Monday 11 August 2014
As Linda mentioned, we had been intending to visit Apsley House as a follow up to the Wellington Arch but, as has happened several times before, we had not checked the website. Indeed, it had not occurred to us that a major, publicly owned tourist attraction in London would be taking a day off.
So instead we headed for another English Heritage place, the Jewel Tower in Westminster. This started life in the reign of Edward III, who needed all the wealth he could get for his wars in France.
So the first use of the Tower was the storage of valuables. There were a few examples but, at least as interesting, was a bit of audio about returning some plate which had been to Eltham Palace for the Easter feasting. Although the number of dishes in the list was correct, one of them was clearly wrong, as it weighed more than it should have done.
Which brings us to another use of the Tower across the years, namely the place where the standard weights and measures of the Imperial system were housed and used. Linda broke into a quick chorus of 'I love you A bushel and a peck' and we also saw the master measures for a grain and a scruple.
There were very clear information boards around the place, but the attempts at interactives were less successful: the Baker's scales probably needed adjustment as they were a bit sticky.
The weights and measures had to be moved when traffic vibration from the road outside upset the delicate checking processes.
The third use of the Tower was as storage for Parliamentary papers. The scrolls were kept in large pigeon holes. presumably by date, though we thought that the apparent post-it notes in the display were not nineteenth century. Several very important documents survive today because they were stored here and not in the House Of Commons when it burned down in 1834. These documents include the death warrant for CharlesI, though only a replica is on display now. Luckily, the next time the House of Commons was destroyed, papers were not lost.
All in all, we enjoyed our brief visit to the Tower; it was very quiet, unlike the rest of historic Westminster, which was solid with tourists of all kinds.