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Answer 92. Sir Thomas More. By tradition, he was taken to the Bell Tower and imprisoned in the Lower Bell, a most unpleasant dungeon at the base of the tower.


Bell towerMore was allowed the freedom of the Tower of London at first. He had permission to roam anywhere he wanted inside the walls. He could even go to mass if he wished.

He could also have gone home at any time if he had been prepared to acknowledge King Henry VIII’s supremacy over the Pope. But More stubbornly refused to do so, to the puzzlement of his wife:

‘I marvel that you that have been alwaies hitherto taken for so wise a man will nowe so play the foole to lye here in this close, filthy prison, and be content thus to be shut upp amongst mise and rattes.’

More was determined to stick to his principles, even if the Lower Bell was (and still is) a horrible place. ‘Is not this house as nighe heaven as my owne?’ he asked his wife serenely. He was prepared to stay there for ever rather than give in to the King’s demands.

More’s daughter Margaret was allowed to visit him in the Bell Tower. She was with him on 4 May 1535 when they witnessed an event that had been specially stage-managed for their benefit. Peering out of the Bell Tower window, they saw a grim little procession passing by, on its way out of the Tower.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 93. The procession included three Carthusian priors and  a monk named Richard Reynolds. Where were they going?

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