In 1532, Henry VIII purchased the area of swampy marshland, often flooded by the Tyburn, from Eton College. This land lay to the West of York Place, recently acquired by Henry from Cardinal Wolsey; it was purchased in order to turn York Palace into a dwelling fit for a king. On James I´s accession to the throne in 1603, he ordered the park drained and landscaped, and kept exotic animals in the park, including camels, crocodiles, and an elephant, as well as aviaries of exotic birds along the south.
In his book The Tower Menagerie, Daniel Hahn recounts the strange case of an elephant given to King James I by his Spanish counterpart in 1623. "Throughout his short but rather pleasant life this animal was given nothing to drink but wine, a gallon a day," the author wrote. (That elephant was actually housed in St James´s, rather than the Tower)