All Hallows by the Tower

All Hallows is a church with a fantastic history; situated right next to the Tower of London it’s seen something like 1000 years of hangings, riots, crowds, wealth and poverty – and of course the great fire of London. It has many reminders of London’s commercial, military and sea-faring life, and many connections with the “establishment”. Most recently it was badly damaged in the Blitz, and subsequently rebuilt.

This makes it a fascinating place, though I find that like many of the 1950s rebuilds it seems to lack something. Whether it’s character, or coherence, or charm; whether it’s that the 1950s “spirit of the age” didn’t have much to offer with its concrete additions, or that old churches inevitably look a bit of a mess, there seems to be something slightly missing here. But it’s well worth a visit.

Just across the road there’s a lost Tube Station – Mark Lane. All that’s left now is a pedestrian staircase which leads down to a gloomy tunnel under the road; though the buildings on top are still called “Mark Lane Station Buildings”. 

Like everywhere else here the area around All Hallows has been cleaned up and rebuilt with huge glass offices. Tower Place claims to offer some public open space – it even has some little watery channels to make you feel calm – but if you stray under that glass screen there are a couple of little Hitlers who stop you taking photographs. That’s a pity, since the glass makes for some nice photographic effects and the water features are fun – but if you’re quick you can sneak a couple before they notice you.

Just down the road is the old Billingsgate Fish market – another of the City’s five traditional markets (the others are SpitalfieldsCovent GardenLeadenhall and Smithfield). The fish have long departed but the building lives on as a venue for functions and events. And it still has a magnificent weather-vane.