The Exterior of the Cradle Tower, facing the scene in which the Tower's headsman's, Mauger, is sharpening his axe for the Duke of Northumberland's execution on Tower Green — George Cruikshank. May 1840 number, fifth instalment. Thirty-fourth illustration in William Harrison Ainsworth's The Tower of London. Wood-engraving 5.5 cm high x 9.5 wide, vignetted, p. 156. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Complemented

"And now to Mauger," said Renard, "to give him the necessary instructions. You should bargain with him for Northumberland’s head, since you are so anxious to possess it."

"I shall not live to receive it," rejoined Gunnora.

"Not live!” he exclaimed. "What mean you?"

"No matter,” she replied. "We lose time. I am anxious to finish this business. I have much to do to-night."

Taking their way across the Green, and hastening down the declivity they soon arrived at the Bloody Tower. Here they learnt from a warder that Manger, since Queen Mary's accession, had taken up his quarters in the Cradle Tower, and thither they repaired. Traversing the outer ward in the direction of the Lantern Tower, they passed through a wide portal and entered the Privy gardens, on the right of which stood the tower in question.​ [Chapter VII. — "How the ​Duke of Northumberland was beheaded on Tower Hill," p. 156]


Although the illustration of the Cradle Tower in 1840 does not so indicate, in the story it is serving as the domicile of the grisly headsman, Mauger, depicted sharpening the blade of his axe on the facing page. Complementing the antiquarian's circuit of the fortifications, Cruikshank's views of the Cradle Tower in 1840 in no way suggest the squat building's distinguished ancestry as the point at which the old royal palace terminated.

Built by King Edward III between 1348-1355, the Cradle Tower​provided noble visitors of the highest rank with direct access by water to the king's private residence. ​ Cruikshank's exterior drawing of the Cradle Tower does convey an adequate impression of its fortifications. From the river side one sees a crenellated tower with three arched windows above the arched gateway, which has guardrooms on either side; a groove in the flooring indicates that it once had its own portcullis. In the Plan of the Tower of London in 1553 which Cruikshank drew in 1840, the Cradle Tower is in the lower right quadrant, near the gardens, the Queen's Gallery, and the Great Hall, but those features in fact had not existed since the late eighteenth century, and today no vestige of the former palace except the Cradle Tower remains.

The noble Cradle Tower by 1840, as Cruikshank's prosaic illustration testifies, was serving as a lumber-room for disused furnishings. Completed in 1355, the Cradle Tower had long ceased to be a royal residence by Queen Mary's reign. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, the Cradle Tower housed state prisoners. Father John Gerard, a Jesuit priest under detention, and his fellow prisoner, John Arden, in 1597 managed to escape by swinging from a rope stretched from the Cradle Tower across the moat, where they were met by rescuers waiting in a boat to row them to safety. Ainsworth may have decided to make the Cradle Tower Mauger's lodging simply to incorporate another of the towers into the plot, although it is a considerable distance from the sites used for public executions.


"Ainsworth, William Harrison."

Ainsworth, William Harrison. The Tower of London. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Richard Bentley, 1840.

Burton, Anthony. "Cruikshank as an Illustrator of Fiction." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 92-128.

Carver, Stephen. Ainsworth and Friends: Essays on 19th Century Literature & The Gothic. 11 September 2017.

Department of Environment, Great Britain. The Tower of London. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1967, rpt. 1971.

Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

Golden, Catherine J. "Ainsworth, William Harrison (1805-1882." Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. New York and London: Garland, 1988. Page 14.

Kelly, Patrick. "William Harrison Ainsworth." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 21, "Victorian Novelists Before 1885," ed. Ira Bruce Nadel and William E. Fredeman. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. Pp. 3-9.

McLean, Ruari. George Cruikshank: His Life and Work as a Book Illustrator. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.

Pitkin Pictorials. Prisoners in the Tower. Caterham & Crawley: Garrod and Lofthouse International, 1972.

Sutherland, John. "The Tower of London" in The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 19893. P. 633.

Steig, Michael. "George Cruikshank and the Grotesque: A Psychodynamic Approach." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 189-212.

Vogler, Richard A. Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover, 1979.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972.

Vann, J. Don. "The Tower of London, thirteen parts in twelve monthly instalments, January-December 1840." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. Pp. 19-20.

Last modified 10 October 2017