Each year, the Tower of London apparently has something in the region of over 2.5million visitors. Most of these people will have either passed or certainly seen a church perched next to Tower Hill, quite literally a stones throw away from the Tower, one of London's most popular tourist attractions. I'd be quite intrigued to know how many of them also visit the much over looked church whose name actually acknowledges its more famous and popular neighbour. It's called All Hallows-by-the-Tower, but funnily enough pre-dates the already ancient Tower of London by about 400 years and comes with the tag line 'oldest church in the City of London.'
Founded in 675, it was originally called All Hallows Barking, as it was built by the Abbey of Barking who owned a small plot of land on the most eastern edge of the City. In the intervening years, All Hallows has undergone many changes, and seen so much of London's history and its characters come and go. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Samuel Pepys who lived nearby climbed the spire to view the destruction 'and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw' but finally succumbed to German bombs in 1940. Like many churches, it was rebuilt, but the damage caused, opened an intriguing window in to the church's past, revealing a 7th century Saxon arch and what is now considered to be one of the most perfectly preserved Roman pavements in the City, which belonged to a domestic house in the 2nd century.
All Hallows is a veritable Aladdin's cave of London throughout the ages, with pretty much every century of the city's existence represented in one form or another, not to mention forming the backdrop to a 'who's who' of famous personalities. I've already mentioned Pepys, but visitors from the USA might be interested to know that John Quincy-Adams (6th President of the United States of America) was married there and William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania was baptised there.
Aside from a great crypt museum where you'll discover the Roman pavement, a model of Roman London (made in 1928) and numerous pieces of Roman and Saxon pottery and curios, the church itself is littered with fascinating artifacts. Due to its close links with the Port of London Authority there's loads of models of ships and coats of arms of shipping companies. The screen to the Mariners Chapel has a crucifix made with wood from the Cutty Sark and the ivory figure is said to have come from the flagship of the Spanish Armada. There are 17 memorial brasses on the floor, the earliest dating from the 14th century and a quite incredible font cover, carved in 1682 by Grinling Gibbons, Christopher Wren's 'go to' man where wood carving was concerned.
All in all, you could make numerous visits to this church and still not see all there is to see or absorb in full its amazing history. What I've mentioned here is just scratching the surface, but one thing remains, and for me, it is encapsulated by the huge Visscher panorama of London (made in 1616) that greets you as you walk through the main door. The church itself features on the print, and although on the photo below you can clearly see what is now Southwark Cathedral in the foreground and the old London Bridge, All Hallows is actually hidden behind the door, much like the church itself is hidden in the shadow of its more famous neighbour.
You'll find All Hallows-by-the-Tower on Byward Street, EC3R 5BJ, but basically, if you head towards the Tower, you'll find it. I'll leave you with a few other photos to whet your appetite.
Weekend Roundup - 14th/15th April '12
There are three walks to roundup today, so I'll try to be reasonably concise, which might in itself be an oxymoron ... if that's the right word.
Trafalgar Sq to St Paul's
On Saturday morning I was joined by Natalie, Sam, Leah and Anne or maybe Anna (she didn't seem too sure herself) and we set off from an abnormally busy Trafalgar Square, due to the Holland House Dutch Festival, which according to their official blurb, is a 'full on party of orange proportions' to celebrate the Dutch Queen Mother's birthday. I'd have thought that a party of 'orange proportions' would be a very small and round party that could fit in the palm of your hand. Anyway ... we headed through Covent Garden, where we were joined by the fashionably late Darren. Here they all are in Covent Garden.
We then weaved our way through Fleet Street and managed to pop by a bit of 14th Century priory and also St Bride's church amongst other things en route to St Paul's cathedral.
St Paul's to Monument
Anna (or Anne) and Darren returned after lunch for some more Bowl Of Chalk action to complete the Saturday 'double whammy' and with the new recruits Della, Elise and Laura we set off from St Paul's and after a minor detour headed over the wobbly bridge to Bankside to be joined by Syreeta (I think that's how you spell it) who had been trying to find somewhere to park her car. That's beside the point really, but the next stop was the recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. If anyone of a mildly foreign disposition is reading this, I feel compelled to mention that the Globe have been busy putting together a quite incredibly adventurous and exciting festival which runs from the 21st April until the 9th June and every one of Shakespeare's plays will be performed in a different language by 37 international theatre companies. Not surprisingly they have called it the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. Check it out.
Here are Saturday afternoons group sitting inside one of the few remaining pieces of Old London Bridge which is situated in Guy's Hospital. The guy on the left (with whom Elise seems to be getting rather familiar) wasn't actually on the walk, but is a statue of John Keats who studied at the hospital before embarking on a rather short lived career as a romantic poet.
My neck of the woods - east end walk
I was fortunate enough on Sunday to be joined by another great bunch of people keen to explore Old Street, Hoxton, Shoreditch and the like. It was actually a bit nippy on Sunday and Rita who had come along on the walk decided that she'd like to invite the whole group to tea (which was incredibly nice of her). So, we popped in to I made It For You, a small, recently opened independent tea and cake type place on Pitfield Street. Here are Rita, Ivan, Nathalie, Gemma and Matt just before the soda bread arrived.
From here, we made our way to Columbia Road Flower market, scooted around the busy Brick Lane Market, shimmied through a snippet of the City of London before finishing by Spitalfields Market.
Most fashionably late - Darren and Syreeta
Most German - Anne (or Anna)
Most generous Lithuanian hot beverage provider - Rita
Best beard - Ivan
Best moustache - No winners
Tallest - Matt
Most knowledgeable about Alfred Hitchcock - Nathalie
The Della award for the whitest teeth - Elise
Bits of London bridge in victoria park
It was a lovely autumnal day in London today, and as I was wondering around Victoria Park in east London, I thought I'd take a couple of photos of bits of London bridge. That's right. London Bridge.
In the early 1800's the shops and houses that lined the bridge were taken down and replaced with alcoves or shelters. I think there were 14 in all. A few years later John Rennie completed the next London Bridge (1831) and 4 of the alcoves were saved. One is in Guy's hospital with a sculpture of John Keats sitting in it, another is in a council estate somewhere in south London, and the remaining two were deposited in Victoria park in 1860. They look like this:
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.