Tower Torture

See terrifying instruments of pain in the Lower Wakefield Tower

See terrifying instruments of pain in the Lower Wakefield Tower

When

  • Open daily

Ticketing information

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Head to the Lower Wakefield Tower to find a exhibition about the methods of torture used at the Tower of London, complete with replicas of the instruments which inflicted such appalling pain.

In the 1500s and 1600s, during a period of extreme political and religious upheaval, torture was used at the Tower. We know of 48 prisoners who were physically tortured and interrogated to give up the names of their conspirators. Many others were held in solitary confinement and subject to other psychological tortures.

The manacles

‘Then they put my wrists into iron gauntlets and ordered me to climb two or three wicker steps. My arms were then lifted up and an iron bar was passed through the rings of one gauntlet, then through the staple and rings of the second gauntlet. This done, they fastened the bar with a pin to prevent it slipping and then, removing the wicker steps, they left me hanging by my hands and arms fastened above my head.’ - John Gerard.

The Jesuit priest John Gerard was arrested, imprisoned and tortured in the 1590's when Catholic worship was outlawed in England.

The rack

Fifty years before Gerard’s ordeal, Anne Askew was put on the rack in order to get her to reveal the names of Protestant sympathisers. The diary of her ordeal was smuggled out of the Tower:

‘Because I lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead…’

She was carried to her execution as she was unable to walk as a result of the torture.

The scavenger's daughter

Using the opposite method to a rack, the 'scavenger’s daughter' compressed or contorted the victim instead of stretching them.

Two versions exist: the replica in the Wakefield Tower holds the body tight in a kneeling down position which would become incredibly painful very quickly, and lead to the lungs filling with blood. The other version, in the Spanish Armouries of the White Tower, is an elaborate set of handcuffs which also grasps the neck and ankles, twisting the victim into an excruciating position.

'It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there.'

Jesuit prisoner John Gerard, 1597

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