Hopping between Hong Kong, London, Hua Hin and Sydney. Exploring and eating my way through these great cities. I have a small tummy, big appetite.
Published November 2nd 2017
Medieval tower hidden in plain sight
One of only two surviving medieval towers of the Royal Palace of Westminster, the Jewel Towel is a stout and beautifully constructed building nestled between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
The Medieval Jewel Tower, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Photo: English Heritage.
It is the perfect place to visit in between exploring the two great behemoths of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament because it only takes 30 minutes to whiz around.
There is a small but adequate cafe downstairs where you can grab a hot drink, a packet of crisps or a biscuit. The Jewel Tower is slightly off the usual tourist path, so not many people know about the tiny cafe inside on the ground floor and there are usually free tables.
Completed in 1365, the tower was built to house the precious items belonging to King Edward III such as silver plates and various important documents.
There are three levels in this turret tower. The stairs are a bit narrow and steep, although there is a handrail. Photo: Nicole James
Fortified walls surrounded the whole complex, including the Royal Palace of Westminster and the Jewel Tower. The tower was situated in the Western corner of the royal garden and had a moat around it that connected to the River Thames. The walls and moat have since disappeared.
There are only a few information boards displayed in the exhibition. However there is a guidebook for sale in the shop on the ground floor. Photo: Nicole James
The House of Lords used the tower to store parliamentary documents during the 1600s and from the mid-1850s onwards, it was used as a store for official weights and measures.
The staff are friendly and welcoming. The man at the ticket desk was knowledgeable and gave us a brief history of the building before inviting us to start our self-guided tour by climbing the turret staircase.
There is a guidebook with further information for sale. To purchase it online, click here.
If you are sitting in the cafe, look up and around to see the stone carvings of flowers, human faces, swans, eagles and mythical animals.
Majestic 14C ground floor vault roof of the Jewel Tower. Photo: English Heritage.
Entry into the Jewel Tower is free if you already have tickets to the House of Parliament tour. Otherwise, it is £5 for adults. It takes about 30 minutes to explore all three floors.
Being a medieval building, access is mostly limited to those who are comfortable climbing uneven stone stairs. The temperature is cold inside the thick stone walls so bring a cardigan.
The closest tube station is Westminster. Look for the Westminster Abbey exit.