See terrifying instruments of pain in the Lower Wakefield Tower
Updated 2 July. Following government guidance, the Tower of London will be reopening from 10 July. Please read our visit information
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 Jesuit priest John Gerard was arrested, imprisoned and tortured in the 1590s when Catholic worship was outlawed in England.
He later wrote of his experience as a prisoner in the Tower, including a description of how the manacles were used:
"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."
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…'
Askew was unable to walk as a result of the torture, so had to be carried to her execution.
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.