St. Thomas’s Tower and Traitors Gate

Traitor’s Gate as seen from the riverside. Behind the gate are a square and a round structure, Bloody and Wakefield Towers, respectively. To the left of both can be seen a brown structure with white windows that is the Queen’s House, further over the white Bell Tower peers over the trees, and, of course, at top right is part of the imposing White Tower. [Sylvain Goyette]

Further along Water Lane on the right is St Thomas’s Tower standing above Traitors Gate. The tower was built by Henry III and was named after Sir Thomas Becket  who had been Constable in 1162.

Traitors Gate was originally known as Water Gate but was later changed when it was used as the landing for the Crown’s enemies. All important prisoners entered the Tower through this gate. According to legend when Princess Elizabeth arrived on Palm Sunday 1554 she refused at first to land at the gate, angrily proclaiming that she was no traitor.

A sharp shower of rain, however, caused her to change her mind. Later when as Queen she visited the Tower she insisted on passing through Traitors Gate. “What was good enough for Elizabeth the Princess is good enough for Elizabeth the Queen”, she is supposed to have told the Constable.

St. Thomas’s Tower stands above the foreboding Traitor’s Gate below.

Traitor’s Gate

Tower of London Traitors Gate from Thames Riverboat cruise [RedNovember82]

The Wakefield Tower

Opposite Traitors Gate is the Wakefield Tower built in the early 13th century. Here the Crown Jewels were housed from 1870 until 1967. The tower has 2 chambers, the ground floor acting as a guardroom to the postern which led to the royal apartments above. These apartments were destroyed by Cromwell. The upper floor now contains a large and magnificent octagonal vaulted chamber in which there is an oratory.

Wakefield Tower was probably named after William de Wakefield, Kings Clerk, and holder of the custody of the Exchanges in 1334. In the 14th century, the State records were transferred to the Wakefield Tower from the White Tower, and in surveys of the period, the building is referred to as the Records Tower.

Henry VI died in the Wakefield Tower on May 21st, 1471. Henry VI, who was also the founder of Eton College, and of Kings College, Cambridge, is supposed to have been murdered on the orders of the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.

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