Nigel Jones: ‘The Tower of London: Crucible of a Nation’ – a new book by a Lewes historian, biographer and journalist.
No site in Britain is more freighted with history than the Tower of London. Since William the Conqueror built its central Keep – the White Tower – in 1078, as a status symbol to overawe the oppressed citizens of his newly acquired kingdom, the Tower has played a central role in the nation’s affair. Among its many functions, the Tower has been: Royal Palace and Pleasure Dome; military fortress; Menagerie; Royal Mint; Observatory; Record Office; a place of sanctuary from rampaging mobs for London’s Jews, and the King’s Ministers; and Jewel and treasure house.
It is now the nation’s No.1 tourist attraction. Most notoriously however, the Tower is infamous as the prison, torture chamber and execution site of high-ranking state prisoners. It’s roll call of prison inmates have ranged from saints (St Thomas More) to genuine sinners (Rudolf Hess and the Kray Twins); from Queens (Anne Boleyn; Katherine Howard; Lady Jane Grey; Elizabeth I); to Kings (Richard II; Henry VI); and from heroes (William Wallace; Walter Raleigh; Samuel Pepys) to villains (Thomas Cromwell). Some families – the Wyatts, the Dudleys and the Howards – have had three successive generations who suffered in the Tower.
Now, for the first time in a generation, Nigel Jones describes the Tower’s many moods and does justice to the many faces and functions of the iconic fortress. In a huge history he tells the story of the Tower’s builders; its escapees; its Royal and animal captives; and shows why the Tower is still the most haunting – and haunted – symbol of power and continuity in the country.
Venue: The new King’s Church building on Brooks Road, Lewes. (Between Tesco car park and Homebase)
See the Meetings page for a list of forthcoming monthly talks organised by the Lewes History Group.