Jewel Tower is a three-story stone structure that was built during the middle of the fourteenth century to store and protect King Edward III’s most valuable possessions. At that time, it was one of the more heavily fortified areas located on the grounds of the Palace of Westminster; in order to secure the king’s treasures, it was even surrounded by a moat. Today it houses a small museum and gift shop, and is known for its historically important architecture that incorporates several centuries of British design elements under one roof.
History of Jewel Tower
Standing at the southern edge of the original Palace of Westminster, Jewel Tower was completed in 1366. In those days, the Palace of Westminster (what is nowadays referred to as the “Old Palace”) was the primary residence of the British monarch; Jewel House, as it was then known, was built for the purpose of storing and protecting some of the royal family’s most prized possessions, namely precious jewels and silver plates.
By the sixteenth century, the Palace of Westminster was no longer being used as a royal residence; as a result, the site transitioned to functioning as a storage space for all manner of royal family belongings, items like excess furniture, clothing, tables, linens, and even toys. Between approximately 1600 and 1800, the Jewel Tower served as an office under the jurisdiction of the House of Lords. When the vast majority of the original Palace of Westminster was destroyed during a terrible fire in October of 1834, the Jewel Tower managed to survive. Accordingly, it remains of great historic importance today as one of the oldest standing buildings in this prestigious district of London.
Jewel Tower Highlights
There are two educational exhibits on display within Jewel Tower. One is entitled Parliament Past and Present, and it provides visitors with an informative and thorough history of the British Parliament. The other exhibit, located on the attraction’s second floor, tells the long, rich history of Jewel Tower itself. Throughout the site you’ll find priceless artifacts like an Anglo-Saxon sword, speaker’s robes, and stone capitals that date to the Normal period.
Jewel Tower is an architectural marvel, and the highlight for many visitors is simply having the opportunity to explore this historic building from the inside out. Particular features of note to keep an eye on include the ground floor’s ribbed vault, which dates to the fourteenth century; the groin-vaulted ceiling of the first floor, done in Portland stone and believed to be nearly 300 years old; and an iron door at the entrance to the turret room adorned with the cipher of King James I.
You’ll want to take a close look at the grounds immediately outside of the tower. There you’ll be able to see the excavated remains of a moat that once surrounded the site, as well as an accompanying quay that once stood here in medieval times.
More to See and Do at Jewel Tower
Appropriately enough, many previous visitors have deemed Jewel Tower one of London’s hidden gems. For more information on how to make your stop here a success, keep reading.
*A small coffee shop has opened up at Jewel Tower recently. It sells coffee, tea, sandwiches, and a few select desserts. If you’re looking to spice up your dining experience, consider taking your food and drink to one of the attraction’s nearby picnic tables; there you’ll enjoy views of local landmarks like Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
*The ground floor of Jewel Tower contains a gift shop affiliated with the English Heritage organization. It sells an assortment of books, accessories, souvenirs, posters, and a whole line of royal family-related and London-themed gifts.
*Jewel Tower is not necessarily the busiest London tourist attraction; still, since it’s also not the largest historic site in the city, it can get pretty crowded during peak times. As a result, it’s recommended that you try and visit Jewel Tower either before 11:00am or after 2:00pm. This will ensure the attraction is at its quietest when you’re visiting it.
*Be advised that you will not find any restroom facilities located at Jewel Tower. The nearest public toilets are part of the Westminster Underground station, approximately five minutes away from here on foot.
Why Jewel Tower Should Be on Your Must-See List
Located right next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster, not far from The Florence Nightingale Museum, London Eye, and the Garden Museum, the Jewel Tower can be easy to overlook. It’s not a big place, nor is it especially flashy. However, as one of the oldest surviving components of the original Palace of Westminster, it’s a remarkable structure that any British history buff would love to experience. Better yet, it can easily be enjoyed in under 30 minutes, making it a terrific last-minute addition to any London tourist attraction itinerary.