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New guidebook published on All Hallows by the Tower church SEPTEMBER 2015

Famous London church is situated next to the Tower of London

In the heart of London, All Hallows by the Tower reaches towards the sky, an oasis of ancient calm in the bustling metropolis that has grown up around it. Founded around the year 675, the church has remained a symbol of Christian light and charity, the beating heart of a community that reaches from Tower Hill to the City of London, and to places beyond. 

Founded five centuries after the arrival of Roman centurions to British shores, the church started life as a wooden building; imagine a mass of huddled Anglo-Saxons praying for salvation from the marauding Vikings as winter winds sang outside. The Vikings settled down in time, London absorbing another generation of warriors, but All Hallows is a patchwork of eras, reflecting its history. It includes the oldest surviving Saxon arch in the City of London, which itself is made from earlier Roman floor tiles. Medieval stonework gives way to the spike of a Cromwellian church tower. The font cover is exquisitely carved by Grinling Gibbons. In the eighteenth century, church registers were secreted in a dry lead cistern to prevent alteration by pro-Puritan revisionists – a common practice then by officials who wished to paint Cromwell in a brighter light (conveniently forgetting his famous invocation to be depicted ‘warts and all’).

The church was badly bombed in the Second World War but was resurrected by an international restoration campaign. Appropriately, the altar features a phoenix rising triumphant and eternal in a blaze of holy fire, while stained-glass windows glow with the bright hues of contemporary artwork. Everywhere you turn is a fresh part of history, weighted with significance. The air in the church is heavy with the past, and ready for the future.

Scala’s new guidebook to the church takes the visitor on a pilgrimage through its many ages, highlighting the key pieces of decoration – but more than that, it provides a guide for a tale that stretches back to the foundation of our city and will continue after we are gone.