I was just watching some TV with my kids, and we were enjoying the (normally reliable) Horrible Histories TV show.

It claimed that Henry VIII had a long series of bedtime preparations to ensure his nightly slumber was safe. Fair enough. The final step, though, was to brick up his doorway each and every night, taking the wall down in the morning.

This seems pretty crazy. If Henry could get out in the morning, intruders would surely have been able to get in fairly easily. If the wall was mortared, it would take too long to dry. Not to mention the level of skill involved by artisans to do the brickwork.

So I searched on it and found nothing except a bunch of other amateur historians also ridiculing the idea.

I posted about this on social media and, to my surprise, the historical adviser to the series replied to say he'd heard the story from the owners of Allington Castle. That seems a bit of a flimsy basis to me. And even with the extra information I couldn't track down any evidence.

Is there any truth to this story? Is it as unlikely as it sounds?

  • 6
    @KillingTime The lack of evidence of mortar and marks from removing the wall each morning would probably suffice. Or just showing that the mortar wouldn't have had time to dry in the first place, which seems quite likely.
    – reirab
    Sep 5, 2017 at 4:16
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    In this case, I think the absence of evidence does very, very strongly suggest it didn't happen. For example, the Eltham Ordinance lists many types of royal household workers and their duties, but never mentions the Privy Chamber Bricklayer, who would have had to be close to the King twice a day. It discusses the handling of left over torches and wax, but not the handling of the bricks for the King's chamber. It specifies when the pages and squires have to get up in order to be ready to attend the King at eight in the morning, without saying what time the bricklayer should dismantle the wall. Sep 5, 2017 at 9:41
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    – T.E.D.
    Sep 6, 2017 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


I can't find any academic source to support the story. Given the logistics involved, I reckon the amateur historians have it right. It's probably just one more of the stories concocted to make historic buildings more "interesting".

To quote Greg Jenner (Chief History "Nerd" on BBC's Horrible Histories) on Twitter

Haha thanks, it's one of those half dubious stories which circulate and we thought it would be fun to run with it

He also made the observation:

Feel free to ask around, we are well aware many facts are possibly myths but until they are disproved they remain usable on a comedy show

On balance, it's a fun story, but probably one to be taken with a large pinch of sodium chloride.

  • 3
    It also makes no sense. Is the wall supposed to keep out anyone coming for him? But then if Henry emerges from the wall every day, then why wouldn't they wait for him to emerge?
    – Flater
    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:28
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    @Flater It does make some sort of theoretical sense: it could have delayed intruders long enough for guards to arrive. But yes, it's flimsy.
    – TRiG
    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:17
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    Wouldn't the squires of the body have worked just as well to delay an intruder, and been more convenient to install and remove? Sep 5, 2017 at 12:38
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    Moreover, the disadvantage of said masonry is that when the mortar finally dries, it's too easy to forget that there's a king behind the bricked-over portcullis :).
    – Edheldil
    Sep 5, 2017 at 14:57
  • 1
    I suppose it's possible (though still not probable) that they just laid bricks with no mortar. While an intruder could tear down the wall pretty easily, it would either take time -- drastically increasing the chance that a patrol catches them -- or make a lot of noise, both waking the king and alerting nearby guards.
    – Doktor J
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:02

Castles, as well as more homely residences, were very prone to fires at that time. I cannot believe that the King would place himself in a situation where he had to rely on other people to get him out of his bedroom!

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