When I told my father the other day, that I'd been to The Jewel Tower in Westminster, he said "Aaahh ... the place you see on the news next to Parliament", which is quite true. College Green is where news reporters stand to interview MPs and do their straight to camera pieces with the impressive backdrop of Charles Barry's Houses of Parliament behind them. Quite often you can see the Jewel Tower creeping in to shot to the left, but largely spends its time in the shadow of its more famous, but much younger neighbour.
Built in 1365 within the private palace of King Edward III, the Jewel Tower began life as a huge safe, a secure repository for the most valuable possessions of the Royal Household. The palace took up the whole area, now occupied by the Houses of Parliament and Parliament Square, with the Jewel Tower, situated in a secluded garden to the west and hemmed in by a moat, encroaching on land owned by Westminster Abbey. You can get a good idea of the layout of the area from the picture below.
In the same way that the Queen today travels between her different homes, her predecessors would move between palaces, Royal manors and castles dotted around the country, or indeed visit friends and courtiers in their own houses. Such trips would have involved taking a huge retinue of people, but also items like plates, bowls, cups, goblets, tapestries and other decorative objects and things that might be needed. The job of the 'keeper of the Wardrobe in the Privy Palace of Westminster', sometimes known as 'keeper of jewels and gold and silver vessels' was based at the Jewel Tower and had the responsibility of making an inventory of everything that left, supervise the goods being loaded on to carts and barges and most importantly, to make sure that everything was returned.
When Henry VIII became King and the Royal Household moved away from the Palace of Westminster, the Jewel Tower effectively became a big junk store. On his death in 1547, an inventory was taken of 'tholde Juelhous at Westminster' and was found to be full of old clothes, bed-hangings, linen, gaming tables and old children's toys and dolls. In the 17th Century, the robust ragstone building became a store for Parliamentary records and by the early 18th century it was decided in a meeting chaired by Sir Christopher Wren that the Jewel Tower needed some serious repairs, which also included protection from fire.
The Jewel Tower managed to survive the fire of 1834 that burned down the Houses of Parliament, causing the loss of pretty much all of the old medieval palace. The new buildings, which you can still see today took about 26 years to complete and as we move in to the Victorian period, the the Jewel Tower gained its third use. A larger building was required for the storage of records, which Charles Barry accommodated in the design of the new Parliament and more specifically, the Victoria Tower, which still stands directly opposite the Jewel Tower today.
In 1864 the Standards Department of the Board of Trade, sometimes known as the 'weights and measures' moved in to the Jewel Tower and set about trying to determine the definitive values of units of size, weight and volume. Basically, these are the people who decided exactly how much beer goes in to a pint of beer ... amongst other things. They remained there until 1938, and in fact on the ground floor of the building today they have a display case showing the different measures or 'standards'.
The Jewel Tower was badly damaged by incendiary bombs during WWII, and the surrounding area has changed quite radically since then, meaning that the building itself, now an 'English Heritage' site, has been excavated, preserved and opened to the public. If you do visit, each of the three floors give you an insight in to the building's incredible 650 years of history, and next time you're watching the news, keep an eye out for it behind the reporters on Abingdon Street Gardens, otherwise known as College Green.
It snowed for most of the walk on Saturday morning, so as you can imagine, was pretty cold. Still, five people ventured out with me for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's, including Keith (from Canada) who came on the east London walk a year ago. He was joined by Natasha and Cerys and also Thomas and Charlyne from France.
They're standing in a little courtyard just off Carter Lane called Wardrobe Place. As you might be able to see from the plaque behind them, it was the site of something called the King's Wardrobe which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Wardrobe, originally housed within the Tower of London was where (as the name might suggest) King's kept their clothes, and also armour and treasure. It was moved in 1311 by Edward II to Lombard Street, then later to the site where the group are standing, by Edward III. It's currently a quiet little space populated by a few trees, offices, a hotel and enclosed largely by 18th century houses. If you have ever read any of Samuel Pepys' diary, the name might sound familiar, as 'The Wardrobe' was the generic name given to the surrounding area and one he mentioned quite frequently.
As I mentioned, Keith came on the east London walk previously. One of the first things he said when he met me on Saturday morning was 'I don't suppose we'll see quite so much street art today'. He was quite correct in this assumption, but at the end of the walk, as we were standing outside St Paul's cathedral, I noticed two pieces of painted chewing gum on the floor, that unless I'm mistaken, look suspiciously like the work of Ben Wilson (who I've mentioned before). He's a prolific street artist, who (if you hadn't already guessed) uses pieces of discarded chewing gum as his canvas. The ones we saw outside St Paul's cathedral looked like this:
Sunday was a nice compact group of Vix, Matt, Mary and Helen for the wander around the east end. Here they are at Columbia Road Flower Market, where I seem to quite often take group photos.
After the walk (again, bitterly cold) I noticed that Eine has re-painted his two well known pieces on Ebor Street. In fact, they were so well known, I'd wager that people just call it the 'Anti & Pro' street (I know I do), as it was emblazoned with the words ANTI and PRO. It now looks like this:
He kept one of the 'PRO's' which were on the Tea Building, so it now says PRO TAGONISTS.
Most French - Thomas & Charlyne
Most Canadian - Keith
Most Welsh - Cerys
Best moustache - No Winners
Most likely to have eaten Kendal Mint Cake - Helen
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.