Traitors’ Gate was built by King Edward I in around 1275. It may surprise many visitors to the Tower that this now infamous gate leading to the river was originally built as the main entrance to the Tower. In medieval times it was far healthier and safer for the members of the King’s court to travel between royal castles and palaces by boat rather than through the crowded and dirty streets of the city. It was part of St Thomas’ tower and was probably known as St Thomas’ Gate. The first record of it being called Traitors’ Gate is on a map of 1544.
The Gate was connected to the river by a short canal that passed through the river wall, under the outer wall of the tower and into a small pool between the two walls on the southern side.
Here steps led to the walkway between the internal and external walls and to the towers along this way which were used for housing prisoners such as the Bloody Tower. Its most famous prisoners were probably in Tudor times, when such prisoners as Edward, Duke of Buckingham, Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I) and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex all entered the Tower by the fearsome Traitors’ Gate.