Tuesday, 21 May 2013

All Hallows by the Tower

Designed by numerous masons and architects, 675 onwards

An extraordinary physical record of London's turbulent past, the full extent of which was only revealed by Second World War damage.

Believed to be the oldest surviving church in the City, All Hallows by the Tower was extensively rebuilt in the post-war period following catastrophic bomb damage during the Blitz. Founded on the site of an old Roman house (the remains of which can be seen in the crypt), the church was established around 675 and an arched doorway from this period survives. The early phases of building made extensive use of recycled Roman bricks, as can be seen in a surviving quoin in the northwest section. Rebuilding took place in the early eleventh-century and remains from this time include parts of the southwest wall. Further reconstruction took place during the fifteenth-century, and in 1650 a nearby gunpowder explosion required the construction of new tower, which is the only structure in London known to date from Cromwell's time in power. Samuel Pepys surveyed the Great Fire of London from here. 

Unsurprisingly, the exterior of the church is a picturesque composition of various historical styles, comprising fifteenth-century aisle walls with three-light pointed windows, the mid seventeenth-century tower and a northwest stone porch added by Victorian architect John Loughborough Pearson (1892-5). The latter contains crisp carving by Nathanial Hitch, adding to the eclectic exterior assemblage at that corner of the church. The twentieth-century restoration by Seeley & Paget (1949-57) is a quiet triumph, both inside and out. Internally, a smooth concrete cross-ribbed vault supports the nave, with decorative beams joining limestone piers, whilst the green copper Wren-like spire is a sensitive, yet suitably bold, addition to the exterior.

Best time to visit: the church is open 8am-6pm Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm on weekends. The crypt museum contains some of the most important Anglo Saxon and Roman remains in London.

Address: Byward Street, London EC3R 5BJ

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully restored after the war, it adds to the area around the Tower of London, with its baroque-styled spire.