This magnificent stronghold can be seen today exactly as built in the time of William the Conqueror. The Tower was used as a royal palace, an armoury and a powerful fortress but more generally as the main state-prison of England.
The Tower became an icon of the power and brutality of medieval monarchy and houses ‘Traitors Gate’ through which state prisoners, usually destined for execution, would be sailed by barge, directly in from the River Thames.
The gate was initially built by Edward I, to provide a water gate entrance to the Tower, part of St. Thomas' Tower, which was designed to provide additional accommodation for the royal family. But it soon became the last portal under which those condemned to death would pass. Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on spikes. One such unfortunate was sir William Wallace who was betrayed in 1305, by a Scottish noble, John de Menteith.
Loyal to King Edward I, De Menteith arranged for English soldiers to ambush and capture Wallace while traveling through Glasgow. On the morning of August 23, Wallace was transported to the Tower of London and stripped of his clothes, dragged through the city on the heels of a horse to Smithfield Market, where he was part hung, disembowled, beheaded and quartered. Wallace’s head was put on display upon a pike on London Bridge and his limbs sent separately for display to Berwick, Stirling, Perth, and Newcastle.