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St Thomas' Tower

When Edward I reclaimed land from the river to make a new outer wall, the existing watergate opposite the Bloody Tower became redundant. St Thomas's Tower was built between 1275-9 as a much more resplendent replacement, complete with coloured glass and statues. Here is where the King had his own private apartments with a bridge to the Wakefield Tower connecting them to the other royal lodgings The present bridge is a nineteenth-century reconstruction. It is possible that the south-east turret contained an oratory to St Thomas a Becket, after whom the tower is named.

This may be because it was felt that his spirit had to be appeased after the arch of the gate twice fell down in the course of reconstruction. An interesting feature is that remarkably the arch has no keystone.

The Wharf was extended in front of the tower in about 1338-9, yet the watergate remained as the main state entrance from the river. The name 'Traitors' Gate' derives from the fact that so many prisoners accused of treason arrived at the Tower this way. One of these unfortunates was Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I, accused of complicity in Wyatt's rebellion against Mary 1 in 1554, who fell on the steps leading out of the basin protesting that 'here landeth as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these steps, and before thee, oh God, I speak it, having none other friends but thee'. It makes one wonder how she felt in the knowledge that her mother Anne Boleyn, had come this way in 1536 for her imprisonment and execution.

St Thomas's Tower has been put to many uses over the years housing warders, the Tower infirmary, a room known as a Boring room for making gun barrels, with the machinery powered in the early eighteenth century by a water engine in the pool of Traitors' Gate. In the late nineteenth century it was used as accommodation for the Keeper of the Crown Jewels.



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