The Historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery and the New Battery Isle of Wight

The Historic Needles Batteries – The Old Battery and New Battery Isle of Wight

Perched high above the Needles rocks on the Isle of Wight are the historic Needles Batteries – the Old Battery and New Battery. Owned by the National Trust England, both Batteries bring to life the island’s rich and intriguing Victorian history.

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Just off the southern coast of England, across the maritime port and city of Portsmouth is England’s largest island, the Isle of Wight. A Victorian favourite, the island’s world famous feature is The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse. On the clifftop above The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse are two historic Needles Batteries, simply known as the Old Battery and New Battery.

Built on the south-westernmost point of the Isle of Wight, the historic Needles Batteries are two military bases built to defend the island from enemy attacks coming from the West of the Solent. Both batteries give commanding views out over the English Channel and across to the English mainland. The batteries were built three decades apart and both played key roles during the World Wars. A visit to the historic Needles Batteries, both the Old and New makes for an interesting day out for individuals, couples and family.

Whilst we work hard to be accurate, and provide the best information possible, we also encourage you to please always check before heading out.


The Old Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries

The historic Needles Batteries

The Old Battery dates from Victorian times, when Lord Palmerstone was Prime Minister in the 1860s. He ordered a series of defences to be built to protect the naval dockyards at Portsmouth against the attacks by the French under Napoleon III.

Construction of the Old Battery began in 1861 and was completed in 1863. It’s strategic position provided views of both the Solent and the English Channel, hence defending the Needles Passage entrance to the Solent. The Battery was surrounded by a dry ditch to prevent the French invaders climbing up but the invasion never happened. Nicknamed “Palmerston’s Follies”, the Old Battery was used throughout both the World Wars.

The Old Battery Tunnel

The historic Needles Batteries | the Old Battery

In 1885 , a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade ground and a lift down to the beach was installed in 1887. Searchlight experiments were carried out between 1889 and 1892. If you were to visit today, you will see the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899. It gives an insight into how a Victorian Battery worked and the life of a soldier during the Second World War.

Things to do at the historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery

ultimate guide to Isle of Wight England's gem Parade Ground | the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight
Guns at the Parade Ground Isle of Wight | ©

1 | The Parade Ground

There are two guns installed in the same position as they once were, pointing out to sea.

2 | Storage

You could also explore the cartridge store, and the shell store;

3 | Observation post

See the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899;

4 | Explore the Tunnels

the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight |
Explore the tunnels at the historic Needles Batteries for close breathtaking views of the Needles rocks and lighthouse.

Explore the tunnel leading to the observation post (iii) above – it overlooks the Needles rocks and lighthouse and gives you absolutely breathtaking views of the Solent.

5 | Tearoom

There is a tearoom on the first floor of the signal station to take a breather and to enjoy the beautiful views it affords.

Good to know information:

Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH

Opening times: Monday to Sunday | 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Recommended read: The Victorian Love Affair


A little further up the headland is the Needles New Battery. It is a small site but home to some fascinating stories of secret rocket testing during the Cold War (1950s – 1970s).

The New Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries

The New Battery was built about thirty years following the Old Battery. The initial plan for building the New Battery was to replace the Old. It was feared that the vibrations of the guns would cause the cliffs to crumble. More space was also needed to provide spaces for newer, larger guns. The New Battery was built higher up the cliff at 120 metres above sea level. Work on this military base was completed in 1895.

In 1900, two breech-loading guns were emplaced and a third in 1904. These guns were scrapped in 1954. Also, in the 1900s, an artillery store, guardhouse, canteen and a cookhouse were added but were demolished in 1950s. A battery command post was built higher up the hill between 1900 and 1902. This command post gave clear views of the Solent’s western approaches. It continued as the Battery Commander’s post until after the Second World War.

While both the Batteries were in full use during the Second World War, the Batteries were decommissioned soon afterwards. With the dawn of the Cold War, a new use was found for the New Battery in 1954 – as a secret rocket testing site. The ‘Black Knight’ , ‘Black Arrow’ and the satelite ‘Prospero’ were all tested at the New Battery before they were launched in Australia.

Good to know information:

Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH

Opens: 10:30 A.M.

Entry is Free

Practical information | The historic Needles Batteries IOW


The historic Needles Batteries are owned and managed by National Trust England. Entry is free to Members.

Ticket TypeTicket Tariff
Adult Standard£5.00 per ticket
Child Standard£2.50 per ticket
Family – one adult£7.50 per ticket
Family Standard£12.50 per ticket

Note: Prices are a guide only and may change on a daily basis. Prices correct at time of writing: July 2021

Payment methods:





Groups accepted

Car Park:

The nearest car park to the historic Needles Batteries is about a mile away. It is a paid car park and cost £6.00 (2021).

If walking…

Best views of the Needles rocks and miles and miles of spectacular clifftop views.

Takes about 20 to 25 minutes each way if you elect to walk. Some paths are steep and not recommended if you are unfit or mobility impaired.

Not recommended on a rainy day!

Take the bus:

You could opt for the visitors bus which runs regularly and costs £3.00 single or £5.00 return.


The historic Needles Batteries may close in high winds or severe weather conditions. Please phone on the day of visit to check (01983) 754772.


West High Down, ALUM BAY, Isle Of Wight, PO39 0JH

Tel: Tel:+44 01983 754772

Things to do in and around the historic Needles Batteries

best views of The Needles and lighthouse Isle of Wight | the historic Needles Batteries
Amazing views of the Needles rocks and Trinity Lighthouse from the Old Battery Isle of Wight

1 | Walk the wall

Walk the stone fortifications for stunning views over The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse as well as Alum Bay. An absolute must for anyone who appreciate incredible views.

2 | Marconi Monument

It was from The Needles that Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor and electrical engineer, established the first wireless communication between France and England across the English Channel in 1899.

Located within The Needles Park is a monument dedicated to Marconi – the Marconi Monument. The monument marks the precise location where Marconi undertook his groundbreaking work that led to radio and telecommunications as we know it today.

Address: Heritage Attractions Ltd, The Needles Park, ALUM BAY, Isle of Wight, PO39 0JD

Opening times: Open 7 days a week except January and Christmas week. From 10:00 A.M. Closing time varies.

3 | The Needles rocks and Lighthouse

Explore one of England’s natural wonders! The Needles rocks is a row of three chalk stacks that stretches out to sea. There is a classic lighthouse at the end of it. Get an unforgettable experience by taking a boat ride for close-up views of this wondrous chalk ridge that turns heads.

Recommended read: The Unmissable Enthralling Needles Rocks and Lighthouse Isle of Wight

4 | The Needles Park

The Needles Park and Attraction centre is packed full of fun for all the family, no matter your age. No visit to the Isle of Wight is complete without a visit to the Needles Attraction. There are Jurassic Adventure Golf, open-top bus rides, boat trips, family carousel rides, Victorian games, fascinating glass blowing, sweet making and Alum Bay Sands. Create a souvenir to take back a piece of the Isle of Wight with you.

Address: The Needles Landmark Attraction
Alum Bay New Road, Alum Bay, PO39 0JD

Opening times: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. *weather dependant

Places to eat in and around the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight

The following places to eat are located close to the historic Needles Batteries:

1 | Marconi’s Tea Rooms

A cafe, serving international cuisine. Seating outdoors available.

Address: The Needles Park Alum Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0JD England

Tel: +44 871 720 0022

Check Tripadvisor reviews

2 | Warren Farm Shop & Tea Garden

From 11:00 A.M to 4:30 P.M.

Cafe serving British cuisine. Takeout services available. Plenty of Outdoor Seating. Wheelchair Accessible.

Free off-street parking.

Accepts all major Debit and Credit Cards – American Express, Mastercard, Visa,

Address: Alum Bay, New Road Alum Bay, Totland Bay, PO39 0JB England

Tel: +44 1983 753200

Check TripAdvisor reviews

3 | The Waterfront Bar & Restaurant

From 12:00 noon to 10:00 P.M.

Beachside pub/restaurant serving seafood, Mediterranean and British cuisines. Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan, and Gluten Free options are welcomed. Full bar.

Best to make prior reservations.

Outdoor Seating available. Seating.

Table Service, Live Music, Waterfront

Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible,

Parking Available,

Free Wifi.

Accepts all major Credit Cards and Contactless

Address: The Beach Totland Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0BQ England

Tel: +44 1983 756969

Tripadvisor reviews

Plan ahead for the historic Needles Batteries trip

How to get to the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is ideally located for visitors wanting a short-break or weekend getaway. You can reach the Island from London in about 2 hours. The Island is also within easy reach of major airports in UK.

Ferries: There are about 200 ferry crossings a day from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington. They link to five major towns on the Island – Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes, Fishbourne and Yarmouth.

Trains: There are excellent rail services that connects well with ferry departures. There are timely departures from London stations to any of the ports. Plan your journey and take advantage of train and ferry combined tickets with Trainline.

Coach: Coach travel is another convenient way to get to Portsmouth or Southampton from whence you could board the ferry to the Isle of Wight. There are connecting bus services when you arrive on the island. Look up cheap coach tickets with Trainline.

Flights: Fly into London Heathrow or London Gatwick – both airports have good rail or road connections to the ports. From here, take the ferry across. There are also regional flights into Bournemouth and Southampton to reduce journey times to the Island.

Places to Stay on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight has a multitude of accommodations to suit every need. Be it is a stylish short-break, a longer family stay or a hiking holiday, you are sure to find one to suit.

Stay at Anchor Cottage in East Cowes , Best Western at Cowes or The Royal Ventnor in Ventnor

If you are looking for self-catering accommodation, The Highlands Apartment are highly recommended.


The Isle of Wight is a fabulous holiday destination with a myriad of things to do. Visiting the historic Needles Batteries is one that should top every visitor’s list. It takes you through history and gives a glimpse into a soldier’s life during the wars. As well as a secret rocket testing site!

Hope you have enjoyed reading and that this post is valuable towards planning your trip to the historic Needles Batteries in Isle of Wight. If so, use the links in this article and related articles to book train travel, flights and places to stay. TTS earns a commission from qualifying purchases/bookings at no cost to you. As always, your support is much appreciated.

Have a super awesome time in the fabulous Isle of Wight.

Georgina xx

The Isle of Wight at a Glance

Coordinates: Latitude: 50° 40′ 30.59″ N Longitude: -1° 16′ 30.60″ W

Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight flag
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight Coat of Arms

Basic facts:

Island: Largest island in England

Island’s city: Newport

Population: 141,538 | Second most populous island in England behind Portsea Island.

Landmass: The Isle is roughly 380.728 kilometer/147 square miles

County: Governed by one unitary authority.

Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) | British Summer Time (BST)

High season: July – August

Religion: Christianity

Language: English


Currency: Pounds Sterling (£)

Credit and Debit cards accepted.


Elevation: Maximum elevation: 242 m | Average elevation: 15 m | Minimum elevation: -1 m


1 | Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve, United Kingdom

2 | Isle of Wight – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Why Visit:

Famous for: Ghosts, Dinosaur bones, Victorian villages, Cycling routes, Walking & Hiking + Healing & Wellbeing retreats

Number of Visitors surpass residents >

Travel Advice

Isle of Wight Travel Advice

Travelling to the UK Advice

UK Foreign Travel Advice

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Lady Jane Grey The Forgotten Queen

Lady Jane Grey The Forgotten Queen

Lady Jane Grey was an English noblewoman, who became queen of England for a very short time in history – 9 days to be precise. Though proclaimed a queen, she has hardly been referred to as one! Shrouded in conspiracies, political and religious conflicts, her path to greatness was short-lived. The story of Lady Jane Grey the forgotten queen is compelling. Her life, brief reign and tragic end remains one deserving of revisit. She was one of the three queens imprisoned at the Queen’s House in Tower of London.

This article is an introduction to the young, beautiful and intelligent Lady Jane Grey’s life and there are some resources embedded in this post, should you wish to delve deeper to learn more.

Lady Jane Grey

About Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey The forgotten queen
Lady Jane Grey by Unknown artist, c1590-1600, © National Portrait Gallery, London | Historic Royal Palaces

Lady Jane Grey was the first daughter to Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset (later 1st Duke of Suffolk) and Lady Frances Brandon. She was the great grand-daughter of Henry VII, through her mother who was herself the older daughter to the younger of Henry VIII two sisters, Mary. Hence, her direct link to King Henry VIII. She was the first cousin, once removed of Edward VI.

She was also known as Lady Jane Dudley following her marriage to Lord Guildford Dudley, the younger son of Lord Dudley, Duke of Northumberland who was the chief minister to Edward VI.

Lady Jane Grey – Her early years

The general view is, Jane Grey was born in October 1537 at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. Her family were high status and were frequent at the royal court. Jane was the eldest of three siblings. Her second sibling was Lady Katherine and her youngest was Lady Mary.

Lady Jane received excellent but strict education. She could speak and write in Greek and Latin from an early age. She learnt French, Italian and Hebrew and spoke these languages in a highly skilled manner. Through the influences of her father and her tutors, Lady Jane Grey became a committed and devout Protestant.

Jane did not like sports or hunting parties very much, an activity typical of the era for young girls of her status. Instead, she preferred book studies, in particular, the works of Plato. She had seemingly said to have responded to a question by her tutor, as to why she is not outdoors with the others with the following:

I wist all their sport in the park is but a shadow to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas, good folk, they never felt what true pleasure meant.

Lady Jane Grey | Historic Royal Palaces

Jane also regarded her upbringing as harsh. She is said to have complained to her tutor, Roger Ascham, an English Scholar and Writer, of what is expected of her.

“For when I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) … that I think myself in hell”

Lady Jane Grey | Ives, Eric 2009

Around February 1547, when Lady Jane Grey was barely ten years old, she was sent to live in the household of Queen Catherine Parr, the final queen consort to Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour, Uncle to Edward VI at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire. It was customary in the Tudor era for children to be brought up in other households of higher status where they learn the etiquette and be in a suitable position for a patron to make good marriage. Jane attended to Catherine until Catherine’s death in September 1548.

After Catherine’s death, Lady Jane Grey was made ward of Thomas Seymour, who soon afterwards curated a plan to marry Jane to his nephew, Edward VI who was also Jane’s cousin. His plan did not go much further as Thomas Seymour was beheaded for treason in 1549. Thereafter, Lady Jane Grey returned to her childhood home at Bradgate.

Lady Jane Grey at Bradgate

When Lady Jane Grey returned to Bradgate, she resumed her studies. A couple of years later, her father was created the Duke of Suffolk resulting in a beautiful and talented girl frequenting the royal court.

Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley – “a wife who loves her husband”

Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley
Portraits of Lady Jane and Lord Guildford Dudley by Richard Burchett, © Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA 1008. |

Jane caught the attention of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, the most powerful man in the land at that time, advisor to Edward VI. He did not want to lose his favoured position. He curated a master plan, with the agreement of Jane’s father for his son, Guildford Dudley to marry Jane. His intention was to make his son and Jane, the King and Queen of England upon the death of Edward VI, whose health was already failing. Jane was just sixteen and Guildford, eighteen.

The couple were married on May 25 1553 at Durham House in a triple ceremony – alongside her sister, Catherine Grey and her sister-in-law, Catherine Dudley.

Not much is known of Guildford and Jane’s relationship but Jane is noted as saying that she is “a wife who loves her husband”

Lady Jane Grey and Edward VI

Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey
Image: Edward VI attributed to William Scrots, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, RCIN 405751 |

Edward VI inherited the throne at the very young age of nine following the passing of his father, Henry VIII. With just five years on the throne since, he contracted fever and cough in January 1553 (later suspected to be tubercolosis). He fell terribly ill and at times appear to recover only to succumb to his illness again. He realised that his health was volatile and he may not survive much longer. He wanted so much for his heir to be a male Protestant but this was not possible. The next in line to the throne in accordance to Henry VIII’s Will were Edward’s half-sisters, Mary who was Catholic and Elizabeth, along with Lady Jane Grey whose Protestant faith was strong.

Edward set about writing his instrument for succession – “Device for Succession”

Edward VI – ‘Device for Succession’

To ensure his successor would be a male Protestant, Edward VI devised a Will, taking inspiration form his own father’s Will, Henry VIII. He disinherited his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) in favour of male heirs of his cousin, Lady Frances Grey or her children, Jane, Catherine and Mary.

When by June 1553, it became clear that Edward VI was terminally ill and none of his cousins had produced a male heir, he altered his instrument of succession in favour of Lady Jane Grey solely.

In this instrument of succession, Edward VI set out that although Lady Jane Grey would reign as queen, her successor would be a male heir. If Lady Jane were to die without male heirs to the throne, then the crown would pass to one of the sons of her sisters. This instrument was signed by the Privy Council, bishops, peers and at least ten of the country’s senior advocates of the time.

One can’t help but think that this is all part of a grand masterplan by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland who was also the Lord Protector to Edward VI. Afterall, he did marry-off his son with young Lady Jane.

A little background to Third Succession Act 1544

The Third Succession Act 1544 restored Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.

During the reign of Henry VIII, both Mary and Elizabeth were declared illegitimate by statute after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were declared void. The Act also empowered Henry VIII to alter the succession by his Will. Henry VIII reaffirmed the succession of his three children but altered the succession to include the heirs of his younger sister, Mary should his children leave no descendants. No one knows why but he did not include Jane’s mother, Lady Frances Grey in the succession.

How did Lady Jane Grey become Queen of England

Lady Jane Grey - on her Coronation
Lady Jane Grey | Jane was wearing a green velvet dress embroidered in gold, with a long train carried by her mother.
Her headdress was white, heavily decorated with jewels, and on her neck a chinclout (a type of scarf) ‘of black velvet, striped with small chains of gold, garnished with small pearls, small rubies and small diamonds … furred with sables and having thereat a chain of gold enamelled green, garnished with certain pearls.’ | Lady Jane Grey (1536-54) after a painting by Herbert Norris, © Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy Stock Photo

King Edward VI died on July 6 1553. However, his death was not announced till four days later, on July 10. Lady Jane was told she was now queen on July 9.

On July 10 1553, Lady Jane was officially proclaimed to be Queen of England, France and Ireland. She took up secure residence in the Tower of London as was customary of English monarchs to reside from the time of accession until the time of coronation.

Lady Jane Grey – from accession to execution

Meanwhile, with the death of the King now public, Mary, daughter to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon devised her own plan to garner support of the public. She was much popular amongst the people of England, especially Catholics and those who believed in her claim to the throne as Henry VIII’s daughter. On the other hand, Lady Jane Grey was unheard of. Seeing her popularity, the Privy Council switched allegiance and proclaimed Mary, the Queen on July 19th 1553.

On July 19th, Lady Jane Grey became a prisoners within the walls of the fortress, after taking residence in preparation for her coronation, and her husband, Guildford Dudley became prisoner at Beauchamp Tower in the Tower of London.

Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley was tried for high treason in November 1553 and were found guilty. Guildford Dudley was executed on February 12 1554 at Tower Hill.

Later the same day, February 12, 1554, Jane was granted a private execution within the Tower of London grounds – at Tower Green. Dressed in black, Jane remained calm, making her way to the scaffold. These were her final words:

‘Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same; the fact indeed against the Queen’s Highness was unlawful and the consenting thereunto by me…I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before the face of God and the face of you good Christian people this day.’

Anonymous (1997) [1850]. “1554, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley”. In Nichols, John Gough (ed.) The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two years of Queen Mary, the Camden Society; Marilee Hanson
Lady Jane Grey Prayer Book
Lady Jane Grey’s prayer book with her handwritten inscription to Sir John Bridges, Lieutenant of the Tower, © British Library Board, Harley 2342, ff.74v-75

Lady Jane then read Psalm 51, in her prayer book, gave her gloves and handkerchief to one of her ladies, her prayer book to the Lieutenant of the Tower, her gown, headdress and collar to her ladies. She asked her executioner to ‘dispatch of her’ quickly and she tied a blindfold around her eyes. She scrambled blindly for the block, panic overtook her, and she cried, ‘What shall I do? Where is it?’

Lady Jane Grey at the scaffold
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (detail), by Paul Delaroche, © National Gallery London 2017

Someone helped her find her way, and she laid her head on the block and said her last words, ‘Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit’. The axe fell.

Jane was just 17 years old. Queen for 9 days.

Jane and her husband, Guildford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, on the northside of Tower Green in Tower of London.

Lady Jane Grey – her legacy

Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey, steel engraving by William Holl, 1868, © Florilegius /Alamy Stock Photo |

Following her death and the unsuccessful reign of Queen Mary I, Lady Jane became to be known as a Protestant Martyr, and as an innocent victim in the nineteenth century. Her story grew to legendary proportions in popular culture, producing romantic biographies, novels, plays, operas, paintings, and films.

In the Beauchamp Tower, to the right of the fireplace, there is a coat of arms, deeply cut into the wall, representing the Dudley family, possibly carved by Guildford or his brother, Robert when they were prisoners at the Tower. Across the fireplace, there is another graffiti that says ‘IANE’ which stands for ‘JANE’.

On a final note…

The story of Lady Jane Grey is both fascinating and a tragic one. A very young girl caught up in the political and religious conflict of her time but so little is known of her, that it is a challenging task to describe her completely. Nevertheless, her story is one worth revisiting – she was the Queen of England, France and Ireland for nine days, the shortest reigning monarch in English history.


Ives, Eric (2009) Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell.

Tallis, Nicola (2017) Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey. Oakhill Publishing

Cook, Faith (2004) Nine-Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey.

Evangelical Press

Other resources: Historic Royal Palaces

Lady Jane Grey at a Glance:

Alternative title: Lady Jane Dudley

Born: October 1537, Bradgate, Leicestershire

Parents: Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk | Lady Frances Brandon

Married: Lord Guildford Dudley

Reign: July 10 1553 – July 19 1553

Inherited from: Edward VI

Succeeded by: Mary I

Religion: Protestant

Childhood home: Bradgate

Died: February 12, 1554 (between 16-17 years old).

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Beauchamp Tower London

Beauchamp Tower London

Beauchamp Tower is easily missed as visitors seem focused on the White Tower and the Jewel Tower. Moreover, if you are limited to time, you may give Beauchamp a miss but I suggest that Beauchamp is worth a visit and deserving of a place on your list.

I discovered Beauchamp Tower on my visit as I retraced my footsteps in London. I have been to Tower of London many times before but had never visited this tower. I learnt so much of historic England from my visit here which I share with you here.

Read about the Tower of London – the Best Guide before your next visit.

Beauchamp Tower London

Beauchamp Tower sits next to the dark timbered Queen’s House overlooking the Tower Chapel and the Tower Green | © mytimelessfootsteps | Image by Georgina_Daniel

Beauchamp, pronounced as “beecham” is one of the twenty-one towers at the Tower of London and forms part of the inner defensive wall of Tower of London. It was built between 1275 and 1281 towards the end of the first leg of modernisation of the Tower, under the reign of King Edward I.

The tower’s close proximity to the Lieutenant’s lodgings (now, the Queen’s House) made Beauchamp Tower a significant and a perfect place throughout history to accommodate high-ranking important prisoners.

There are other towers within the walls of the Tower of London which also became home to very important high status prisoners. Read about the prisoners of the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London here and the Jewel Tower, home to the Magnificent Crown Jewels.

Prisoners of the Beauchamp Tower London

Amongst the important prisoners at Beauchamp were John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and his four sons. One of the sons was Guildford Dudley, the husband to Lady Jane Grey. Here’s a brief look at the Dudleys and Lady Jane Grey.

About the Dudleys

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was imprisoned at the Beauchamp Tower along with his four sons because he wanted his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey to be Queen of England.

John Dudley and his sons were condemned as traitors in 1553. He was executed for treason at Tower Hill on August 22, 1553. Guilford Dudley, husband to Lady Jane was executed in February 1554. Following his execution, the three brothers were pardoned and released.

About Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey - on her Coronation
Lady Jane Grey on the day of her procession to be Queen of England. Lady Jane Grey (1536-54) after a painting by Herbert Norris, © Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy Stock Photo
Archives: Historic Royal Palaces

Lady Jane inherited the throne from Edward VI and was Queen of England for just nine days. She was deposed by Catholic Mary I, on July 19, 1553 and was imprisoned in the Queen’s House.

On the morning of 12 February, 1554, from her window, Lady Jane watched her young husband, Guildford Dudley, leave Beauchamp Tower for his execution at Tower Hill, and his headless body return for burial at the Tower Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.

Later, on the very same day, Lady Jane was executed at Tower Green. She was seventeen years old.

About Guildford Dudley

Guildford Dudley, born in 1535 was an English nobleman who married Lady Jane Grey in an elaborate celebration about six weeks before the death of King Edward VI. Guildford and Jane spent their brief rule together at the Tower of London until they were condemned to death for high treason, thereafter in separate quarters.

On the morning of their execution, Guildford requested to see Lady Jane one last time. Jane refused, saying:

“would only … increase their misery and pain, it was better to put it off … as they would meet shortly elsewhere, and live bound by indissoluble ties.” 

Guildford Dudley was executed at Tower Hill on the morning of February 12, 1554.

The Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London is next to the right of the Queen's House. The Dudley's were imprisoned here
The Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London is next to the right of the Queen’s House. The Dudley’s were imprisoned here. © mytimelessfootsteps | Image by Georgina_Daniel

Other prisoners at Beauchamp Tower London

Other notable prisoner at Beauchamp Tower was Lady Jane Rochford, lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII. Lady Rochford’s confession was instrumental in the tragic death of Catherine Howard. Her interrogation drove her insane and she was executed on the same day as Queen Catherine on February 13, 1542.

As the tower was used throughout English history as a prison, there were other prisoners as well such as William Tyrrel and Thomas Peverel. Most recently, it accommodated several German spies during the World Wars.

You may wish to know more about the German spies and you can access information here. The last person to be executed at the Tower was Josef Jakobs, also a German spy at the end of WWII.

Graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower

What makes Beauchamp Tower London famous these days is the discovery of graffiti beneath the many layers of history on its walls. These graffiti on the wall were left by prisoners.

The inscriptions were made during the 16th and 17th century when the religious and political turmoil was at a height and the prison was home to many high-ranking and important prisoners such as the Dudleys, William Tyrrel and Thomas Peverel. Some of these inscriptions are bold reflecting painstaking carving while others are thin and somewhat spidery. They are a few that seem to cluster in specific locations of the Tower.

Inscription of William Tyrrel in 1541 in Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London
William Tyrrel (1541) In Italian “Since fate has chosen that my hope should go with the wind I now want to cry for the time that is lost and I will be sad and unhappy forever”
Graffiti left by prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London
Cluster of Graffiti: 29 – Thomas Myagh: Tortured because of his association with Irish rebels. 29a – Unknown 31 – Thomas Peverel (1571)
Graffiti in Beauchamp Tower
62 – Attributed to Thomas Peverel

All images © timelesstravelsteps | by Georgina_Daniel

Graffiti on the walls of Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London
Graffiti on the walls of Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London | © mytimelessfootsteps | Image by Georgina_Daniel

These sombre inscriptions represents thoughts of the prisoners and a powerful need to leave some form of record of their existence. A record, so they are not lost forever. It is an assertion of their beliefs and identity but above all, a strong will of defiance not to be cowed by political and religious tyranny. Some prisoners were held in gloomy cells, while others could move freely within the Tower grounds. Their treatment and fate depended on their social status and their crime.

*Lady Jane Grey was given access to the garden in December 1553.

Timeless Travel Steps says: When I visited, there were a number of people here so I could not take a closer look at the graffiti. I am intrigued by these inscriptions and am motivated to discover more on this part of history at the Tower of London.

There is a permanent exhibition at the Beauchamp Tower.
There is a permanent exhibition at the Beauchamp Tower | © mytimelessfootsteps | Image by Georgina_Daniel
Spiral stairs leading to the permanent exhibition of the prison in Beauchamp Tower.
Lots of stairs! Spiral stairs leading to the permanent exhibition of the prison in Beauchamp Tower | © timelesstravelsteps | Image by Georgina_Daniel

One thing to bear in mind when visiting here is the narrow entrance and the narrow spiral stairway – there is only one of these, so visitors going up as well as those exiting the exhibition use it. If you are at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for the moment to get up – don’t! Don’t wait because you shall be waiting for a long time (like I did!) and others behind you will get ahead of you regardless of your politeness!

Entry to the permanent exhibition in the Beauchamp Tower is included in the entry ticket to the Tower of London. It is reasonably priced at £25.00 and is valid for one day – take a look here.

Learn more about Beauchamp Tower from this book: In Inscriptions and Devices, in the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London

UK Readers

Published by the British Library, the book contains a short historical sketch of the building, and the prisoners formerly confined therein: collected from State papers, records, and other authentic sources: by W. R. Dick.

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and have found it valuable towards planning your visit to Beauchamp Tower. Do share your thoughts in comments below.

The Tower of London is vast and offers a thousand years of history within its walls. If you are in a rush, you may not experience all of what Tower of London has to offer. It is highly recommended that you spend at least four to five hours (subject to the time of day and the season you choose to visit) when you visit. Have a break in between and enjoy the hospitality at the cafe.

Learn more about the Tower of London by taking these virtual tours > Inside the Tower of London by the Tower of London | Historic Royal Palaces.

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