The Tower in the 19th century

Under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington, Constable of the Tower 1826 – 1852 the Tower moat was drained, largely because it had become a stagnant cess pool, while the Grand Storehouse which burned down in 1841 was replaced with the Waterloo Block in 1845, undoubtedly an act of humility on the part of Wellington.  The Iron Duke would also build additional defences as protection against Chartist uprisings in the 1840s (which failed to materialise – against the Tower at least), although these defences would succumb to the might of the Luftwaffe a century later.

Note the cat-like projectile.  Such violence!

Note the cat-like projectile at the top of the image. The Chartist motto was actually 'peace and order'.

The 19th century would also see the departure of some of the Tower’s oldest institutions.  The Royal Mint was first to go in 1812, the menagerie followed in the 1830s, departing to Regent’s Park and becoming London Zoo in the process.  The Office of Ordnance and the Public Records Office would also leave the Tower in the 1850s, but popular interest in the Tower and its history was reflected in a rise in visitor numbers before these changes.  In 1838 some of the old cages from the menagerie were turned into a ticket office and it wasn’t long before refreshments and a guide book were available.

The transformation of the Tower in the public imagination gathered pace in the 1850s when architect Anthony Salvin undertook the commission to restore some of the Tower’s medieval facets – at least according to Victorian interpretation.  Salvin would work on the Salt, Beauchamp, White and Wakefield Towers.  Salvin’s successor, John Taylor, carried out his work with a little too much enthusiasm, controversially destroying historic buildings in his quest to provide uninterrupted views of the White Tower.

By the end of the century over half a million people would be visiting the Tower on an annual basis, but public understanding of the events that took place at the Tower would also be influenced by Victorian interepretations of history, as well as the spectacle of the medieval Tower.  And it is this subject I shall return to at a later date.

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