31.03.2015
13:50

Jewel Tower (English Heritage)

Address:

Abingdon Street,Westminster, London SW1P 3JX

Phone:

0370-333 1181

Website:

www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/jewel-tower

Opening times:

Weekends 10:00-16:00

How to get there:

Tube: Westminster

Entry fee:

Admission charge (guided tours only)

Additional information:

Shop

The most accessible surviving part of the medieval Palace of Westminster, the small, L-shaped, three-storey Jewel Tower was once Edward III’s personal strong room, protected by a moat and known as the King’s Privy Wardrobe. Built in 1365–66, it was designed by the master mason Henry de Yevele to replace the main Privy Wardrobe in the Tower of London, at that time taken up with storing military equipment for the war against France. All that remains of the private royal palace, it dates from a similar period to parts of Westminster Abbey, as well as to the Westminster Hall, chapel and cloisters that are now within the Houses of Parliament. Until 1547 the tower continued to be used by the monarch as safe storage, although by Henry VIII’s day it was known as ‘the old jewel house’ and contained less precious items of clothing and soft furnishings. Occupied for a period by Sir Richard Shelley, last Grand Prior of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, from 1621 until 1864 the building became the repository of the official records of parliament. From 1869, the thick stone walls and relatively constant temperature of the tower’s rooms made them a suitable home for the ‘standards’ of weight and measurement used by the Board of Trade, a function they performed until 1931.

On the ground floor, now mainly taken up by the shop, the vaulted ceiling with grotesque carved bosses is largely original. Late 11th-century carved corbels and capitals from the original Westminster Hall can also be seen here—the first ‘story-telling’ capitals in England—one showing a soldier attacking a town. Also here is the ‘Westminster Sword’, a remarkably well preserved Rhineland sword from around AD 800, unearthed in Victoria Tower Gardens in 1948. On the first floor, up the narrow, winding stone staircase, is a small exhibition entitled ‘Parliamentary Government: what does this mean?’ describing the three elements of parliament—House of Commons, House of Lords, The Queen and Parliament—and recounting the history of the institution. The second floor displays the working standards of the Board of Trade, in use until 1962. Here is the place to discover how 4 gills = 1 pint, 2 pints = 1 quart, 4 quarts = 1 gallon, 2 gallons = 1 peck, 4 pecks = 1 bushel, and 36 bushels = 1 chaldron. The ‘standard pint’ of George IV can be seen, along with some 18th-century pottery discovered in the vicinity of the tower: stamped wine bottles from the Sun, Royal Oak and Lamb Taverns.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.

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