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The Jewel Tower is a rare survivor from the original Palace of Westminster, which was was built in 1365 as a store for Edward III’s treasury. Whilst many treasures were kept safely inside, it never actually houses the Crown Jewels themselves, which were kept inside the Tower of London.
The Jewel Tower continued to act as a store until 1621, when it became a repository for the House of Lords’ archives.
The Jewel Tower is now home to a small exhibition about its early days as a treasury, and contains a collection of early weights and measures.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
The last time I came to the Jewel Tower the first room was full of whiteboards detailing the history of parliament, with some big glass cabinets showcasing the Speaker’s old robes, but they seem to have done away with all of that now.
I remember it being badly out of date (talking about a current Government that had long since departed), so whilst it certainly could have done with a bit of a spruce up, they didn’t have to bin the whole lot!
All they’ve got now is a wooden model of the original Palace of Westminster and a handful of boards about its history. If you’re a London buff like me then it’s quite interesting to see what the palace used to look like before it burnt down, I suppose, but I don’t think many tourists will be writing postcards home about it. (I don’t mean to be a smart arse but they’ve actually made quite a sizeable error on it as well – because their circa 1400 model of Westminster Abbey includes the two huge towers at the western end, which weren’t added until the 1720s.)
A handful of other boards include a few paragraphs about what the Jewel Tower was originally used for (Edward III’s treasure house) and a side room stores a few boxes of silver plates and weights and measures. Then you head downstairs to the third and final room which is basically… empty. Just a bit more about weights and measures and some stuff about the important documents that were kept inside. You don’t actually get to see any of the documents though – just a few facsimiles of them.
I’m guessing that if you read every single piece of information in the building then it would take you no more fifteen minutes – that is how little information there is. The only reason that I stayed longer was because I had to write this.
It’s a shame, because this place could be so much better than it actually is. If you read my blog from a few years ago then you can see what I thought of it back then (I thought it was pretty lousy then too) – but they have managed to perform a miracle and make it even worse! All of that history of Parliament is gone. The Speaker’s clothes – gone. Thirty minutes of my life – gone.
> Read Craig’s latest review of the Jewel Tower “This is the kind of historic old building that usually appeals to me, and I really want to give it a good review (I really do!), but there are so few objects inside that it’s impossible. I must be the only person in the world who’s been here three times, because nobody else would even dream of coming twice… continued.”
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If you enjoy the visiting the Jewel Tower in London then you might also enjoy Westminster Hall (another surviving part of the Palace of Westminster). Or how about a Saturday tour of Parliament, or a guided tour of Big Ben. Or how about visiting Banqueting House, which is a surviving piece of Whitehall Palace?
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