The massive White Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture, whose influence was felt throughout the kingdom. It was built on the Thames by William the Conqueror to protect London and assert his power. The Tower of London – an imposing fortress with many layers of history, which has become one of the symbols of royalty – was built around the White Tower.
The massive White Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture of the late 11th century. The ensemble of the Tower of London is a major reference for the history of medieval military architecture, as many stone keeps like it were built across England. The tower has also been a monumental symbol of royal power since the time of William the Conqueror in the 11th century.
An imposing fortress with many layers of history, which has become one of the symbols of royalty, it was built around the White Tower, the influence of which was felt throughout the kingdom. On Christmas Day 1066, following his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror was crowned king at Westminster Abbey. To command the city on its seaward and most vulnerable side he quickly had an earth-and-timber keep built on top of an artificial mound in the south-east angle of the ancient Roman walls. Ten years later, he replaced these traditional defences with a grand edifice in stone, a sort of palace-fortress, known as the Tower of London.
Built during the 1080s and modified over the centuries, the White Tower, as it is now called, became the centrepiece of the complex of fortifications, courtyards and buildings which extends over 7.3 ha. The whole ensemble came to be known as the Tower of London, the name which originally applied only to the keep of 1076. The White Tower (so named because of its whitewashed walls) exemplifies Norman architecture of the time and it is unique for the ambitiousness of its design. The most significant element of the ensemble is associated with tragic moments in the history of the English monarchy, for example the 'Bloody Tower', where the sons of Edward IV were assassinated in 1483.
The White Tower, an impressive parallelepipedal block, rises to more than 27 m above the mound. The massive walls were made from Kentish limestone, with ashlars of Caen stone, imported at great expense from the conqueror's Norman domain, laid at the corners and around the doors, windows and arrow-slits. Inside, the three principal levels of the keep incorporates the requirements of both a defensive work and a royal residence, including a chapel.