The Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tower © David Gill

The Jewel Tower was constructed in 1365 as part of the Royal Palace at Westminster. It stood at the south-west corner of the complex adjacent to Westminster Abbey. From 1869 to 1938 it served as the Weights and Measures Office and in 1941 was damaged by an incendiary device. The tower was repaired in the years following the war, after being placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1948. It is now in the care of English Heritage.

The first official guidebook was prepared by A.J. Taylor, the then Assistant Chief Inspector of monuments. It follows the standard format of History followed by description. A fold-out plan was inserted inside the rear cover. A note comments: ‘The purpose of this guide is to provide the visitor to the Jewel Tower with a full account of its history and a description of its different rooms. Those who prefer to save the former to read at leisure will find a shorter historical note exhibited on the ground floor of the tower’.

1956 (2nd ed. 1965; 2nd impress. 1966)

Taylor’s guide continued to be published for over 40 years, appearing as the English Heritage guide though with additional illustrations. Alan Sorrell’s reconstruction of the tower (along with part of the palace) was included on the back cover.

1996 (repr. 2001)

Jeremy Ashbee prepared the new English Heritage red guide (2013). This consists of a tour followed by a history. A number of special features are included. A series of plans are placed inside the read fold-out cover.

2013

“And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

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Dove Cottage © David Gill

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth.

His ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802‘ seems an appropriate poem to recall.

Westminster Abbey: Guidebooks

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1949

Stuart Rigold (1919–80) joined the Ministry of Works as an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments in 1948 under Bryan O’Neil. One of his first tasks was to write a short (paper) guidebook of the Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey and issued by the Ministry of Works (1949; 2 d.). It consists of four pages starting with the history, showing that this part of the abbey could be placed during the reign of King Edward the Confessor, followed by a description. Page 3 consists of a plan of the Pyx Chamber.

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1953 (4th impress. with amendments 1965; 1st ed. 1935)

In 1953 Rigold revised John George Noppen’s guidebook (1935) to the Chapter House and Pyx Chamber at Westminster Abbey. Noppen (1887-1951) had earlier published Westminster Abbey and its Ancient Art (London, 1926) and A Guide to the Medieval Art of Westminster (London, 1927).

The Ministry guidebook consisted of a history, followed by an architectural description, then sections on the sculpture, the paintings, the tiled pavement, the windows, and the exhibits (including the Roman coffin of Valerius Amandinus, RIB 16). Rigold notes the recent damage to the windows during the air-raids of the Second World War.  There is a fold-out plan at the back (showing the relationship between the chapter house and the Pyx Chamber).

2002

The English Heritage guidebook to the Chapter House and Pyx Chamber (2002) is by Warwick Rodwell. There are two main sections: History, and Art and Architecture. A plan is printed inside the back cover.

Oliver Cromwell in Mask

Greenpeace protest
Oliver Cromwell, Westminster © David Gill

I attended the All Party Committee on Cultural Property this afternoon and could not fail to notice a mask that had been added to the statue of Oliver Cromwell at Westminster. This was one of a series of statues that formed part of a Greenpeace protest on environmental issues relating to air pollution (“Eight arrests after Greenpeace protesters scale London monuments“, 18 April 2016).