tradition assigned the erection of a fortress on the spot to Julius Cæsar ; this tradition is often referred to in the old poets—Shakspeare mentions it several times. A discovery of some gold coins of the periods of Arcadius and Honorius, on the south side of the White-tower, has raised a conjecture, that the Romans had a citadel on this spot, which they also used as a mint. The circumstance is not in itself unlikely ; but no evidence of a conclusive nature has yet been found in support either of the old tradition or the modern hypothesis. Whatever now remains of the edifice is Norman. The White-tower is the oldest ; it was built by order of the Conqueror, on the plans of the warlike Bishop of Rochester, Gundulph. It is a curious instance of the military character of the Church in the age of the crusades, that the chief fortress in England should have been erected by a bishop, and during several reigns commanded by either bishops or archbishops. A very curious and significant fact is mentioned by William Fitzstephen, a monk of Canterbury, who was born in London in the early part of the twelfth century, with respect to the building of the walls and dungeons-namely, that the mortar used in their construction was mixed with blood ; the blood of animals slain for the purpose ! This fact—so revolting and yet so sadly prophetic—is overlooked by Bayley and the other historians.
But what a prologue to its after history! Rufus and Henry I. made great additions to the pile of building—the former built the outer wall, at the same time as he erected Westminster Hall ; in both these works, he compelled the people of London and the surround
ing counties to lend assistance, and so gave rise to many discontents. John again added considerably to the strength of the position ; as did also Henry III. Alterations have been made down to the present time, and are still making ; but not so much in those parts of the fortress in which prisoners were confined : many of the cells and dungeons remain exactly as they stood in the days of the Tudor kings.
The best view of the fortress, perhaps, is to be obtained from the enclosed ground under the windows of Trinity House ; that fatal spot, on which a stream of the best blood of England has been poured from age to age—the blood of man and woman, tyrant and traitor, sovereign and subject—of Monmouth and Jane Grey, of Strafford and Essex, of Ann Boleyn and Algernon Sidney! From this point, the Tower presents to the eye a mass of very irregular building, of various ages and styles of architecture-in which turret and bastion, wall and ditch, chapel and tower, barrack and promenade, seem to be mixed together in most admired confusion; but the whole system of towers and houses, forms a bold and picturesque mass of solid strength and of by no means ungraceful outline. The central and principal object in the view, is the square ancient tower built by the Conqueror. This building is completely detached from all the others : it was formerly the palace of the sovereign. It contained a suite of royal apartments, a chapel, a noble hall of audience, and council-chamber. The lower parts of this tower are now used as a repo
sitory of arms and stores; the upper part is filled with the national records. The turrets at the corners were formerly used as cages for the confinement of prisoners of very high rank; they command a magnificent view of the city and river. Later on the round turret in the north-east corner was used as an observatory, until the astronomer royal was removed to Greenwich ; it is now filled with records, as is also the turret in the south-west The turrets in the other two angles are empty, and in ruins. The roof is flat, and was formerly used as a promenade for the prisoners, who could there take air and exercise without any fear of being able to escape.
These leads had also the advantage of overlooking Tower-hill and the scaffolding erected for the execution of their fellows in misfortune.
After the White-tower, the most striking object is the new armoury ; built to replace the ravages of the last great fire. It is massive and striking, but possesses no other interest.
Below this, and sweeping down towards the river bank, the eye
wanders along a dark and broken outline of wall, in which are embedded several small and iron-grated windows : all these open into famous and infamous state dungeons. Beauchamp-tower, the Bell-tower, the Bloody-tower, the Spur-tower, Wakefield-tower, St. Thomas’-tower, the Devereux-tower, the Salt-tower, the Flint-tower, the Bowyer-tower, the Brick-tower, the Constable’s-tower, the Arrow-tower, the Lanthorn-tower, the Develin-tower, the Well-tower, the Cradle-tower, the By-ward-tower, the Martin-tower