All Hallows by the Tower review
If you've ever prayed to God for protection then don't bother. Visit All Hallows by the Tower and witness the destruction that he's rained upon it over the last five hundred years. This church has been wrecked more times than me.
The first one dated back to 675 AD, but really came to prominence after William the Conqueror built the Tower of London next-door. When they began executing people on Tower Hill they used to bring their headless bodies over here for temporary burial.
In 1650 somebody had the bright idea of storing some gunpowder in the yard. You can guess what happened next. The stones and bones and fifty surrounding houses first turned into fireworks, and then fell like concrete rain on the surrounding streets, killing everyone in the vicinity. Sixteen years later it narrowly avoided catastrophe in the Great Fire of London, only to succumb to Hitler's Luftwaffe in World War II.
So what's left today is a hotch-potch of walls and vaults that survived the various bombings and burnings. The oldest pieces are a Saxon arch from the 7th-century, some 15th-century outer walls, some 16th-century stone statues, and a 17th-century font. But the real glory is hidden in the basement...
But before I take you down there let me describe the inside. If you use your imagination then it's not unlike how St. Bartholomew-the-Great looks today. The surviving walls are very dark inside. They're very old and very burnt and dirty on the left (how fantastic would it be if the entire church still looked like that!). Unfortunately the rebuilt section down the middle is too clean -- it's all daylight and sunshine streaming through the plate glass window. They need to put some stained glass in there to darken it down a bit.
What you need to do is tiptoe down the stone stairs at the back of the church until you're ten feet under London. The museum is always empty when I visit it (I don't think many people know that it exists), and it's always dead quiet so it's just you and the sound of your shoes on the stone floor. It turns out that the original 7th-century church was built on top of something Roman (maybe a house), and they've uncovered a piece of its floor -- still in its original position! They've also got an intricate model of Londinium; a model of the church before it got bombed by the Nazis; some old prints of London's skyline; the wedding record of an American president, and a battered crow's nest from Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. You'll also find a couple of cabinets full of plates and golden goblets, and a very spooky sunken chapel.
I’ve been here before…
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