Liberties of the Tower of London
|Liberties of the Tower of London
The Tower of London
|• Abolished||25 June 1894|
|Government||Tower Liberty Quarter Sessions|
|• Type||Quarter sessions court|
|• HQ||Court House, Wellclose Square|
The Liberties of the Tower, or the Tower Liberty, was a liberty around and including the Tower of London. It was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London and the County of Middlesex, with its own county government. The area of the liberty expanded in 1686. It became part of the County of London in 1889 and was dissolved in 1894.
The liberty originally consisted of the area inside the walls of the Tower of London (also known as Tower Within) and immediately outside it (known as Old Tower Without). The limits were set out in the sixteenth century.
In 1686 letters patent granted by James II added the Old Artillery Ground, Little Minories and the Liberty of Wellclose. These areas came into the possession of the crown when the religious houses that formerly administered them were dissolved. They had subsequently been used for the storing of ordnance.
The population was 3,995 in 1811 and 4,190 in 1831.
The liberties had an administration separate from the neighbouring county and city, headed by the Constable of the Tower of London, and appointed their own coroner, and had their own courthouse with general and quarter sessions and gaol. A force of constables was appointed for the area. The inhabitants had certain other privileges such as being able to claim any beast that fell from, and any swans under London Bridge.
From 1837 the liberty formed part of the Whitechapel Poor Law Union. Extra-parochial places were progressively eliminated and following the Extra-Parochial Places Act 1857, the Tower of London and Old Tower Without became civil parishes in 1858. The Old Artillery Ground became a civil parish in 1866, following the Poor Law Amendment Act 1866.
By 1889 the liberty had become obsolete and it was thought that the Local Government Act 1888 had removed the jurisdiction of the justices. However, the charter was found to be still in operation. The liberty was abolished on 25 June 1894 following a petition by the justices of the peace of the County of London under the Liberties Act 1850.
The area of the former liberty was included in the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney in 1900.
The liberty continued as a franchise coroner's district. The Coroners (Amendment) Act 1926 provided that when a vacancy arises the district could be dissolved and when a vacancy occurred on 10 May 1939 an order was made on 30 November 1939 combining it with the east district, coming into effect on 1 January 1940.
- A Dictionary of London (1918)
- Accounts and Papers, Eighteen Volumes, 17, Relating to Assessed Taxes, Poor, &c, Vol. XLIV , (1832)
- F. A. Youngs, Guide to Local Administrative Units of England, Volume I, London 1979
- TOWER OF LONDON, Star, Issue 5033, 20 August 1894, Page 3
- The London Gazette: . 11 May 1894.