AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Tower of London collection

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2919 TOWER
Held at: Royal Armouries Library, London
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Tower of London collection
Date(s): 1506-1987
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
View subfonds/series records
Name of creator(s): Museum and Library of the Royal Armouries


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Tower of London was originally constructed in the 11th century as a fortress and has remained in periodic use particularly during times of civil disorder, as well as being a royal residence.

The Tower served several important administrative functions, housing the Privy Wardrobe, one of the departments of the Royal Household, until the mid 15th century; the Royal Mint until 1812; and the Public Record Office until the 1850s. It had an important military function, not only was it the most important arsenal in the kingdom, but also the home of the Board of Ordnance, the government department responsible for the supply of munitions and equipment to the army and navy, until its abolition in 1855.

The Tower was also used as a state prison up until the mid 17th century, and then again during the First and Second World Wars. It is particularly well known as the place of execution of two Queens of England, Anne Boleyn (1535) and Catherine Howard (1542). It was also the original home of the Royal Observatory (before it moved to Greenwich), and the King's Menagerie (the last of the animals were relocated to London Zoo in 1834). It is currently the repository of the Crown Jewels.

At its height the Tower was a thriving community under the control of the Constable and his Lieutenant. It had a large temporary population made up of the officers and workers of the Board of Ordnance and the Royal Mint, but also a significant permanent population, including the military garrison and the yeomen warders, and their families. The Tower also had its own doctor, hospital, and chapel.

The Tower was first opened to the public in 1660, but its development as a visitor attraction dates to the mid 19th century. It was then that the first official guidebooks appeared, the Jewel House was opened to visitors, and the displays of the Tower Armouries (now the Royal Armouries), where placed on a more academic basis.


Scope and content/abstract:

Collected archive relating to the Tower of London (ToL) comprising: General Documents including Act of Parliament for regulating the nightly watch, 1756; newspaper containing account of fire at the ToL, 1774; newspaper containing account of fire at the ToL, 1788; newspapers containing accounts of the fire in the Grand Storehouse, 1841; report describing the removal of the Regalia from the Jewel House during the fire in the Grand Storehouse, 1841; report that the Public Records had not been affected by the fire in the Grand Storehouse, 1841; regulations for HM Royal Palace and Fortress of the ToL, 1878; regulations for HM Royal Place and Fortress of the ToL, 1882; account of the fire bomb raid on the ToL, 1940; regulations for HM ToL, 1946;

General maps and plans including map of London, 1560 (mid 19th century copy); map of London, 1862 (copy); plan of the ToL, 1597 (reduced 19th century copy); plan of the ToL, 1597 (18th century copy); plan of the ToL, 1660 showing suggested alterations (copy); plan of the ToL, c.1680 (copy); plan of the ToL, 1681-1689; plan of the ToL, c.1682 (copy); plan of the area occupied by the Royal Mint, 1701 (copy); map of the Tower Liberty, 1720; map of the Tower Liberty, 1754; plans of the White Tower, 1754; plan of the ToL and St. Catherines, 1754; plan of the ToL, 1760; plans of the White Tower, early 19th century; plans of the White Tower, 1815; Ordnance Survey plan of the ToL and Tower Hill, c.1900; various plans of works carried out at the ToL, 1960-present; plan showing the re-arrangement of the area to the south of the White Tower, c.1965; plan of the ToL, 1966; elevations of the White Tower, 1966;

General photographs of the ToL, c.1850, c.1890, c.1898; ToL and the Royal Mint, c.1850-60; ToL from the Wharf, c.1870, 1888; c.1890, c.1899, c.1910; the Cradle Tower after the reinstatement of the first floor, c.1878; interior views of the ToL, c.1880; the demolition of the Horse Armoury, 1883; ToL from the river Thames, 1888, late 19th century; the Byward Tower from the west, c.1890; the Byward Tower from the east, late 19th century; ToL from the west, late 19th century; the Grand Storehouse pediment, late 19th century; ToL from the north west, late 19th century; the Beauchamp Tower, late 19th century; photograph of the Byward Tower, late 19th century; the Middle Drawbridge soon after construction, c.1910; the White Tower, 1914; Tower Green, 1922; the entrance to the ToL, mid 20th century; the second floor of the White Tower, c.1939; Aerial photos of the ToL, 1949, c.1960, 1970, 1987;
and stereoscopic photographs of the Bell Tower, and the Byward Tower, mid 19th century; ToL from Tower Hill, c.1870; ToL from the west, late 19th century; and the Waterloo Barracks, late 19th century;

General guidebooks to the Tower including An historical description of the Tower of London and its curiosities, David Henry (published from 1757-1803); A new history and description of the Tower of London, David Henry (published from 1810-1834); The Tower: its histories, armories and antiquities, John Hewitt (published from 1841-1854); A short history of the Tower of London, Joseph Wheeler (published from 1842-52); The Tower of London; its armouries and regalia, H G Clarke (c.1855); A sketch of the Tower of London, A. Harman (published from 1859-1884); 1The people's history of the Tower of London and visitor's guide (c.1875); Authorised guide to the Tower of London, W J Loftie (published from 1886-1897); Authorised guide to the Tower of London, W J Loftie [much abridged version (published from 1885-1920); The Tower of London - a guide for catholics, C L Jones (published from 1913-1931); Authorised guide to the Tower of London (Ministry of Works, published from 1923-46); The Tower of London (Ministry of Works, published from 1953-1967); The Tower of London (Department of the Environment, 1974); The pictorial story of the Tower of London [title varies slightly] (Pitkin Pictorials, published from 1950-1969); Her Majesty's Tower of London (Pitkin, published from 1973-1996); Royal fortress : the Tower of London (Department of the Environment, 1978); The Tower of London: a young visitors guide, P Hammond (1981); Tower of London (Department of the Environment, 1984); Her Majesty's fortress of the Tower of London (Department of the Environment, 1987); Inside the Tower: the alternative guide, James Bartholomew (1990); The Tower of London: the official guidebook (Historic Royal Palaces, 1996); as well as a number of foreign language guides;

documents and photographs relating to Officers of the Tower, including Report on the state of the ToL by Sir John Peyton, 1597; expenses of Sir John Peyton, Lt. of the Tower, 1598; Commission signed by Oliver Cromwell appointing John Miller, Captain and Major of the company of foot appointed to garrison the ToL, 1652; letter from Col. John Berkstead, Governor of the ToL to the Commissioners of the Navy, 1653; warrant signed by John, Lord Berkeley to Col. William Legg, Lt. Governor of the Tower, authorizing the issue and replacement of weapons, 1668; Muster roll of the ToL garrison, 1691; journal kept by George, Earl of Northampton, as Constable of the Tower, 1712-15; two letters from Viscount Falmouth to Earl Cornwallis, Constable of the ToL, 1760; warrant appointing Louis Grauze to be yeoman or under porter to the ToL, 1787; letters patent appointing Francis, Earl of Moira, to be Constable of the ToL, 1806; warrant granting William Kinchin the right to collect duty on goods landed at Iron-Gate stairs, 1808; ticket and order of service for the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, 1852; photos of nine yeoman warders with the Resident Governor, (undated); photographs of eight yeomen warders (undated).; photograph of the Officers of the Tower and the Yeomen Warders, about 1890; photogravure of yeomen warders practicing with partisans, late 19th century; photograph of 12 yeomen warders in undress uniform, late 19th century; photograph of the changing of the guard, late 19th century; photograph of the Kings House, 1914; photos of the King's House, c.1920; photograph of the ToL from the west with the signatures of the Officers of the Tower on the mount, 1917; photograph of the Officers of the Tower, 1917; photos of the handing over of the colours of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1923; blueprints for the sealed pattern yeomen warder's partisan, 1985;

Documents, and photographs relating to the prison and prisoners, including Warrant signed by Henry VII for the provision of clothing and bedding to Lord Willam of Devon and William de la Pole, 1506; documents relating to the trial and execution of Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, 1601; warrant relating to the detention of Robert Johnstone, 1662; regulations relating to the opening, guarding and closing of the gates of the Tower, c.1680; list of inscriptions in the Salt Tower, 1856; Guidebook - A short sketch of the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London, W.R. Dick (c.1860); Ferdinand Buschmann papers, early 20th century ; Prisoners of the Tower compiled by A.H. Cook, 1959; inscriptions in the ToL; Guidebook - Prisoners in the Tower (Pitkin, 1972-94); guide to the inscriptions in the Beauchamp Tower, c.1985; Condensed summary of prisoners at the Tower originally compiled by A.H. Cook and revised by B.A. Harrison, 1986; the first prisoner of the 20th century [Hans Lody], 1987; stereographic photographs of the block and axe, mid 19th century; stereographic photograph of the block and axe, about 1890; photographs of the interior and exterior of the Bloody Tower, late 19th century; and interiors of the Bell Tower and the Beauchamp Tower, late 19th century;

newspaper articles relating to the prison and prisoners including the execution of James Radcliffe, Earl of Derwentwater, and William Gordon, Viscount Kenmure, 1715; the imprisonment and execution of Charles Radcliffe, 1746; the imprisonment of Lord Lovat, 1747; the release of John Wilkes from the Tower, 1763; the imprisonment and release of Brass Crosby, Lord Mayor, and Alderman Oliver from the Tower, 1771; the Gordon Riots, 1780; the imprisonment of Lord George, 1780; the imprisonment and release of Henry Laurens, 1780-82; the imprisonment and release of state prisoners, 1794; the imprisonment of Francis Burdett, 1810; the escape of Lord Nithsdale, 1816;

material relating to the Crown Jewels including newspaper account of Margaret Moore's attempt to steal the crown, 1815; photographs of the Crown Jewels, late 19th century, and the Crown Jewels on display in the Wakefield Tower, about 1900; stereographic photograph of the new Jewel House, late 19th century; and guidebooks: The Crown Jewels (Ministry of Works, 1949-67); The Crown Jewels at the Tower of London (Ministry of Works, 1968); The Crown Jewels of England (Department of the Environment, 1986);

material relating to the Menagerie, including broadsheets containing verses on the deaths of three lions at the Tower, 1681, and one entitled `the she lyon's speech in the Tower', early 18th century; newspaper account of a fight between a lion and two tigers, 1830; and documents relating to the presentation of animals to the Prince Regent, 1816-20;

material relating to the Tower Record Office including letter and receipted bill from Robert Lemon, Tower Record Office, 1806; and notes of the Keeper of the Record Office, John Bayley, c.1820;

material relating to the Tower and the Church including printed Act of Parliament granting a piece of land with the ToL for use as an additional burial ground, 1811; plan of the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, 1842; photograph of the interior of St. John's Chapel, late 19th century; and guidebooks titled The chapels royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and St. John the Evangelist, HM Tower of London (Pitkin, 1971); and The chapels of the Tower of London (Department of the Environment, 1987); Notices of the Historic Persons buried in the Chapel of St. Pete ad Vincula in the Tower of London D C Bell (London, 1877)

material relating to Tower Bridge including photographs of the official opening of Tower Bridge, 1894; and of Tower Bridge, late 19th century; tickets and programme for the opening of Tower Bridge (1894); Welch's A Short Account of London Bridge Welch, (1894); copy of the Act empowering the corporation of London to build a bridge over the River Thames near the Tower of London (August 1885);

there is also a collection of prints and engravings depicting people, events, external and internal view of the tower and plans;

collection of photocopied material from the National Archives (Public Record Office) relating to the Tower, including copies and transcripts of Exchequer records, 1425-1508; Chancery records, 1455-1655; State Papers, 1569-1585; War Office records, 1681-1752; Office of Works plans; records of the Ancient Monuments Laboratory, 1739-1832; and manuscripts held in the British Library, c.1485-1715.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Documents, maps, plans, photographs, printed guide books, and newspaper cuttings arranged by the following subject categories: General records (documents, maps and plans, photographs, guidebooks); Officers of the Tower; Prison and Prisoners; Crown Jewels; Menagerie; Record Office; The Tower and the Church; Tower Bridge.

Conditions governing access:

By appointment only. Contact the Curator, The Library, Royal Armouries, HM Tower of London, EC3N 4AB

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies available subject to normal copyright restrictions, and depending on the condition of the material.

Finding aids:

Database of library, archive, and museum objects, may be consulted in the library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Acquired as part of the Museum collection.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Items given or purchased at various times by the Royal Armouries.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also descriptions for the Tower Armouries and the Ordnance Office/Board of Ordnance; The Royal Armouries Library, Tower of London, at holds a significant number of publications about the Tower of London dating from the 18th century onwards;

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; 'Archives relating to the Tower of London', handlist, Phillip Abbott, Royal Armouries Library, Leeds.
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
September 2003

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"