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Horrible Histories

Terrifying Tower of London

Terrifying Tower of London

In this special episode celebrating CBBC's Horrible Histories turning 15, 'Terrifying Tower of London' takes a look at the fortress's long and gruesome history - from famous prisoners like Gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes to the executions of Henry VIII's queens.

The episode is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

Can’t get enough of Horrible Histories? This May half term, see Rotten Royals live on stage in the gardens of Henry VIII’s home, Hampton Court Palace. 

Horrible Histories cast dressed as Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London

Image: Yeoman Warder AJ Clark with Horrible Histories host Rattus. © Lion Television

About the episode

The Tower has stood by the River Thames for almost 1000 years and in that time it’s been everything from a royal palace to a prison for celebrity inmates including Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes, so come with us for a journey through the Horrible History of the Terrifying Tower of London!

For this special episode, Rattus is joined by AJ – an actual Yeoman Warder from the Tower – as we chart the Tower’s history from the time it was originally built at the request of William the Conqueror to the present day.

Along the way, we meet famous inmates including Sir Walter Raleigh! Imprisoned there on several separate occasions, Raleigh liked to spend his time making a cordial, using ingredients from the Tower grounds. It’s fair to say that once you know what he was putting in it, you would not want to drink Raleigh’s product – yuck!

Horrible Histories cast member dressed as William the Conqueror

Image: Horrible Histories actor portraying William the Conqueror, who ordered the Tower of London to be built. © Lion Television

Elsewhere, there’s a bit of a mix up when a party planner confuses Anne Boleyn’s final hours at the Tower with Henry VIII’s subsequent plans to announce his imminent engagement to Jane Seymour, which he really did do on the day following Anne’s execution! And speaking of Henry, he’s here to talk us through his favourite executions in ‘Top of the Chops’…

Many of the Tower’s prisoners tried to escape over the years, and we’ll bring you a couple of the success stories, revealing how they did it (spoiler: they did not try and escape via the toilet system, which one guy actually did try – unsuccessfully. And probably very messily). We’ll also bring you the tale of how William Wallace left the Tower (it’s fair to say it wasn’t how he’d have chosen to go…), and learn about the benefits of being given the job of Constable of the Tower.

One person who did not appreciate the job, however, was the Duke of Wellington, who disliked the fact that tourists came to the Tower and tried to put them off visiting! Meanwhile, Winston Churchill quizzes us about ravens, before the Yeoman Warders finish the show with a ripping song about guarding the Tower.

Stream on BBC iPlayer
Horrible Histories cast dressed as Henry VIII with an executioner and prisoner kneeling with their head on the block, all looking towards the camera.

Image: © Lion Television


  • Things to see
  • Tours and talks

Yeoman Warder tours

Discover captivating stories of pain and passion, treachery and torture with our Yeoman Warder tours at the Tower of London.

  • Available
  • Tower of London
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

The Gunpowder Plot

Travel back in time and experience history like never before in this thrilling immersive experience.

  • Thursdays to Sundays. Check the Gunpowder Plot website for details.
  • 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Tower of London
  • Separate ticket
Learn more
  • Families
  • Events
  • Half term

Horrible Histories Live on Stage!

Join us this May half term for Horrible Histories - Rotten Royals! See the much-loved books brought to life at Henry VIII's famous palace.  

  • Until 01 June 2024
  • 12:00 and 15:00 daily.
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Separate ticket (advance booking required)
Learn more


Anne Boleyn

How did Anne Boleyn become queen and why did Henry VIII execute her?

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Who was the real Guy Fawkes, the man behind the mask?

Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London

The ‘Beefeaters’ have been guarding the Tower since Tudor times