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Imprisonment at the Tower exhibition

Within the Beauchamp Tower

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.

'Take him to the Tower!'

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.

Discover a different side to London’s castle

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.

When

Open


Ticketing information

This permanent exhibition is located in the Beauchamp Tower and included in your admission ticket.


Included in palace admission (members go free)

Buy Tower of London tickets

Explore the Beauchamp Tower

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.

See graffiti carved by Tower prisoners

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.

The Beauchamp Tower - Imprisonment at the Tower display and exhibition.

The stories behind some of the Beauchamp Tower graffiti

The Beauchamp Tower, looking west. Showing the carving of the Dudley family coat of arms, one of the graffiti in the tower. 

Thought to have been made by John Dudley, son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. John Dudley died in 1554.shortly after his release from the Tower of London. The carving features a bear and a lion and a border of flowers: oak leaves and acorns, roses, honeysuckle and Gilly Flower. Each of the flowers represents one of the four Dudley sons.

Robert Dudley (later Earl of Leicester)

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

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.

Thomas Abel's graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower - Imprisonment at the Tower display and exhibition at the Tower of London. The carving shows a large bell with an 'A' on the front, with the name 'Thomas' carved above it.
The Beauchamp Tower showing close up detail of graffito (grafitti). The name of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel is carved into the wall, with the words (partially seen), 'The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.'

Arundel was imprisoned in the Tower by Queen Elizabeth I for 10 years and sentenced to death in 1589. He lived out six years under expectation of execution, but died of an infection in 1595.

Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel

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.

Hear more stories of imprisonment at the Tower

Learn more about why individual prisoners sought to make their mark in Imprisonment at the Tower - included in your Tower admission ticket.

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