Royal Armouries


The Tower is often linked with torture and execution. However, the only definite information about torture in the Tower dates from the 16th century. The use of torture was officially denied, even though its use was common knowledge.

Between 1540 and 1640 81 warrants authorising torture were issued. In 74 cases this was to take place in London and 48 specify the Tower.

The rack

The rack stretched the body until the joints were dislocated and then separated from the rest of the body.

Although a report from 1583 instructs those using the rack ‘to use it in as charitable manner as such as thing might be,’ it was feared by prisoners and was sometimes only needed as a threat to get them to confess and to pass on information about co-conspirators.

The Scavenger’s Daughter

Another fearful torture device was the Scavenger’s Daughter invented in the reign of Henry VIII by Sir William Skevington, Lieutenant of the Tower of London. It compressed the body so much it could force blood from the nose and ears.

If you want to know more about torture and punishment at the Tower of London, you can buy our Torture and Punishment book from our online shop.

Did you know?

The best ideas are simple

What do the Jennings rifle, the Winchester 73 rifle, the Maxim machine gun and the Luger pistol have in common? – they all use the same basic toggle mechanism to lock the breech and operate in the same way as a knee or elbow joint.

Torture and Punishment

book cover A short account of the infamous instruments of torture in the Royal Armouries’ collection and a history of their use in the punishments and executions carried out within the Tower of London.


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