Jewel Tower

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The Jewel Tower
Part of Palace of Westminster
Old Palace Yard, London, England
Jewel Tower.jpg
The Jewel Tower
The Jewel Tower is located in Central London
The Jewel Tower
The Jewel Tower
Site information
Owner English Heritage
Open to
the public
Yes
Condition Intact
Site history
Built by Henry Yevele

The Jewel Tower in London is one of only two surviving sections of the medieval royal Palace of Westminster, the other being Westminster Hall. It was built in 1365–66 to house the private treasures of Edward III and its alternative name was the "King's Privy Wardrobe". In the early 17th century it became a records office for the House of Lords. From 1869 until 1936 it was the home of the Board's Standards Department. The Jewel Tower is not to be confused with the Jewel House at the Tower of London and is not the home of the Crown Jewels.

Details[edit]

The tower is a three-storey building constructed mainly of Kentish Ragstone, and stands across the road from the current Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament. It was located at the far southern end of the old palace complex, and was built into the defensive walls but was detached from the main buildings, which explains its survival of the great fire of 1834 which destroyed most of the palace.

The tower sat in a corner of the royal gardens and was protected by high walls and a moat. The unusual L-shape design of the building can be attributed to the fact that King Edward ordered that the tower should not take up any space in his garden. To fulfill this brief the builders were forced to encroach onto land belonging to Westminster Abbey. For this the monks were never properly compensated and they were forced to construct a new wall to mark the boundary between the palace and the abbey. This wall is still standing and now forms part of Westminster School.

The Jewel Tower was designed by the master mason Henry Yevele, who was also responsible for a number of other royal building projects in the late 14th-century, such as the nave of Westminster Abbey and the remodelling of Westminster Hall. At the same time as the Jewel Tower's construction, another tower was built at the palace. This was a clock tower that was home to a 4-ton bell dubbed "The Edward", a forerunner to Big Ben. This clock tower (demolished in 1698) stood on the north side of New Palace Yard, a little to the west of where the present clock tower now stands.

The tower is managed by English Heritage and contains an exhibition on the first floor called "Parliament Past and Present". Another exhibition on the second floor details the history of this small but important building. On the ground floor an original ribbed-vault ceiling can be seen, including sixteen unusual bosses of animals, human faces and green men. Until 1834 the historic records of the House of Lords were stored here; they are now in the Victoria Tower and managed by the Parliamentary Archives.

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