Interactive timeline - History of the RA

  1. Before the Romans: the site of the Tower of London in AD 40, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    40 AD

    Before the Romans

    The pre-Roman site of the Tower of London was probably occupied by an Iron Age farm.

  2. The Twilight of the Roman City: the site of the Tower of London in AD 400, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    400 AD

    Twilight of the Roman City

    Londinium was remodelled and strengthened in response to the threat of Saxon invasion.

  3. The Conquerer's Castle: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1080, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1080 AD

    The Conqueror's Castle

    Work began on the construction of William the Conqueror's mighty White Tower.

  4. The Castle Enlarged: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1200, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1200 AD

    The Tower Enlarged

    A major expansion of the Tower's defences during the reigns of Richard I and King John.

  5. The Classic Castle: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1240, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1240 AD

    The Classic Castle

    Henry III extended the defences of the Tower and refurbished and enlarged the royal lodgings.

  6. The Apogee of the Medieval Castle: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1300, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1300 AD

    Apogee of the Medieval Castle

    Tower defences extended, to those seen today, by England's greatest warrior king, Edward I.

  7. The Tudor Powerhouse: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1547, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1547 AD

    The Tudor Power House

    During Henry VIII's reign the Offices of Ordnance, Armoury, Mint and Records occupy the Tower.

  8. Showpiece of the Nation: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1700, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1700 AD

    Showplace of the Nation

    After the Restoration in 1660 armouries displays are established to impress the visiting public.

  9. The Great Conflagration: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1841, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1841 AD

    The Great Conflagration

    The Grand Storehouse including two armouries displays is destroyed by fire on 31 Oct 1841.

  10. The Remedievalisation of the Castle: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1890, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1890 AD

    Remedievalisation of the Castle

    50 years of restoration transformed the appearance of the Tower following the fire of 1841.

  11. The Castle at War: the site of the Tower of London in AD 1940, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    1940 AD

    The Castle at War

    WWII aerial bombing threatens the Tower. The Main Guard is destroyed on the 29 Dec 1940.

  12. The Tower Today: The site of the Tower of London in AD 1999, by Ivan Lapper. 1999.

    2000 AD

    The Tower Today

    The Tower of London attracts over 2 million visitors per year as a World Heritage Site.

19th - 21st century

In 1838 the cost of visiting the Tower Armouries was cut from 3 shillings to 1 shilling and lowered again the following year to 6d. The effect of these reductions was to see visitor numbers rise from 10,500 in 1837 to 80,000 in 1839.

On the evening of 30 October 1841 the Grand Storehouse was engulfed by a terrible fire destroying most of the displays within.

During 1855 the Office of Ordnance was dissolved by Act of Parliament and the armouries collections transferred the War Office.

The shortage of display space only began to be eased with the demolition of the Horse Armoury in 1882 and the transfer of much of the collection into the upper floors of the White Tower.

The presentation of these displays and the care and identification of the individual objects was greatly improved after the appointment of the first curator, Lord Dillon, as Keeper of the Armoury in 1895. Under the supervision of his successor, Charles ffoulkes, the displays expanded to occupy the remaining floors of the White Tower by 1916.

Before then responsibility of the Tower Armouries was passed to the Office of Works in 1904 and subsequently through its successors, the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and the Department of the Environment, until the passing of the National Heritage Act in 1983. Today the museum is funded by annual grant-in-aid from the Government.

Did you know?

Waterloo telescope

The telescope carried by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo is in the Royal Armouries collection.