The Tower in the 19th Century: From fortress to ancient monument
Between 1800 and 1900 the Tower of London took on the appearance which to a large extent it retains today. Early in the century many of the historic institutions which had been based within its walls began to move out. The first to go was the Mint which moved to new buildings to the north east of the castle in 1812, where it remained until 1968, when it moved to its present location near Cardiff. The Royal Menagerie left the Lion Tower in 1834 to become the nucleus of what is now London Zoo, and the Record Office (responsible for storing documents of state), moved to Chancery Lane during the 1850s, vacating parts of the medieval royal lodgings and the White Tower. Finally, after the War Office assumed responsibility for the manufacture and storage of weapons in 1855, large areas of the fortress were vacated by the old Office of Ordnance.
However, before these changes took place the Tower had once again - but for the last time - performed its traditional role in asserting the authority of the state over the people of London. The Chartist movement of the 1840s (which sought major political reform) prompted a final refortification of the Tower between 1848 and 1852, and further work was carried out in 1862. To protect the approaches to the Tower new loop-holes and gun emplacements were built and an enormous brick and stone bastion (destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War) constructed on the north side of the fortress. Following the burning down of the Grand Storehouse in 1841, the present Waterloo Barracks was put up to accommodate 1,000 soldiers, and the Brick, Flint and Bowyer towers to its north were altered or rebuilt to service it; the Royal Fusiliers’ building was erected at the same time to be the officers’ mess. The mob never stormed the castle but the fear of it left the outer defences of the Tower much as they are today.
The vacation of large parts of the Tower by the offices which had formerly occupied it and an increasing interest in the history and archaeology of the Tower led, after 1850, to a programme of ‘re-medievalisation’. By then the late 17th and 18th-century Ordnance buildings and barracks, together with a series of private inns and taverns, such as the Stone Kitchen and the Golden Chain, had obscured most of the medieval fortress. The first clearances of these buildings began in the late 1840s, but the real work began in 1852, when the architect Anthony Salvin, already known for his work on medieval buildings, re-exposed the Beauchamp Tower and restored it to a medieval appearance. Salvin’s work was much admired and attracted the attention of Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria), who recommended that he be made responsible for a complete restoration of the castle. This led to a programme of work which involved the Salt Tower, the White Tower, St Thomas’s Tower, the Bloody Tower and the construction of two new houses on Tower Green.
In the 1870s Salvin was replaced by John Taylor, a less talented and sensitive architect. His efforts concentrated on the southern parts of the Tower, notably the Cradle and Develin towers and on the demolition of the 18th-century Ordnance Office and storehouse on the site of the Lanthorn Tower, which he rebuilt. He also built the stretches of wall linking the Lanthorn Tower to the Salt and Wakefield towers. But by the 1890s, restoration of this type was going out of fashion and this was the last piece of re-medievalisation to be undertaken. The work of this period had succeeded in opening up the site and re-exposing its defences, but fell far short of restoring its true medieval appearance.
The second half of the 19th century saw a great increase in the number of visitors to the Tower, although sightseers had been admitted as early as 1660. In 1841 the first official guidebook was issued and ten years later a purpose-built ticket office was erected at the western entrance. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, half a million people were visiting the Tower each year.