Historic church lying near the Tower of London
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 crypt is an altar believed to have been carried on the Second Crusade by King Richard II.
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.
There is a museum in the Undercroft, and a brass-rubbing centre, one of only two such centres in London. The brass rubbing centre is open daily, but closed during church services. Staff are available to help visitors make their own rubbings of facsimile medieval memorial brasses. Entry to the brass Rubbing centre is free, but a small charge is made for the rubbings.