Jewel Tower is an overlooked treasure English Heritage holds directly opposite from The Houses of Parliament. It was built from 1365-66 to house the personal treasures of King Edward III – like a giant safe. Then in the early 17th Century the House of Lords used it as a records office, holding valuable documents. It survived a large fire in 1834 which destroyed much of the ‘Old Palace’ (the original Houses of Parliament dating back to the medieval era. From 1869 to 1936 the tower was used by the ‘Board’s Standards Department’ for the standardisation of measurement. Currency, weight, and lengths, were all standardised here – the definition of ‘one inch’, all the way to ‘how heavy should an ounce be?’, was all decided in this historic building.

This photograph, courtesy of English Heritage, shows the tower cramped among many more modern buildings in September 1950. The tower was exposed when these buildings were demolished shortly after.

This photograph, courtesy of English Heritage, shows the tower cramped among many more modern buildings in September 1950. The tower was exposed when these buildings were demolished shortly after.

   The structure is of quite an impressive size considering its publicity for tourists, and is of a rough ‘L’ shape, constructed with Kentish Ragstone, and designed by Henry Yevele. It features a large defensive moat around it still visible today (an artificial body of water surrounding it to prevent enemies entering) which was also used for transportation of the King’s goods. The tower was built in the corner of the Royal Gardens, and its ‘L’ shape is said to be due to King Edward ordering that it didn’t take up any of his garden space.


   On the bottom floor it features a fascinating set of ceiling bosses in the Royal Presentation Room, where the King would have been presented with valuable gifts, and meet individuals. Bosses are the meeting points between the ceiling ribs made of a kind of clay which does not fully dry hard – they are still flexible to this day. This acts as a shock-proof way of fixing the ceiling to allow it to move as the foundations move over time. This rare set holds some intricate carvings, making them an incredibly important archaeological artefact.

   Today the tower stands as an excellent English Heritage museum. We explored all the levels, learning about the building and its use whilst taking photographs for this article, and video footage for the video seen at the beginning. We would like to thank the man from English Heritage running the museum at the time, who was based at the downstairs desk. We were very grateful for his information on the ceiling bosses and use of the bottom floor. To add to this, not only did he allow us to film in the building, but he even closed the museum for ten minutes for us to gain some video footage – many thanks sir!



When we visited the Houses of Parliament last year for the launch of the campaign ‘Archive Awareness’ we were fortunate to meet Clem Brohier who works for the National Archives. Clem invited us for an exclusive tour of the National Archives, and now that we have both finished college for the summer, we headed up to Kew to visit the site. The security on site is very tight (which makes it even more exciting!) so we were unable to take photos of the behind the scene areas so stock images from the National Archives website have been used. (We wouldn’t want to be caught taking photos either!)

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The National Archives are the official archive for the UK Government, holding thousands of documents owned by England and Wales, some documents dating back to over 1,000 years! Over 1 million historical government and public records are held there making it one of the largest archives in the world. From the Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, the collects holds many papers, maps, photos, posters, drawings and more. Documents are only made public after 30 years although now it’s becoming closer to 20 years with some released earlier under Freedom of Information requests. Some documents can’t be published immediately as they hold sensitive information about international relations or weaponry, whereas other documents are not as sensitive such as educational bills. Documents from the secret services are not held here, as they are not released at all.

We travelled there by train, travelling through 20 tube stations followed by a short walk to the Archives from Kew Tube Station. The building was opened in 1977 as an additional home for the public records, which were held in a building on Chancery Lane. The site was originally a World War I hospital, which was later used by several government departments. There is also an additional record storage facility (DeepStore) in the worked-out parts of Winsford Rock Salt Mine, Winsford, Cheshire. We were told whilst visiting that this location was secret from the public (we wasn’t told and the tour guides hadn’t even been there) although Wikipedia reveals the location as Winsford and describes the salt mines as:

The United Kingdom’s largest rock salt (halite) mine is at Winsford. Rock salt is quarried from a depth of more than 150 metres below ground with the mine producing 1 million tonnes of rock salt annually, and has a network of 135 miles (217 km) of tunnels over several square miles underneath the area between Winsford and Northwich. A worked-out part of the mine is operated by DeepStore Ltd., a records management company offering a secure storage facility. Confidential government files, hospital patient records, historic archives belonging to The National Archives, and business data are stored in the mine, where the dry and stable atmosphere provides ideal conditions for long-term document storage. Source.


Digital Storage at the National Archives, london

The National Archives was created in 2003 by combining the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission and is both a non-ministerial government department in its own right and an executive agency reporting to the Secretary of State for Justice. The archive works in preservation rather than restoration, like the Essex Records Office. With roughly 200km worth of shelving at the NA, security is high, including that of damage by fire. They don’t use sprinkler systems as this would damage the documents more, even though most are stored in cardboard boxes – (it was in the news a few years ago about a fire at at art gallery in Scotland where records were damaged by fire and water) so the archive use a special compressed gas system which involves Argon being pumped into the air to remove the oxygen, stopping the fire.


Clem had kindly organised a selection of documents for us to look at, ranging from local maps and plans to documents signed by a King! We will be covering these soon and we also hope to return to the National Archives at some point as there is so much there – we only saw a very small percentage and the documents there will help to compliment our work in the future. There is also a lot more to Beyond the Point than articles like this, including our Online Shop, Interactive Map and more! A video covering our visit will be published on Beyond the Point TV in the next couple of weeks however the photos from our visit can be seen at our Facebook page (link on the left).

The two BTP boys, and occasional accomplice Jack Swestun, set off at McDonalds in Southend Airport, to investigate pillboxes once defending Rochford airfield, established in August 1914. Although it became an airport in 1935, it wasn’t designated for civilian use until late 1946, after the war. Using sources such as the Defence of Britain Project, coupled with Google Earth, we were able to mark out the locations of 8 pillboxes on a map we printed out of the area.


The first pillbox we saw was bare concrete and of Type 24 design (guide to pillbox variants here: It was hidden behind the McDonalds car park, facing out onto Rochford Road. It was accessible but featured a fair degree of graffiti inside.

After this we crossed the railway line via the bridge that the road continued onto. There was some old signage to be seen. We passed the current airfield control tower, the Avro Vulcan bomber (an impressive model of plane used by the RAF from 1956 up to 1984) that the airport holds there, and another Type 24 pillbox similar to the one we saw first.

Still heading along the Rochford Road-side, we made an impressive discovery. Jack spotted what appeared to be an Anderson shelter from the Second World War. it looked old enough, and has been confirmed to likely have been one, although possibly lifted (originally sunk into the ground for extra strength against bombing). It appeared to have been used as a general shed, as various tools and a couple of chairs were hidden in it, although even these appeared to be rather old. Being in such a hard to reach, overgrown location, it is probable it had been left to ruin.


After a few directions from the locals, and a walk through a public park, we ended up at another type of pillbox – this time, of ‘Cantilever’ design, which we would see two more of later on. Cantilever pillboxes were designed and built by F C Construction for airfield defence, and ’53 examples are still extant’. The roof was disconnected from the sides of the pillbox, supported only by a large central pillar, meaning a 360 degree firing slit was possible. They featured a rail around the sides of the slit for the mounting of weapons. The slit was only slightly higher than ground level, as the main pillbox body was sunken, enabling what appeared to be an effective defense. This one was against the railway fence, although a way from the actual track. Its door and firing slit was bricked up.


We next passed a hut which looked as if it was likely to have been from the days of the Rochford airfield, underground some kind of conversion or restoration work which seemed to be fairly vacant. The three of us then joined up with Rochford Hundred Golf Course, finding a pillbox on the outskirts with a fresh puddle inside. We looked out at the golfers, all over 50, wondering which bad-boy could’ve been responsible. It was rendered in brick from the casting process, although much of this had crumbled away to reveal the concrete underneath.

Next we passed a few derelict planes within the airport site, and a small stream. This lead us out onto a field where we would see the last four pillboxes together. One of the bunkers was infact a possible ammo store (‘magazine’) and not used for firing upon enemies. It was basically a covered brick pit sunken far into the ground, with steps going down into it. Although beyond the airport fence, these fields would originally have been part of the site of the airfield. Finally, we checked out two more cantilever pillboxes in that field, along with another Type 24. One of the cantilevers had an aircraft tyre in, which looked rather old too!




Hip-hip horay!

3 years on today, tens of thousands of website views later and many more explores on, from when we set up the website in 2011! July 17th 2011 was when we set up this blog, and when we were biking around Two Tree Island, we never would have thought how iconic that day would be. A nationally recognised community archive was founded, a friendship was strengthened further more and my spelling and grammar was corrected for the next 3 years by Liam! ;)

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Above are a few photos from the first few albums on our Facebook page. As today marks 3 years, we have looked back at our journey and have answered some questions to give you even more of an insight into Beyond the Point, including answering the question that we’re asked the most – How did BTP start? Below is a feature length documentary that we have produced for our third birthday special. With 7 hours editing, 6 hours rending and even longer uploading to Beyond the Point TV, we hope you enjoy it. We show some old clips to remind you of us three years ago (something we don’t mind forgetting) as well as ourselves talking about how we set up the site, what the ‘BTP room is’ and also answering the questions that you’ve asked us on Facebook/Twitter. It’s been strange looking back at some of the visits that we don’t remember quite as well and even more strange to see them in videos!

Thinking back that today was actually the day we set up this site 3 years ago (if that makes sense!) is quite surreal, I can remember setting up the site with our first page/post being the about us one. We’ve met many great people and have also had the chance to experience many things that we wouldn’t have normally so we would like to thank everyone for supporting us, and we look forward to the years to come.


We set off on an about an hour’s car journey across the Dartford crossing and out into the wonders of the garden of England. The BTP boys were well equipped with equipment for photographic and video footage of the fascinating place we were about to discover. We met with Richard Kemp who we thank for having invited us, and former Canvey-Islander David Jackson, both from the Essex Underground group we are too part of. The crew met in a car-park not far from the site before driving to the field not far from Rochester Castle,  which Richard used to demonstrate the distance the tunnels covered using  both above-ground landmarks, and the faint shading in the grass caused by the underground construction. Many local residents and Councillors also attended, of all ages, who met near the site of the tunnel entrance.

The Essex Underground crew

The Essex Underground crew

   On September 23rd 1941 the Short’s Brothers, an aeroplane company making seaplanes in the Second World War, decided to build a factory in the safety of the underground for use through the wartime, adjacent to their above-ground factory which had stood therefor sometime, now demolished.

The factory was used to create seaplanes, and to store 75 new machine tools which needed urgent space as the original factory was full. At the time it costed £20,000, and consisted of 12,000 square feet of workshop space. At the eastern end of the tunnels, three-hundred yards of public air-raid shelter were made, carved into the chalk and lined with corrugated iron and brick. Much of the original signage still remains. In places, the tunnels had not been lined and were simply bare chalk, which was quite an impressive spectacle.   After the war, up to the 1990s, Blaw Knox Ltd. paving contractors took over the tunnels, and much of their belongings still litter the site.

June the 6th 1944, shortly after midnight, 24,000 British, US, and Canadian, airborne troops landed in the region of France that the amphibious assault would capture around 6:30 in the morning that day. Allied troops began landed on the 50-mile stretch of perilous beaches of Nazi-occupied Normandy in order to push back the short-lived Nazi German empire Hitler was rapidly loosing. This happened today exactly 70 years ago. Whilst times and technology have since far surpassed that of wartime Britain, the Second World War is still well within living memory of the members of our community and immediate environment today. It is far too easy to dismiss it as history.

What local connections do we have to D-Day then?

There are two remains locally which hark back to the Allied assault on Normandy. Off the Southend/Shoebury shores lies a wrecked Mulberry Harbour – a floating concrete platform used in great numbers by the allies as supply points in the English channel. One of the floats off of the Mulberry Harbours, ‘ferro-concrete barges’, was moored up near Canvey point for many decades, and became a legendary playground for kids, until it was sneakily demolished in the 2003.

The D-Day Beaches Today

Many of the D-Day beaches are littered with remnants from Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ (his coastal defense line against invasion via France) which defended German territory from the Allies in D-Day. Only part of this came to use, as Hitler did not know what part of his European coastline would be invaded.

In August 2012 I visited Le Touquet, on holiday in Northern France, a coastal town, which happened to still hold bunkers remaining from the Atlantic Wall on the beach, much to my delight. Below ares some images of such bunkers whose designs would probably have been common across the sections of coastline invaded in D-Day. It’s good to cover some historic remains abroad for a change!

I also visited, in 2011, Sword Beach, a more heavily defended British beach (with the American Omaha beach being far heavier). This was an actual D-day beach, although many remains of the Atlantic Wall here had been since removed. It was on the town of Ouistreham, the name ‘Sword’ merely being a code-name given by the Allies. There was however a very large bunker – ‘The Grand Bunker’, open as a restored museum, which was in fact very good. I will try and find some of the other structural photographs I got of the building at a later date, but for now here is a few: