The Executioner's Ax – London, England - Atlas Obscura

The Executioner's Ax

Tower of London

Tucked away in the Tower of London is the weapon once used to execute high-profile prisoners.  


In the armory of the White Tower at the Tower of London, you’ll find an ax leaning against a thick wooden block. This sinister pair is the original ax and block used during the execution of high-profile prisoners. In England, the practice of beheading by ax and occasionally by sword was considered to be the most humane method of execution. As such, it was thus typically reserved for prisoners of noble birth who had been sentenced to death.

This particular ax was last recorded as being used in 1747 for the execution of the Scottish Baron and Jacobite Lord Simon Fraser of Lovat, who, as a Highlander, fought against the Hanoverian forces during the battle of Culloden. Fraser, upon surrendering, was imprisoned at the Tower of London, where he was later sentenced to death for treason. Fraser apparently took the death sentence in stride and was even able to maintain a dark sense of humor about the whole situation right up until the moment of his death.

While standing on the public platform waiting for his execution, he apparently mocked the executioner and laughed heartily at the irony of a commotion that had broken out among the crowd below as a wooden viewing stand collapsed, killing nine of the hundreds of spectators who had gathered to jeer and watch his own death. The ax has been moved to a display in the basement level.

Know Before You Go

The Tower of London is open daily. An adult ticket costs £27.40. per adult (18 - 64). You can save £ 2.50 when purchased online.

The axe is located on the top floor of the White Tower. Once you've climbed over 100+ steps, it at the rear of the room.

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