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City of London Churches

City of London Churches

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Published by corinne mills
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London

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Published by: corinne mills on Mar 24, 2008
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01/28/2013

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City of London Churches Introduction
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favouritechurches in the City of London
All Hallows by the Tower
Barking Abbey, the remains of which still be seen, was founded by Erkenwald in the year 666.Owning land on the eastern edge of the City, the Abbey constructed the Saxon church of AllHallows Berkyngechirche on Tower Hill in 675. Over the centuries, the name mutated to AllHallows Barking.The exterior of the building is quite large and imposing, but its different architectural styles bringattention to its historic troubles: medieval masonry dominated by the brown brickwork of thepost-Blitz restoration, its tower of 1659 being a rare example of a Cromwellian rebuild.Despite the somewhat forbidding exterior, the inside of the church is a spacious and lightsurprise. This is due mostly to Lord Mottistone's post-WWII rebuild, which replaced thepreviously gloomy Norman nave with concrete and stone, blending well with the medieval work of the aisles with a grace that the cluttered exterior can only dream off. The plain east windowallows light to flood into the church, and the glass placed in the recently reopened southernentrance also helps to maintain this airy atmosphere.All Hallows is eager to tell its story. As you first step in through the main entrance in GreatTower Street, you are greeted by a large facsimile showing Vischer's famous engraving of pre-
 
Great Fire London seen from the South Bank, and a gift shop which is the largest I've seen in aCity church. This is probably due to a greater amount of visitors than is usual, tourist overflowfrom the nearby Tower. A good selection of historic books can be purchased, displayed in glasscabinets... and All Hallows is certainly not short of history. Its proximity to Tower Hill obliged itto be the temporary resting place of various victims of the axe, such as Sir Thomas More (1535),Bishop John Fisher (1535),Henry Howard Earl of Surrey (1547), and Archbishop William Laud(1647). These notable bodies have all since been re-interred elsewhere, with the probableexception of their heads.On Wednesday 5th September 1666, the recently rebuilt church tower received a visitor fromadjacent Seething Lane, one Samuel Pepys, whose Diary records, 'I up to the top of BarkingSteeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw. Everywhere great fires, thefire being spread so far as I could see it.' He was looking west; Sir William Penn of theAdmiralty, father of the founder of Pennsylvania, saved All Hallows from the conflagration byordering an intervening row of houses to be blown up, thus creating a fire-break. Theirrepressible Diarist, never one to let a local apocalypse ruin his appetite, wrote, 'to Sir W Penn's,and there eat a piece of cold meat, having eaten nothing since Sunday but the remains of Sunday's dinner.'All Hallows' connection with notable figures is impressive. Apart from the short-lived intermentsmentioned, it was also host to the baptisms of Lancelot Andrewes, the Bishop who helpedprepare the Authorized Version of the Bible for James I, and William Penn Jnr. Weddingsincluded the notorious Judge George Jeffreys and John Quincey Adams, who became the 6thU.S. President.Many of the church's registers survived the ravages of the Reformation by being hidden in a leadcistern in the tower, and they were not discovered until 1923. These records include variousplague entries, a mention of the Gunpowder plot, and names Penn, Quincey Adams and Laud inthe register of baptisms, marriages and burials. They are the only unbroken record of events onTower Hill in the sixteenth century.In the 20th Century the incumbent, Revd Philip Clayton, made two important contributions to thehistory of the church. He founded the international movement called 'Toc H', which promotes thespirit of war-time camaraderie through Christian fellowship, and he also changed the name,removing the obsolete Barking ( the Abbey had been dissolved since 1536) and replacing it withthe more practical By The Tower. The parish Bounds are still ritually 'beaten' on Ascension Day,which involves a boat trip as part of the boundary is on the Thames, and sometimes a mock 'clash' with Beefeaters beating the Bounds of the Tower of London.Many historical treasures are displayed in the church. The canopy tomb of Alderman John Croke(1477) was destroyed in the 1940 air raid and reconstructed from over 150 fragments. Today itholds a bronze casket containing the Lamp of maintenance of Toc H. There are seventeenbrasses, the earliest being that of William Tongue of 1389. The wonderful font cover, depictingcherubs and vines, was carved by master woodworker Grinling Gibbons in 1682 for £12, and atriptych of c1500, known as the Tate panel after the benefactor who commisioned it, shows thefigures of St Joseph, St John the Baptist, St Jerome, St Ambrose and Tate himself kneeling in
 
prayer! One example of survival is the pulpit, originally from the church of St Swithins LondonStone, pulled from the rubble after it was completely demolished in the Blitz.The Undercroft is a museum in its own right. It contains an in-situ Roman tessellated pavementfrom a 2nd century house on the site, and a Saxon archway from the original church which wasrediscovered after the Blitz. There are three chapels, one of which - dedicated to bSt Francis -was once a crypt of c1280 which managed to get lost for three centuries before rediscovery in1925. A small neighbouring oratory, dedicated to St Clare, has a 'squint' through which servicescould have been observed. There are models of Roman tombstones, a model of Londinium madein 1928 and sadly dated ( no ampitheatre!), archives dating back to the year of the Armada(1588), the burial pit in which Laud once rested, and small artefacts from the Roman and Saxonperiods.Overall, the Church is a marvellous surprise to the unwary. One could spend a couple of hoursthere, gazing at the relics of two thousand years of history. It was around 400 years before theneighbouring Tower was started, and the Londinium relics date back even further. It's alsocheaper than the Tower, asking only for donations and a small fee for the Undercroft!Author Mark McManus

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