Jewel Tower - History and Facts | History Hit

Jewel Tower

London, England, United Kingdom

The Jewel Tower is one of the last remnants of the medieval Westminster Palace.

Peta Stamper

11 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Jewel Tower

Originally part of the medieval Westminster Palace in London, the Jewel Tower was built in the 14th century to hold the riches of Edward III. Following a fire in 1834, the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall were the only buildings of the palace to survive.

Today, the Jewel Tower is open to the public under the management of English Heritage. Visitors to the Jewel Tower can view its vault, an exhibition about Parliament’s history and the remains of its medieval moat and quay.

Jewel Tower history

Built within the Palace of Westminster between 1365 and 1366 on the command of King Edward III, the Jewel Tower was a space to guard and hold the king’s personal treasure. Edward’s treasure consisted of his ceremonial regalia (usually kept at the Tower of London), the jewellery and plate of the Crown, and his personal collection of jewels.

Monarchs of England during this period often used their jewels and plates as cash, drawing on them to fund military campaigns or bestowing them as political gifts. The Privy Wardrobe were the organisation that existed to manage the king’s belonging, initially based at the Tower of London. Building the Jewel Tower reflected the peak of Edward’s personal wealth.

Stone to build the tower was brought in from Maidstone, Reigate, Devon and Normandy. Around 18 locks were bought to secure the treasure and a team of 23 men dug a moat to add extra security. There were also no ground-level windows. The tower overlooked the Privy Palace and King’s garden – the most private part of Westminster.

Henry VIII did not return to Westminster after a fire of 1512 relocated the royal court to Whitehall. During the 16th century the walls were torn down and the moat filled in 1551. The tower remained but was used as the parliamentary clerk’s office. By the 19th century, the Jewel Tower stored records of the House of Lords until a fire in 1834.

With the 1866 Standards of Weights, Measures and Coinage Act creating a corresponding department, they were housed in the Jewel Tower. After World War Two when the tower was hit and partially destroyed by a German explosive, the tower was restored and in 1987 declared a World Heritage Site.

Jewel Tower today

Today, the remaining 14th century Jewel Tower offers a 3-floor exhibition that contains a model of the ‘lost’ medieval palace of Westminster alongside replicas of objects rom the period and an 18th century clerk’s office.

Highlights not to miss are the exquisite ornate ceiling carvings dating back to the 14th century, as well as the history of Weights and Measures. A visit usually lasts around an hour and a half. Located in central London, the Jewel Tower is an unmissable medieval site.

Getting to Jewel Tower

Situated on the bank of the Thames, the best way of reaching Jewel Tower is by public transport. Catch the 3, 87, N3 or N87 buses to Abingdon Street (Stop L), just outside the tower, or walk 4 minutes from the Westminster tube station along the Circle, District and Jubilee lines.

Featured In

London Historic Sites

Londinium, The Big Smoke, The Great Wen: London has experienced its fair share of change over its 2000-year history. Here's our pick of some of the British capital's most famous historic sites to visit today.