London's Small Museums: All Hallows By The Tower
An occasional series exploring the many tiny museums around the capital.
The Tower of London is impressively old. It will celebrate its thousandth birthday within the lifetimes of some readers. But its neighbours are even more venerable. Significant Roman remains, already ancient when the famous fortress was built, can be found up on Tower Hill. And then there's All Hallows By The Tower.
This distinctive church to the west of the Tower traces its origins back to 675 AD, when it became a distant outpost of Barking Abbey (the reason it is sometimes, confusingly, referred to as All Hallows Barking). Although the main structure has been rebuilt several times, a Saxon arch still stands. It is thought to be the oldest piece of upright church in the City.
Beyond the arch, down a narrow flight of steps, is the crypt. Most of the space is given over to the tiny All Hallows crypt museum, which contains some real treasures. The first display is a section of Roman pavement from the 2nd Century, part of a domestic house previously on the site of the church. You'll also find an outstanding model of Roman London, itself something of an antique, dating from 1928. Note the absence of the amphitheatre, one of the greatest finds from Londoninum, only rediscovered in 1988.
Elsewhere, the museum contains impressive silver plate from the 17th Century, numerous potsherds and stone remnants, and artifacts connected to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, who was baptised here in 1644. Most bizarre is a crow's nest belonging to one of Ernest Shackleton's ships. A couple of attractive chapels complete the crypt.
All Hallows By The Tower crypt museum is free to visit and open during most normal hours. A detailed history of the church can be found here.
Last Updated 10 January 2012