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The Jewel Tower 1365

The Jewel Tower, which still stands today, is one of four surviving sections of the medieval Palace of Westminster, the others being Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephen's, and the Chapel of St Mary's Undercroft.

Abbey land

The Tower was built by King Edward III between 1365 and 1366 on land appropriated from Westminster Abbey at the edge of the Privy Garden (a private garden adjacent to the royal apartments) at the south-west corner of the Palace.

In those days, the medieval palace extended right to this point. The monks, however, bitterly resented this encroachment, and rejoiced when William Usshebourne, one of King Edward's keepers of the Privy Palace, choked to death on the bones of a pike caught in the moat surrounding the Jewel Tower.

The three-storey building was intended to serve as a storeroom for the king's private collection of jewels, gold and silver, which were administered at that time as a branch of the King's Privy Wardrobe.

Privy wardrobe

It is likely that space was found for these at Westminster as the main Privy Wardrobe (at the Tower of London) was filled with military supplies and equipment during the French War.

The Tower was designed by Henry Yevele, the most famous architect of the day. It was constructed largely of Kentish rag stone, and contained a moat and medieval quay for protection against fire and thieves (their remains are still visible today).

Boatloads of stone

Ninety-eight boatloads of stone were shipped from Maidstone to Westminster for its construction which today still features an unrestored 14th-century vault.

The King left the Palace after a fire broke out in 1512, and the bulk of his jewels were transferred elsewhere, although the Tower became a wardrobe for the King's clothes.

Lords' records

From 1621, the records of the House of Lords were assigned a permanent home in the Jewel Tower, and only transferred to the Victoria Tower in the mid-19th century. The Jewel Tower is now in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.

External link

To find out how to visit the Jewel Tower visit English Heritage's website

Did you know?

Henry VIII's inventory of the Jewel Tower reveals that it was packed with every conceivable item of royal clothing.

Even walking-sticks, silver spoons, the princesses€™ dolls, and the king€™s chessmen had found a home there.


You can access biographies of

Edward III
Henry Yevele

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.