All Hallows-by-the-Tower

All Hallows-by-the-Tower, also previously dedicated to St Mary the Virgin[1] and sometimes known as All Hallows Barking, is an ancient Anglican church on Byward Street in the City of London, overlooking the Tower of London.

All Hallows-by-the-Tower
All Hallows-by-the-Tower (2003)
LocationByward Street
London, EC3
DenominationChurch of England
Previous denominationRoman Catholic
ChurchmanshipModern Catholic
Founded675 (675)
Heritage designationGrade I listed building
DioceseDiocese of London
Vicar(s)The Revd Katherine Hedderly
Assistant priest(s)The Revd Sophia Acland

Founded in 675, it is one of the oldest churches in London, and contains inside a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon arch with recycled Roman tiles, the oldest surviving piece of church fabric in the city.


All Hallows-by-the-Tower was first established in 675 by the Anglo-Saxon Abbey at Barking[2] and was for many years named after the abbey, as All Hallows Barking. The church was built on the site of a former Roman building, traces of which have been discovered in the crypt. It was expanded and rebuilt several times between the 11th and 15th centuries.[3] Its proximity to the Tower of London meant that it acquired royal connections, with Edward IV making one of its chapels a royal chantry and the beheaded victims of Tower executions being sent for temporary burial at All Hallows.

The church was badly damaged by an explosion in 1650[4] caused when some barrels of gunpowder being stored in the churchyard exploded; its west tower and some 50 nearby houses were destroyed, and there were many fatalities.[5] The tower was rebuilt in 1658, the only example of work carried out on a church during the Commonwealth era of 1649–1660. It only narrowly survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and owes its survival to Admiral William Penn, father of William Penn of Pennsylvania fame, who had his men from a nearby naval yard demolish the surrounding buildings to create firebreaks. During the Great Fire, Samuel Pepys climbed the church's spire to watch the progress of the blaze and what he described as "the saddest sight of desolation".

Restored in the late 19th century, All Hallows was gutted by German bombers during the Blitz in World War II and required extensive reconstruction, only being rededicated in 1957.

Many portions of the old church survived the War and have been sympathetically restored.[6] Its outer walls are 15th-century, with a 7th-century Saxon arch doorway surviving from the original church, which is the oldest piece of church material in London. Many brasses remain in the interior. (The brass rubbing centre which used to be located at All Hallows is now closed). Three outstanding wooden statues of saints dating from the 15th and 16th centuries can also be found in the church, as too an exquisite Baptismal font cover which was carved in 1682 by Grinling Gibbons for £12, and which is regarded as one of the finest pieces of carving in London. The main-altar's reredos mural is a post-war work by Brian Thomas.

In 1999 the AOC Archaeology Group excavated the cemetery and made many significant discoveries.[7]

The church has a museum called the Undercroft Museum, containing portions of a Roman pavement which together with many artefacts was discovered many feet below the church in 1926. The exhibits focus on the history of the church and the City of London, and include Saxon and religious artefacts. Also on display are the church's registers dating back to the 16th century, and notable entries include the baptism of William Penn, the marriage of John Quincy Adams (which is the only marriage of a U.S. President that occurred on foreign soil), and the burial of Archbishop William Laud.[8] Laud remained buried in a vault in the chapel for over 20 years; his body was moved during the Restoration to St John's College, Oxford.

The altar in the crypt is of plain stone from the castle of Richard I at Athlit in The Holy Land.[9]

All Hallows-by-the-Tower has been the Guild church of Toc H since 1922. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.[10]

The Church also has a Carillon which was brought back to working order in the 1970s by Philip Blewett, then a priest at the church, and Desmond Buckley over many weekends.

The Knollys Rose Ceremony, which held every year in June, starts at the church.

Notable people associated with the church


  • 1269 John de S Magnus
  • 1292 William de Gattewicke
  • 1312 Gilbert de Wygeton
  • 1317 Walter Grapynell
  • 1333 Maurice de Jenninge
  • 1351 John Foucher
  • 1352 Nicholas Janing
  • 1365 Thomas de Broke
  • 1376 Thomas de Dalby
  • 1379 Laurence de Kagrer
  • 1387 William Colles
  • 1387 Robert Caton
  • 1390 Nicholas Bremesgrove
  • – Jo Clerke
  • 1419 John Harlyston
  • 1427 W. Northwold
  • 1431 John Iford
  • 1434 Thomas Virley
  • 1454 John Machen
  • 1454 John Wyne
  • 14- John Walker
  • 1468 Thomas Laas
  • 1475 Robert Segrym
  • 1478 Richard Baldry
  • 1483 William Talbot
  • 1492 Edmund Chaderton
  • 1493 Rad Derlove
  • 1504 William Gedding
  • 1512 William Pattenson
  • 1525 Robert Carter
  • 1530 John Naylor
  • 1542 William Dawes
  • 1565 William Tyewhit
  • 1584 Richard Wood
  • 1591 Thomas Ravis
  • 1598 Robert Tyghe
  • 1616 Edward Abbott
  • 1654 Edward Layfield
  • 1680 George Hickes
  • 1686 John Gaskarth
  • 1732 William Geeke
  • 1767 George Stinton
  • 1783 Samuel Johnes Knight
  • 1852 John Thomas
  • 1884 Arthur James Mason
  • 1895 A. W. Robinson
  • 1917 C. E. Lambert
  • 1922 Philip Clayton
  • 1963 Colin Cuttell
  • 1977 Peter Delaney
  • 2005 Bertrand Olivier


The earliest records of an organ in All Hallows is one by Anthony Duddyngton dating from 1521. This was presumably lost during the English Civil War.

An organ was installed in 1675 by Thomas and Renatus Harris. In 1720 a new case was built by Gerard Smith. The organ was restored and improved by George Pike England in 1813, Bunting in 1872 and 1878, and Gray and Davison in 1902. There was further work by Harrison and Harrison in 1909 and 1928. After destruction in 1940, a new organ by Harrison and Harrison was installed in 1957.


See also


  1. "A Dictionary of London" Harben, H: London, Herbert Jenkins, 1918
  2. "London:the City Churches" Pevsner,N/Bradley,S : New Haven, Yale, 1998 ISBN 0-300-09655-0
  3. "The Old Churches of London" Cobb,G: London, Batsford, 1942
  4. "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C;Weinreb,D;Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993,2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  5. "The City Churches" Tabor, M. p23:London; The Swarthmore Press Ltd; 1917
  6. "The City of London Churches" Betjeman,J Andover, Pikin, 1967 ISBN 0-85372-112-2
  7. Melikian, M. (23 July 2018). "A case of metastatic carcinoma from 18th century London". International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 16 (2): 138–144. doi:10.1002/oa.813. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012.
  8. "All Hallows by the Tower".
  9. Ralls, Karen, Knights Templar Encyclopedia: The Essential Guide to the People, Places, events and symbols of the Order of the Temple, Career Press, 2007, p.22
  10. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1064671)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  11. "The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0-9553945-0-3
  12. Public Sculpture of the City of London by Philip Ward-Jackson
  • I Never Knew That About London, Christopher Winn, 2007
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