Within the Beauchamp Tower
Learn why people ended up as prisoners in the Tower of London, in the very rooms where some of them were held.
The Tower of London's history as a state prison has captured the public's imagination for centuries. For many, the Tower evokes images of grim underground dungeons, but the real experiences of Tower inmates ranged hugely.
While some prisoners languished in gloomy cells, others could move freely within the Tower grounds; their treatment and fate often depended on their crime and social status. Some were even afforded luxuries such as comfortable bedding and servants.
Visit Imprisonment at the Tower to learn more about life as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Explore the many different stories of people who ended up here, including Elizabeth I, Guy Fawkes, Anne Boleyn and the Krays.
The Beauchamp Tower to the west of Tower Green was built in about 1281 during the reign of Edward I, as part of the Tower's inner defensive wall.
The Tower takes its name from Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned here at the end of the 14th century for rebelling against Richard II. The building has been used to house prisoners throughout its history.
Many prisoners in the Tower had to endure long hours in their cell and some were already condemned to death. Under considerable psychological strain, many inmates suffered from depression and acute boredom.
Some prisoners sought ways to express these feelings, and carving graffiti into the Tower’s walls ensured they would be remembered after death. Many carvings (also known as 'graffito') in the Beauchamp Tower can still be seen today, and give us a permanent connection to the stories and beliefs of the prisoners held here.
A young Robert Dudley, childhood friend of the Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I), was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the aftermath of his father's plot to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne.
Dudley was probably placed in the Beauchamp Tower, alongside his three brothers. Visitors to the upper chamber can see an intricate carving depicting a plant for each man – roses for Ambrose, carnations (known as gillyflowers) for Guildford, oak leaves (robur in Latin) for Robert and honeysuckle for Henry.
Another, much simpler, inscription reading 'Iane' (an older spelling of 'Jane') also survives nearby.
Thomas Abel was Chaplain to Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. Henry imprisoned Abel in the Beauchamp Tower after he published a treatise stating that it was unlawful for the King to divorce Queen Katherine.
Graffiti depicting the name 'Thomas' above a bell with an 'A' on the side still survives in the upper chamber of the Beauchamp Tower.
Elizabeth I imprisoned Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, in the Beauchamp Tower for 10 years. As the leading Catholic peer in the country, he was seen as a threat to national security and was sentenced to death in 1589.
Arundel's name is carved into the wall of the Upper Beauchamp Tower, along with the words, 'The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.'
He lived out the next six years under the daily expectation of execution, but eventually died of an infection in 1595.
Learn more about why individual prisoners sought to make their mark in Imprisonment at the Tower — included in your Tower admission ticket.