The interior of Tattershall College
All Hallows-by-the-Tower
All Hallows greatest claim to fame is its association with famed diarist Samuel Pepys. When the Great Fire of London raged in 1666, Pepys climbed the brick tower of All Hallows to watch the progress of the fire across London. Pepys lived in Seething Lane, across the road from All Hallows.
But there is more to this historic church than its use as an observation post! All Hallows by-the-Tower lays claim to being the oldest church in London. The original church was founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675, and an arch from that first church still survives. Beneath the Saxon arch, traces of Roman pavement can be seen, evidence that this site was in use as far back as 2000 years ago.
All Hallows has a bloody history; due to its close proximity to the Tower of London, the church received the bodies of many of those unfortunates executed in that spot, including Archbishop Laud (1645), Bishop Fisher (1535), and Sir Thomas More (1535).
The church has strong associations with the United States; In 1644 William Penn, founder of Pennsylvannia, was christened here, and the sixth president of the USA, John Quincy Adams, was married in All Hallows while ambassador to the Court of St James. In the undecroft museum you can see the entry in the church records for Penn's baptism and Adam's marriage, and other pages in the records, including the entry for Laud's death.

The undercroft museum is utterly fascinating. There is a model showing London at the time of the Romans, the Roman mosaic, still in place, Saxon crosses discovered ion the site, church plate, a barrel used as a crows nest by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his last Arctic voyage, and a huge metal hoist used to lift the Grinling Gibbons font cover off the font.

A History of Hidden Records
One fascinating object is a beautifully carved lead-lined cistern, dated to 1705. Sometime in the early 18th century one of the vicars must have decided that he wouldn't risk the sort of damage that the Great Fire of London caused. Or perhaps he was wary of the religious turmoil of the day. Whatevr the reason, he hid all the parish registers and vestry minutes inside the cistern and placed the cistern in the tower. There it stood, untouched, for over 200 years until the documents were disacovered by chance in 1923. And that is why we can now read the entries for Adam's marriage, Penn's baptism, and so on.
In the crypt is an altar believed to have been carried on the Second Crusade by King Richard II. Beside the crypt is a small barrel-vaulted chapel dedicated to St Francis of Assisi. The chapel was built as a crypt in 1280, and became a Lady Chapel in the 15th century. For over 300 years it was walled up, and lay undiscovered until repair work in 1925 opened it once more.
The church was badly damaged in the Blitz, and though the font cover carved by Grinling Gibbons was untouched, only the tower and walls survived the bombing. The Queen Mother laid a new foundation stone for the church in 1948, signalling the rebuilding of the historic edifice.

The church is normally open daylight hours. I can highly recommend a visit; it is within a few steps of the Tower of London, and well worth a detour to enjoy.

Roman pavement in the crypt
Roman pavement in the crypt
The west end of the church and organ gallery
The west end of the church
and organ gallery

About All Hallows-by-the-Tower
Address: Byward Street, London, Greater London, England, EC3R 5BJ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Website: All Hallows-by-the-Tower
Phone: (020)7 481 2928
Location map
OS: TQ333806
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Nearest station: London underground station Tower Hill - 0.1 miles (straight line) - Zone: 1


HERITAGE

HeritageWe've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.

Historic Time Periods:

Medieval
Roman
Roman
Saxon
Saxon

Find other attractions tagged with:

7th century (Time Period) - brass (Historical Reference) - Medieval (Time Period) - Richard II (Person) - Roman (Time Period) - Roman (Time Period) - Saxon (Time Period) - Saxon (Time Period) -


NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS

Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest

Tower Hill Pageant - 0 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

All Hallows Staining - 0.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Tower of London - 0.2 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

HMS Belfast - 0.2 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Leadenhall Market - 0.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

London Monument - 0.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

St Botolph without Aldgate - 0.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Britain at War - 0.4 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating



Nearest Accommodation to All Hallows-by-the-Tower:

Self Catering   -   B&Bs/Guesthouses   -   Hotels

Nearest Self Catering Cottages

  More self catering near All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Show self catering cottages near All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Nearest Hotels

    More Hotels near All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Show bed and breakfasts near All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Nearest Bed and Breakfasts

  More bed and breakfasts near All Hallows-by-the-Tower