Above: Print showing the church standing
in its churchyard, surrounded by offices.
Looking at some of the splendid maps of Central London – like those by Rocque, Horwood, Greenwood or Stanford – you cannot help but lament the fact that not all the magnificent churches designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London are with us today. If you don’t know London well, you might expect that the reason is because of the bombing, especially during the Second World War. Your guess would be wrong. Although many of Wren’s churches were badly damaged during the bombing, only four of them were not rebuilt later. During the three centuries since they were designed by Wren, no less than 17 churches were taken down shortly before the Second World War. In general, those 17 churches were demolished either because the congregation had dwindled or because they were in the way of Victorian modernisation schemes.
The church under consideration here was demolished in 1937 because the structure was found to be unsafe. Its tower was reconstructed at Twickenham and incorporated into the new church of All Hallows, which also received its bells and complete interior fittings. While some of its remains have benefitted another parish outside the City of London, the loss of a Wren church is still rather sad.
Churches by the name of ‘All Hallows’ are so-called because they were dedicated to ‘all the hallowed saints’. The name is very similar in meaning to churches today called ‘All Saints’. The original church was a very early foundation – believed to have been in existence by AD 1000. The first documented mention was in 1053 when Brihtmaer gave the rectory to the church at Canterbury.
The church was rebuilt 1494-1516, the tower not being completed until 1544. The church was damaged during the Great Fire of London (1666) – but not badly. The bells were re-hung in the steeple in 1679 and the walls coped with straw to arrest further decay. These repairs proved to be unsatisfactory and Christopher Wren was asked to rebuild the church in 1694. The church was ‘tucked away’ behind other buildings that lined the corner of Lombard Street and Gracechurch Street which means that the churchyard was a ‘little oasis’ of calm, away from the bustle of the City traffic.
The church was known to John Wesley who, in 1735, preached his first sermon without notes in the church. He had arrived at the church to find that his manuscript was missing. After mentioning it to the caretaker, he received the advice ‘What, can’t you trust God for a sermon?’. He never again took notes into the pulpit for his sermons.
Above: Parish marker for All Hallows, Lombard Street (right), accompanied by on for the adjacent parish of St Benet, Gracechurch Street. These markers are on the side of a modern office block on the west side of Gracechurch Street.
The church was ‘repaired and beautified’ in 1847, once again in 1870 and also in 1880. In 1937-38 the church was demolished by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the parish was united with the nearby parish of St Edmund the King. All Hallows had been a ‘peculiar parish’, not under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, but directly under the Archbishop of Canterbury. The site of the church was in Langbourne Ward, on the north side of Lombard Street, at No 48, on the corner of Lombard Street at the junction with Gracechurch Street. The only remaining tangible evidence for the City church is in the form of several parish markers which are still to be seen on modern buildings in and around Gracechurch Street.
The stone tower was carefully taken down and re-erected as part of the modern church of All Hallows on the Great Chertsey Road, Twickenham. The tower is linked to the modern church by a cloister in which are a number of memorials from the old City church. In the tower is an ancient gateway, erected in Lombard Street at the entrance to All Hallows soon after the Great Fire. The modern church also has the original pulpit, the reredos, the pews, two sword rests, an ancient bread cupboard, the organ, a chandelier, the choir stalls and the churchwarden’s pews. The Twickenham church was consecrated in 1940 and remained safe from the bombing.