The tower was originally called the Garden Tower because it was at the corner of the Queen's House garden, but during the sixteenth century its name was changed to the Bloody Tower because of its supposed association with the young Princes in the Tower, who disappeared in 1483. The proximity of the tower to the Queen's house and the style of accommodation did make it a suitable place for noble prisoners, however. Its most famous resident was Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom a second floor was added in 1605-6, and today's visitor sees the tower furnished as it might have been in the period he lived here with his wife and children (his second son was baptised in the Chapel of St Peter in 1605).
Raleigh spent thirteen years in this tower during which time he wrote his History of the World. Other famous prisoners held here include Archbishop Laud, executed in 1645, and the Lord Chancellor, Judge Jeffreys of the 'Bloody Assizes', who died of drink here in 1689 before he could be executed.
This was originally a water gate, created in about 1220 when Henry III extended the castle perimeters, but became the gateway to the inner ward when Edward I reclaimed land from the river to make the outer ward (Water Lane) and built a new watergate (St Thomas's Tower). The first floor of the tower dates from the mid fourteenth century and with its tiled floor, fireplace and window seats was used to provide palatial accommodation.
Also reflected was the defensive function of the tower with portcullises for the inner and outer gateway at either end of the apartment (the southern one remains to this day, through it dates from the sixteenth century). The vault in the passage below also dates from Edward III's reign and was constructed by Robert Yevele in 1360-2.