The Tower of London boasts many historical gems within its depths. Head to Beauchamp (pronounced “Beecham”) Tower—a part of the inner defensive wall that once held high-ranking prisoners—and you’ll see graffiti carved into its walls.
The writings and images are from prisoners from the 16th and 17th centuries, many of whom were confined for political or religious reasons. The various carvings are much different from the type of graffiti you’d typically come across today.
They’re beautiful, intricate, and poignant, as these are self-created epithets made by prisoners leaving a last message for the world of the living before going to their execution. The script is neat, fluid, and at times, downright fancy. The images are complex—some prisoners even carved out elaborate designs featuring animals, plants, and in one case, a mysterious zodiac wheel.
Browse the graffiti, which is now protected behind clear, protective panels, and you’ll see the marks of many memorable prisoners. Thomas Abel, the chaplain to Queen Katherine of Aragon, carved his name and a bell into the wall after he was imprisoned by King Henry VIII. Arthur and Edmund Poole, two brothers accused of plotting to secure the throne for Mary Queen of Scots, left various marks within the prison. You can even see the work of Lord Guildford Dudley, the Lady Jane Grey’s husband.