The Tower of London - Medieval Architecture
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Tower of London

White Tower
White Tower (1078 AD)

After William conquered England in 1066 AD, he needed a castle to live in when he was in London. He needed a castle that would protect London from invaders, but also a castle that would protect him, William, from angry English people who didn't like being conquered.

To build his new castle, William brought some of the stone over on boats all the way from France, where he had just finished building a castle at Caen, his home town.

William built the White Tower in a Romanesque style, with rounded arches. Long narrow buttresses helped to support the heavy stone walls. Like the walls of Cairo just a little later, William's walls have crenellations on the top - little walls that men could hide behind while they were shooting arrows at their attackers. (Most of the windows you see were added later).

White Tower staircase

Inside, the White Tower originally was only two stories high. You walked up and down on spiral staircases.

White tower latrine

Built into the wall, William had several latrine toilets - just a board with a hole in it, and a long chute down to the ground. William also had a well built into his castle, so he could get water without going outside if the castle was attacked.

White Tower chapel
Chapel inside the White Tower

One of the rooms was a Romanesque chapel where William could attend Christian Mass without having to leave his safe castle (except that actually William died before his castle was finished).


A beefeater tells about the Tower of London

In the 1100s, King Richard built another stone wall around the White Tower, to be extra safe, and dug a moat. Later kings also worked on the Tower, and continued to live there until after 1500 AD.

Learn by doing: a project about castles
More about Castles

Bibliography and further reading about medieval castles:

The castle of William the Conqueror
The Tower of London
Carcassonne
The Conciergerie
More about Medieval Architecture
More about the Middle Ages
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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