Interactive timeline - History of the RA
Before the Romans
The pre-Roman site of the Tower of London was probably occupied by an Iron Age farm.
Twilight of the Roman City
Londinium was remodelled and strengthened in response to the threat of Saxon invasion.
The Conqueror's Castle
Work began on the construction of William the Conqueror's mighty White Tower.
The Tower Enlarged
A major expansion of the Tower's defences during the reigns of Richard I and King John.
The Classic Castle
Henry III extended the defences of the Tower and refurbished and enlarged the royal lodgings.
Apogee of the Medieval Castle
Tower defences extended, to those seen today, by England's greatest warrior king, Edward I.
The Tudor Power House
During Henry VIII's reign the Offices of Ordnance, Armoury, Mint and Records occupy the Tower.
Showplace of the Nation
After the Restoration in 1660 armouries displays are established to impress the visiting public.
The Great Conflagration
The Grand Storehouse including two armouries displays is destroyed by fire on 31 Oct 1841.
Remedievalisation of the Castle
50 years of restoration transformed the appearance of the Tower following the fire of 1841.
The Castle at War
WWII aerial bombing threatens the Tower. The Main Guard is destroyed on the 29 Dec 1940.
The Tower Today
The Tower of London attracts over 2 million visitors per year as a World Heritage Site.
17th - 19th century
Towards the end of the 17th century the Office of Ordnance added two new armouries’ displays to the visitor attractions at the Tower. These were housed in one of the largest and most prestigious buildings ever to be seen at the Tower – the Grand Storehouse built on the high ground immediately north of the White Tower.
The third, and most fantastic, display was installed on the first floor in 1696. Under the supervision of John Harris of Eaton, tens of thousands of small arms and a mass of elaborate wooden carvings were used to create such diverse installations as the Witch of Endor, the ‘Back Bones of a Whale’, a huge organ and a seven-headed monster.
In the great Artillery Hall stood the great guns of the artillery train. As time went by, however, the room increasingly took on the appearance of a museum of military might, as cannon and other trophies captured from battlefields around the world were brought here and displayed.
Also to be seen were items of curiosity and historic interest. Perhaps one of the most infamous was the Tower ‘Rack to extort Confession’. Last prepared for use in January 1673, the rack had presumably been decommissioned by June 1675 as it then appears in the first of several Ordnance inventories.
Throughout the 18th and into the early 19th century the Ordnance continued to adjust and embellish its four armouries at the Tower. In 1825 the decision was taken to re-locate the Line of Kings into a new building against the south side of the White Tower.
The Horse Armoury was architecturally significant as it represented the first purpose-built museum gallery at the Tower. With the move the notable antiquarian, Dr Samuel Meyerick, reorganised the exhibits along more scholarly and scientific lines.
In addition the Ordnance began to release funds allowing objects to be bought for the first time to expand the collection in specific, targeted, areas. Together with inaugural efforts at object conservation, the first, decisive steps had been taken to transform the Tower armouries into a modern museum.