Reopening the East Vault

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Another day on site, another exciting milestone! The construction team have started work opening up access to the East Vault.

Our senior curator Dr Amy Frost tells us about the East Vault and why we’re excited to give the public a glimpse inside when we reopen: “What we are calling the East Vault was part of the sequence of spaces in the basement that were for the heating and provision of water to the Tower. The opening to access the well sits in the space immediately to the west of the Vault and would have had a pump on the exterior of the building. The vault is sometimes referred to as “the coke cellar” in our archaeological reports. The blackening of the walls suggests it was originally used to store the coke (coal-based fuel) used to power the furnace of the Tower heating system. Coke/fuel would have been delivered through the opening into the vault form the garden (now the cemetery) and stored in the vault – this is the doorway we will be re-opening up to give public access from the cemetery into the vault. The coke would then have been taken from the vault along the corridor to the furnace that sits beneath the Tower staircase. This heated the air in the staircase drum, which would rise to move through ducts and out of vents in the rooms of the building, and up the staircase. (We still use the same route for heating the staircase – but not the rooms). The door from the garden into the vault was probably blocked up around the time that the Tower was given to Walcot Parish, at the same time the entrance steps were removed to make a ramp into the building at the front.”