King Edward III (1312-1377) ruled England for fifty years and during his reign he acquired a large fortune of gold, silver plate and precious gem stones. The King’s courtiers decided to build the Jewel Tower to keep his treasure safe. It took two years to construct, but when it was completed in 1366, they hoped it would be one of the strongest buildings in London.
The Jewel Tower is an L-shaped building that is three storeys high and has two rooms on each floor. Only one of the original small windows, set with iron bars, still exists. The ground floor room has stone ceiling beams decorated with carved faces, animals and birds. Outside, the tower is protected by a moat, although today it is no longer filled with water.
King Edward III’s Jewel Tower was built in the garden at the side of Westminster Palace which had been one of the main Royal residences since the eleventh century. When Queen Elizabeth I was a child, she may have played in the Jewel Tower as her dolls were discovered in one of the rooms.
By 1700, the Jewel Tower was no longer a storeroom for gold and instead, it was used to safely keep written documents from the House of Lords. To allow more daylight into the rooms, all but one of the windows were made larger. In 1834, a huge fire broke out in Westminster Palace and it was completely destroyed, but Edward III’s Jewel Tower was strong enough to be left unharmed.
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By Engraved by John Thomas Smith (1766–1833) – Smith, J.T., 1807, Antiquities of Westminster, facing p.34, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35065695
By besopha – MonumentUploaded by Magnus Manske, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21107467