For centuries this section was called the Wailing Wall; Jews from the adjoining Jewish Quarter came there to pray and to lament the destruction of the Temple. Houses came to within 4 m of the wall, but after 1967they, and a number of Ayyubid and Mamluk mosques, were razed to create the present plaza and the name was changed to something less evocative of a sad past.
The great stones of the lower part of the wall have drafted margins in the characteristic Herodiian style. They formed part of the retaining wall built by Herod the Great in 20 BC to support the esplanade of the Temple. Originally such stones went all the way to the top, which had pilasters at regular intervals; evidence from the excavations is confirmed by the intact Herodian wall of the Tomb of the Patriarchs at Hebron. The part projecting above the esplanade was pushed outwards in the Roman destruction of the Temple in AD 70. It was restored by the Umayyads in the C7 (large almost square stones without margins), and again after the great earthquake of 1033 (much smaller stones).
The southern extremity of the women’s section of the Western Wall is marred by a small iron staircase. Behind it is a stone two-courses high with a notched top-left corner. This is the visible portion of the 7 m-long lintel of a gate of Herod’s temple, now known as Barclay’s Gate after its 19th– century discoverer. The gate measured almost 9 m from lintel to sill, and is a clear indication of how much the ground level outside has risen since the days of Herod.
Source: The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy- O’Connor