Above: The tower of St Augustine seen in the large churchyard that surrounds it. The balustrade to the left is not attached to the tower, being the decorative top of the old Town Hall.
St Augustine was the original parish church of Hackney and the first place of worship in the London Borough of Hackney. There are no records of its origin, but it is believed to date from 1292 and to have been built by the Knights Templar. Parts of the tower remain today and they are from about the same date.
The church was restored about 1500 along with the tower. The rectory was known as the Manor of Grumbolds. The church remained in use until 1789 and most of the building, apart from the tower, was demolished in 1798. The stone was sold as building material. The extent of the original church is marked by four cornerstones to the east of the tower.
All that remains to be seen today is the tower and part of the churchyard which adjoins the later churchyard surrounding the church of St John. On the third floor of the tower is a fine working turret clock which dates from 1608. The tower and its contents are listed Grade I. The tower has become the symbol for Hackney. It was depicted on the old coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney.
Since 1990, the tower has been in the care of the Hackney Historic Buildings Trust. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund made possible repairs and improvements and a permanent exhibition on the history of the tower is now open to the public on the last Sunday of every month. It is now possible to climb its narrow winding stairway to the roof.