Overshadowed by its more impressive neighbours, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, the Jewel Tower is just one of few remnants of medieval London left in the city.
The L-shaped, three story tower was built of white Kentish stone in the mid 1365 during the reign of Edward III in order to provide a safe place to store the king’s personal jewels (as distinct from the Crown Jewels which were held in the Tower of London).
It remained in use as the home of the King’s Privy Wardrobe until 1512 when, following a fire at the Palace of Westminster, the court moved to Whitehall and the jewels were taken to a new home there. Later, in 1621, it became the official house for the records of Parliament and in 1869 it changed roles again, this time becoming the home of the official Weights and Measures Office.
In 1938, the Standards Department moved to a new location in Westminster and, following the war – during which the timber roofs were extensively damaged as a result of air raids – it underwent substantial conservation works.
Now in the care of English Heritage, the building currently houses a fascinating exhibition on the history of parliament and its own past as well as giving access to some of it’s most impressive original features including a vaulted ceiling in the ground level room, complete with carved stone bosses.
Worth visiting to gain a sense of what the medieval Palace of Westminster must have been like not to mention the exhibitions it contains, the Jewel Tower is itself a jewel in London’s medieval heritage.
WHERE: Abingdon Street, Westminster (opposite Victoria Tower at the southern end of the Houses of Parliament). Nearest tube is Westminster; WHEN: Daily, 10am-5pm (summer hours); COST: £3.20 adults/£2.70 concessions/£1.20 children; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/jewel-tower/