Torture at the Tower exhibition

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

Included in palace admission (members go free)

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.

Instruments of torture used at the Tower

The manacles

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."

The rack

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.

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.

The Imprisonment at the Tower exhibition in the Beauchamp Tower at the Tower of London, showing three arches in the wall, a fireplace on the left hand side and a display case in the centre of the room
Things to see

Learn why people ended up as prisoners in the Tower of London, in the very rooms where some of them were held.

Open daily

Tower of London

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Sir Walter Raleigh's Study downstairs in the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London, showing a desk and walls with projections.
Things to see

Explore the stories of the Princes in the Tower and Sir Walter Raleigh in the infamous Bloody Tower.

Open daily

Tower of London

Included in palace admission (members go free)

View of the White Tower exterior
Things to see

Marvel at the imposing White Tower, a magnificent example of Norman architecture at the heart of the Tower of London.

Open daily

Tower of London

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Gift selection of products inspired by the Tower of London from Historic Royal Palaces shop

Shop Tower of London gifts

Shop our products inspired by the almost 1000 years of history at the Tower of London

From £9.99

Beefeater teddy bear
This 'Beefeater' bear is splendidly dressed in a Yeoman Warder uniform, standing ready to guard the Tower of London.

Shop Beefeater Gift Collection

Our collection of Yeoman Warder gifts includes beautiful homewares, christmas tree decorations and gifts for children.

From £5.99

Gift collection of Medieval inspired gifts from Historic Royal Palaces Shop

Shop medieval gifts

Explore one of the most exciting times in history with our high end range of arms and armour and medieval fancy dress

From £6.99