Restoration of the Tower

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Two major periods of restoration added further to the architectural history of the building.

In the first period, the White Tower was remodelled under Sir Christopher Wren, all its windows altered and the original staircase leading up to the main entrance on the south face removed.

The brick building farther east, called the Horse Armoury, is also assigned to the same architect. The great Storehouse north of the White Tower was built under William III, only to be burnt in 1841 and replaced by the great barrack-block which occupies its site. The large carved pediment with the arms of its builder, which decorated the front, is now set against a wall in the immediate neighbourhood.

The second period of restoration is now considered something of a disaster. Anthony Salvin, a highly regarded Victorian architect, was appointed in 1851 to 'restore' parts of the Beauchamp Tower to a medieval appearance so that the Tower could be opened up to the public as a tourist attraction.

His work was critically acclaimed at the time and indeed was of such a standard that he was commissioned to restore the rest of the castle. Unfortunately the quality of restoration deteriorated when Salvin's successor John Taylor took over in the 1870s.

But though Salvin's work was superior to Taylor's, many people regret that any of the work was done at all. The Victorian craze for baronial architecture and feudal battlements, without the excuse of either utility or necessity, secured the entire demolition of many features of all ages, the refacing, crowning and reconstruction of much of what was left, and the reduction of one of the great historic buildings of the world to the level of a show of spurious antiques.

The Tower of London thus remained a picturesque agglomeration of buildings of all the eight centuries of its existence until Salvin's disastrous restorations of 1851 and the succeeding years.

Fortunately all this has been altered. The building is now treated with proper respect, and great care is taken to preserve and display every relic of antiquity that chance or repair reveals. The Tower of London thus takes its place once more as a great, or perhaps the greatest, historical monument of England.

Next page: The Tower as a Palace