The Tower of London: an ancient monument on paper​

Explore a selection of architectural drawings of the Tower of London from Historic Royal Palaces' archives​

The Flamsteed Tower (1914) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces looks after an incredible archive of around 30,000 architectural drawings. ​​Together the drawings tell the story of the architectural history of the palaces in the modern era.

The White Tower

The White Tower has stood at the heart of the Tower of London for over 900 years. ​This drawing depicts one of the four turrets that give the Norman castle its iconic outline.

The cupolas (domes) were added in 1532, in preparation for the coronation of Queen Anne Boleyn.​

Look at how carefully the draughtsman has drawn the roof structure beneath the dome...​

...and used gold pigment to pick out the gilded details of the 17th-century weather vane.​

Drawings such as this serve a practical purpose, but they are also works of art.​

Beauchamp Tower - design for alterations (1852) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

The Beauchamp Tower​

By the 1850s, the Tower had become severely overcrowded, with modern buildings obscuring historic parts of the castle, such as the Beauchamp Tower.

The Tower's authorities called on architect Anthony Salvin to restore the Beauchamp Tower so that it could be opened up to visitors, in response to growing interest in the historic graffiti carved into its walls by former prisoners.

Salvin used this drawing to communicate his instructions.​

He suggested clearing away the neighbouring buildings, which included Yeoman Warders' residences, to reveal the original frontage of the Tower.

In the corner of the drawing, Salvin wrote instructions about which buildings should be demolished. If you look closely, you can see Salvin's signature at the end of the note.

Salvin's Bridge (1919) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Salvin's Bridge

Salvin also recreated lost features, such as this footbridge which connects two parts of the medieval palace: St Thomas's Tower and the Wakefield Tower.​

By using Kentish ragstone – a material used in buildings across the Tower – and incorporating features such as battlements and arrow loops, Salvin ensured that his new bridge would blend in with its historic surroundings.​

Unfortunately, the identity of the person who created this drawing is unknown as it is not signed.

Drawings made for the Office of Works – the government department that was responsible for public buildings and ancient monuments – often remain anonymous. We can only speculate about who made many of these beautiful artworks.

The Byward Tower - Proposed Restoration (1896) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Restoring the Tower of London

The restoration of the Tower begun by Salvin in the 1850s continued throughout the second half of the 19th century.​

This proposal by the Office of Works shows suggested alterations to the Byward Tower, including new battlements, chimneys and Gothic-style windows to replace the existing Georgian sashes.​

The new elements were meant to be more in keeping with the Tower's architecture than the 'modern' features which had been added in the recent past.​

In this drawing the draughtsman has used a historical style of lettering to invoke the Tower's ancient pedigree and add legitimacy to the proposal.

Suggested New Tea House and Alterations to Offices (1914) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Catering to the masses

The Tower's popularity as a tourist attraction in the early 20th century meant that new facilities were needed to cater for increasing numbers of visitors.

This charming proposal for a teahouse takes its inspiration from the timber-framed buildings of the Tudor period, of which the King's House in the Tower is an important surviving example.​

Although the design was approved, the teahouse was never built. The proposal was postponed until after the First World War, and eventually a new refreshment room was constructed in 1935.

The King's House (1914) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

The King's House

The King's House was built in 1540 and is one of the most important timber-framed buildings in London, having escaped the Great Fire of 1666.​

This drawing, which is connected to the restoration of the King's House in 1914, provides details about the condition of the building's exterior.​ In one area the timbers are described as 'very decayed and inconsistent'.

The three-storey staircase tower to the east of the King's House which is shown in this drawing was pulled down in 1960.​

Design for Showcase for the Crown Jewels (1909) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

The Jewel House

One of the main attractions for visitors is the Crown Jewels, which have been housed securely at the Tower for centuries.

This top security showcase was designed by famed locksmiths, Chubb & Sons. Security was stepped up following the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels from Dublin Castle and the presentation of the Cullinan diamond to King Edward VII by the Transvaal government.

The gift symbolised the healing relationship between Britain and South Africa following the South African Wars.

The showcase is ornamented with royal symbols, which are drawn at full size. They include Tudor roses, fleurs-de-lis, and lions' heads.

The halberds – copies of Flemish or German weapons taken from an older display case – were later deemed 'most inappropriate as symbolic weapons to guard the British Crown Jewels'. They were replaced with partisans – traditionally the weapons carried by Yeoman Warders.

Designs for Guard Boxes (1969) by Ministry of Public Buildings and WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Guarding the Tower​

Yeoman Warders have played an important role in protecting the Crown Jewels and guarding prisoners at the Tower for more than five centuries.​

This drawing shows four alternative designs for new sentry boxes.​

A Yeoman Warder dressed in full state dress and carrying a ceremonial partisan is included for scale.​

But the stark contrast between the modern, kiosk-style sentry boxes and the ancient fortress meant that the new boxes were never produced.

Plan Showing Air Raid Damage (1940) by H.M. Office of WorksHistoric Royal Palaces

Under attack​

The Tower of London came under attack repeatedly during the Second World War. This survey records the locations of bomb strikes between September and December 1940.​

Several parts of the Tower sustained damage during the Blitz, including the Hospital Block, the Main Guard, and the former Master of the Assay Office in the Outer Ward.

The North Bastion was completely destroyed. Two of its occupants – Lily Lunn and Yeoman Warder Samuel Reeves – were killed as a result of the attack

The Main Guard - Record Survey (1902) by Corps of Royal EngineersHistoric Royal Palaces

Queen Victoria's canteen​

The Main Guard replaced an earlier guardhouse to the south west of the White Tower. Built in 1898-1900, it contained offices, stores, lecture rooms and recreation areas for the Tower’s garrison.

The building incorporated a medieval wall (shown here in grey) that was built in the 13th century as part of the Tower’s defences. The wall was opened to public view again after the Main Guard was  demolished in 1944, having been severely damaged during the Blitz.

This is one of a set of four drawings which show the Main Guard in plan, section and elevation. The support is drafting linen - a durable material that was used until the middle of the 20th century.

Today it is one of around 30,000 architectural drawings in Historic Royal Palaces' archive which tell the story of lost and forgotten features of the world-famous Tower of London.

Find out more about the Architectural Drawings Collection, including how to access the collection in person, on the Historic Royal Palaces website.

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