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All about the Tower of London Prison

What is the Tower of London's Prison?

The Tower of London, originally a royal palace and fortress, also became an infamous prison. Although not designed as a jail, it detained many, from affluent nobles to traitors, offering a range of experiences from luxurious to lethal. Notable prisoners included Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn, who faced vastly different fates within its walls. 

The Tower's narrative intertwines tales of betrayal, luxury, and dramatic escapes, reflecting its complex history as a symbol of royal power and national security​.

Quick Facts about the Tower of London prison

Tower of London Prison

Plan your visit to the Tower of London Prison

Tower of London Prison
Tower of London Prison

What to see at the Tower of London Prison?

Tower of London Prison

Discover a Different Side of London's Castle

Delve into 'Imprisonment at the Tower' to uncover the varied lives led by prisoners in the Tower of London. This exhibit brings to light the personal stories of famous detainees, including Elizabeth I, Guy Fawkes, Anne Boleyn, and the Krays. Learn how these individuals lived, why they were imprisoned, and how their stories became woven into the Tower's rich tapestry.

Tower of London Prison

Explore the Beauchamp Tower

Constructed around 1281 during Edward I's reign as part of the Tower's inner defenses, the Beauchamp Tower is a must-see. Named after Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who was imprisoned for rebelling against Richard II, this tower has historically served as a prison. Visitors can explore this part of the Tower and imagine the lives of its many unfortunate inhabitants.

Tower of London Prison

See Graffiti Carved by Tower Prisoners

Within the confinements of the Tower, many prisoners, facing long hours in isolation and under the shadow of impending doom, succumbed to depression and extreme boredom. To cope, they etched their thoughts and feelings into the walls. This graffiti, or 'graffiti,' particularly prevalent in the Beauchamp Tower, offers a haunting yet fascinating glimpse into the minds of those who once dwelled there.

Famous Tower of London Prisoners

  • Robert Dudley (Later Earl of Leicester): Robert Dudley, a childhood companion of Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), was imprisoned in the Tower following his father's failed attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Likely held in the Beauchamp Tower with his brothers, visitors can still see the intricate carvings they left behind - a poignant reminder of their time and relationships.
  • Thomas Abel: Once Chaplain to Katherine of Aragon, Thomas Abel earned his place in the Beauchamp Tower by opposing Henry VIII's divorce. His bold stance is immortalized in the tower's walls, where 'Thomas' is etched above a bell with an 'A' - a silent testament to his devotion and defiance.
  • Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel: Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, suffered a decade-long imprisonment in the Beauchamp Tower for his Catholic faith, considered a threat to the Protestant realm. His name and a poignant inscription remain carved into the tower's walls, reflecting his enduring faith and the grim reality of his prolonged captivity.

History of Tower of London Prison in a nutshell

The Tower of London started as a formidable fortress in 1066, designed to shield London and mark a majestic entrance to the city. While it wasn't originally meant to be a prison, its thick walls and strategic location led it to become one from 1100 until 1952.

The Tower of London's notorious past as a state prison has sparked centuries of intrigue. Far from just dreary dungeons, the Tower hosted a range of experiences for its inmates. While some languished in dark, damp cells, others enjoyed the relative freedom of the Tower grounds. 

The quality of life within these ancient walls often hinged on the prisoner's social standing and the nature of their alleged crimes, with some even enjoying luxuries like fine bedding and personal servants.

Who built White Tower?

Tower of London Prison

William the Conqueror built a big stone tower in the 1070s, and people were amazed. Almost 1000 years later, the Tower still captures our imagination with its dark history and impressive looks. It's where the Crown Jewels, special guards, and famous ravens are kept. More than three million people visit every year to see the old ceremonies, hear ghost stories, and learn about its past of torture and executions.

During the time of the Tudor kings and queens, the Tower of London became famous as a place where people were locked up and sometimes killed. Important prisoners like three queens of England — Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey — were held here. 

If someone was against the king or queen, believed in a different religion, or caused trouble for the royal family, they might end up in the Tower. Some of these people were even put to death there.

Architecture of Tower of London Prison

The Tower of London, built in 1066 during the Norman Conquest, was founded by William the Conqueror as a symbol of oppression and royal power. It encompasses several buildings within concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. The most iconic structure, the White Tower, is an 11th-century keep known for its grandeur and strength, serving as royal lodgings. 

The Tower's design strategically dominated the landscape and comprised three wards, each serving military and residential purposes. Over time, the Tower's architectural complexity grew, reflecting its varied roles as a fortress, palace, prison, and treasury, with its original Norman elements blending with subsequent medieval expansions​​.




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Frequently asked questions about the Tower of London Prison

Why is the Tower of London prison famous?

The White Tower is a historic castle and fortress located at the center of the Tower of London, known for its Norman architecture.

What can I do at the Tower of London prison?

Visitors to the Tower can explore this rich history, see where famous prisoners were held, learn about their stories, and witness the locations of significant historical events.

How much are Tower of London prison tickets?

Ticket prices without donation range from free for children under 5 to £33.60 for adults (18-64), and various concessions are available. Prices with donations are slightly higher to support the preservation of the site.

Are there guided tours available at the Tower of London prison?

Yes, the famous Yeoman Warder tours are available, providing critical stories from 1,000 years of history. They include tales of intrigue, imprisonment, execution, and much more. Be aware that parts of the tour may not be suitable for young children due to content or physical requirements.

Who designed/built the Tower of London prison?

The initial construction of the White Tower, the oldest part of the Tower of London complex, was started in 1078 under King William II and designed and built by Gundulf of Rochester, a Norman bishop.

What are the Tower of London prison opening hours?

The Tower of London prison has varying opening hours throughout the year. For example, from 6 January to 9 February 2024, it's open from 10:00-16:30 on Mondays and Sundays and from 09:00-16:30 on Tuesdays to Saturdays.

What is the best time to visit the Tower of London prison?

January to March is the quietest period, although the weather is cold and wet. The summer holidays are the busiest, from the end of July to the beginning of September. Mid-week mornings are generally the quickest times to visit​.

Where is the Tower of London Prison Prison?

The Tower of London prison itself served as a prison, so the entire complex is essentially the location of the historical prison. It's located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London.

Are there dining options available at the Tower of London prison?

Various dining options are available at the Tower of London prison, including the New Armouries Café, Ravens Café, Jewels Kiosk, and Tower of London Café, each offering a range of food and beverages​​.