Tower of London Jewel House

The English Crown Jewels are estimated to be worth somewhere close to £13 billion, putting them high on the list of targets for master criminals. They have been kept under heavy guard at the Tower of London for centuries, and in 1994 were moved to a new home within the castle boundaries, a state of the are jewel house designed to keep them protected while being viewed by thousands of tourists each day.

From the King’s crown, adorned with over 3,000 jewels, to the royal Sceptre that includes the Cullinan diamond, the crown jewels are an unrivalled collection. They have been stored at the Tower of London since 1303, having previously resided at Westminster Abbey until they were subject to an attempted theft.

The nearest anyone has come to successfully snatching them from the tower was a notorious 1672 heist led by colonel Blood. At that time the jewels were held in the Martin Tower, protected by a custodian, Talbot Edwards, who would allow visitors to inspect them for a small consideration. Blood and a female accomplice duly befriended Edwards and his wife over a period of weeks.

By early May 1671, Blood had persuaded the master of jewel House to let him see the collection with a small troop of friends. He then led an ambush, the gang beating Edwards and seizing whatever valuables they could. Although they were apprehended before they could getaway. Blood somehow secured himself a royal pardon – some say as the reward for his astonishing bravado.

The chances of such a ruse proving successful today are more remote than ever. The jewels were moved to the Tower’s neo-Gothic Waterloo barracks in 1967, but by the early 1990s, it was clear that the basement room in which they were kept was unable to cope with the crowds of tourists. A new jewel house was built within the barracks, with capacity for 2,500 people each hour.

Opened in 1994, the building includes a raft of safety and security measures that cost more than £3 million. Today the jewels lie on cushions of French velvet protected by 5-cm thick reinforced glass. They are kept under 24-hour surveillance from a nearby control room while Yeoman Warders and members of the Tower Guard stand ready to step in should the need arise. So you are welcome to look but don’t even think about touching.

Location: Tower Hill, London, England.

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