Date of Visit 




All Hallows by the Tower



All Hallows by the Tower was founded in 675AD and is the oldest church in the City of London. Due to its location next to the Tower of London, the church has cared for numerous beheaded bodies brought for temporary burial following their executions on Tower Hill. Although badly damaged in 1940 it was rebuilt and contains elements dating back to the Saxon church originally located there.  It contains a number of artefacts in the church itself and in its crypt museum.

All Hallows (meaning all saints) by the Tower was founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675AD and is the oldest church in the City of London. 

Located next to the Tower of London, (LINK) the church has cared for numerous beheaded bodies brought for temporary burial following their executions on Tower Hill.

The church is also famed for the number of people connected to it.  William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised here and educated in the old schoolroom. Samuel Pepys watched London burn from the tower of the church in 1666 during the Great Fire.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the USA, was married in All Hallows in 1797 and the Marriage Register entry is on display in the Undercroft Museum.


Although the church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 which started in Pudding Lane, a few hundred yards from the church. The church was not to fare as well in the 1940s when it suffered extensive damage due to bombing during World War II and only the tower and the walls remained. Following the war, it was rebuilt and rededicated in 1957. 

On entry, visitors are struck by the openness of the church.


It contains a main nave and two side isles.


By the entrance is the font which is carved from Gibraltar limestone. This contains a magnificently carved limewood font cover, by Anglo-Dutch sculptor and wood carver, Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).


At the far end of the nave is the main altar. This is a copy of the Jacobean altar destroyed in the bombing during the war. It is without a cross, so as not to hide the figure of Christ in the mural of the Last Supper behind the altar.


To the left is the Pulpit which dates from around 1670 in the style of Grinling Gibbons. It comes from the church of St Swithun's, London, which was destroyed by bombing and not rebuilt.  Above it is the tester, or sounding board, designed to represent three pilgrim shells associated with the pilgrimage of St James Compostella in Spain.


The south aisle houses the Mariners’ Chapel, the windows of which contain the coats of arms of various shipping companies associated with the church.


The wooden screen commemorates the links that the church has with the Port of London Authority. The wood of the crucifix comes from the Cutty Sark, and the ivory corpus or figure is said to come from the captain’s cabin of the flagship of the Spanish Armada.

At the far end of the North Isle, behind a simple altar in the Lady Chapel, is the Tate Altarpiece which dates to the 1500s. The panels were originally in pairs and back-to-back and formed the wings of an altarpiece.


To the left of the Chapel is the altar tomb of Alderman John Croke (1416-1477). This was severely damaged by the air raid of 1940 but was completely restored from over 150 fragments. Made of Purbeck marble, the brass memorials at the back of the tomb record the effigies of the Alderman family members.  On the memorial is a casket containing the Toc H lamp, given to the movement  (an international Christian movement) in 1922 by Edward, Prince of Wales. The movement was founded in 1915 by the Reverent “Tubby” Clayton, the vicar at All Hallows for over 40 years.


Also to be seen is the oldest Saxon arch in the City of London. This is located at the west end of the nave and stems from the latter part of the 7th century.

Going down the stairs to the crypt or undercroft is taking a trip back in time.  To be found there is part of the floor of a domestic house from the late 2nd Century and also artefacts dating from Roman occupation of the site.


Within the undercroft below the nave are three chapels of the Saxon church. These are the Undercroft Chapel, the Chapel of St Francis of Assisi and the Chapel of St Clare.

The Undercroft Chapel was originally outside of the main building and was part of the burial ground. Three Saxon coffins have been found in this area. 


The Chapel of St Francis of Assisi dates from around 1280 and contains a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The chapel was lost for many years until its rediscovery in 1925.


Within the original Saxon church is housed the crypt museum containing many of the artefacts, church plates and ancient registers dating back to the 16th century.


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              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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