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Jewel Tower, London

Visited October 2023

Location London
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Westminster Tube Station
Parking No
Facilities Cafe, Souvenir Shop
Map

 

The Jewel Tower is situated in Westminster, London. It is opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and has Westminster Abbey just behind it. Buckingham Palace is just up the road. Because of its proximity to all these famous tourist destinations, it tends to get overlooked by visitors to London who are rushing around all the big-name sites, which is a shame as it is a really interesting building with a long history attached.

 


 

 


Review

 

It was built in 1365 for King Edward III as  a stronghold for his valuables- hence the name the Jewel Tower. It was built within the curtilage of the Palace of Westminster, which was at the time the main London residence of the Royal Family. The tower was built in the northern area of the site, which was much more secluded at this time, and that was perfect for its function of protecting the royal treasures. Just to make it even more secure though it also had a moat, which at one time was connected to a ditch leading to the River Thames .

 

The tower as we see it today has been heavily altered over the years, but at one time it was crenellated as was the turret over the stairwell, both have been filled in with a straight brick wall which makes the tower look less like the stronghold that it once was. The area around it has changed too, the Palace of Westminster was eventually vacated as a royal residence and so parts were then demolished or re purposed according to need.

 

Westminster Hall, part of the original Palace of Westminster, still survives today as the oldest part of the Parliament complex, having escaped the devastating fire which destroyed most of the original Palace of Westminster in 1835. It is just across the road from the Jewel Tower and is also open to visitors.

 

Some of the limestone capitals which once decorated the Great Hall are on display in the Jewel Palace. They were originally part of an arcade inside the hall, but had been repurposed into parts of the walls during a renovation in the 14th Century, but were not discovered until after the great fire in the 19th century. 

 

 

 


 

 


 

The Jewel Tower is set up as a museum inside, which records its changing use throughout history. There is information about the parliamentary documents which were kept in the tower; it had become the place to store the Records of Parliament in the 16th Century.

 

There is also a fascinating display of the wooden logs which were used as the foundations for the tower until they were replaced with concrete in 1963- having kept the tower upright for over 650 years! The tower was also used as the testing facility of the Board of Trade standards between 1869-1938. This was where all the official values of weights, volume and measurements were tested and then confirmed. There are some scales and weights which are part of a display which children are encouraged to play with.

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

Once the interior of the building  has been visited ( and please check out the beautiful wooden doors, especially the one dated 1621 featuring the cypher of James I ) head back down the spiral stairs to the cafe and shop, and enjoy some refreshments under the vaulted ceiling, which wouldn't be out of place in an abbey.

 

There are no toilets on site, but the nearest are in Westminster tube station, just 5 minutes walk away. There are plenty of other attractions nearby, including Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. If you have an English Heritage Membership the Jewel Tower is free, and if you want to get into other EH attractions for free, try the Wellington Arch, about 10 minutes walk away. You can go right to the top and get great views of the surrounding area, and see the statue on top at an alarmingly close distance (some fierce looking galloping horses!)

 


 

 


 

More info:  English Heritage Jewel Tower

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