All Hallows Twickenham | The City Church That Moved 12 Miles

Along the Chertsey Road looms a tower that looks extremely out of place.

That’s because it dates from the 17th century and previously stood over 12 miles away in the City of London.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

History of All Hallows Lombard Street

The first record we have for a church at the eastern edge of Lombard Street is in 1053. 

It was rebuilt in 1294 then enlarged 200 years later. Given its location in the heart of the financial centre of London, the rich community of neighbouring merchants continued to improve it and a north aisle and steeple were added in 1544, paid for by the Pewterers Company.

A suggestion of its steeple can be seen on the Agas map dating from the 1560s. I’ve highlighted the church in yellow below and you can also make out the site of Leadenhall Market in the top right corner.

Agas Map c.1560s from layersoflondon.org

The medieval church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was then one of the 51 City Churches rebuilt by Christopher Wren.

Work started in 1686 and the new church opened in January 1695. There is a drawing of the exterior of the Wren church in 1839. That tower looking familiar yet?!

Public Domain

It’s a view from Ball Court which can be seen to the left of the church (which I’ve highlighted in yellow) on the OS map from the 1890s. Again, Leadenhall Market can be seen in the top right corner.

OS Map c.1890s – layersoflondon.org

During the 19th century, as the population of London grew rapidly and spread towards the suburbs, the Square Mile’s residential population was falling. In successive ‘Union of Benefices’ Acts from the 1860s it was decided there were too many churches and some should be demolished.

A shocking decision for us today, 23 churches were united with other parishes and then scheduled to be demolished.

All Hallows Lombard Street was one of the unlucky chosen and today all that hints at the site is a former Parish boundary mark from 1883 with the ALH for All Hallows, Lombard Street.

All Hallows Lombard Street Boundary Markers | Look Up London

Thanks to the resistance from the City Churches Preservation Society, the demolition of All Hallows only became a reality in the late 1930s by which time a suitable location had been found, 12 miles away in Twickenham.

The Move to Twickenham 

As time was running out for All Hallows Lombard Street, the district served by St Martin’s Church in Twickenham was looking for a larger space.

St Martin’s had only been consecrated in 1914, replacing the ancient parish church of St Mary which – like All Hallows, Lombard Street – had a history going back to the 11th century.

The stars aligned and the architect Robert Atkinson was hired to oversee the moving of All Hallows to Twickenham.

A few changes were of course necessary, the Tower now stands separate from the main body of the church, linked by a cloister. But overall Atkinson followed the plan of Wren’s original lay out (even moving the organ to Wren’s original plan) and with the surviving interior features it’s almost like stepping back into the 17th century.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

Inside All Hallows, Twickenham

The current interior can be nicely compared with a photograph hanging on the wall.

Yes, the outer walls are new and the pews date from the 1870s, but otherwise there are remarkable survivors from the 17th century which I’ve highlighted below.

The Reredos was paid for by 18 benefactors after the Great Fire, who raised the princely sum of £188. It was considered one of the finest of any City Church and was carved by Grinling Gibbons. The paintings are from the 1870s.

The pulpit was completed in the 1690s so many a sermon has been preached from it. One of the most famous figures to have used this very pulpit was John Wesley, founder of the Methodism.

The organ was built by Renatus Harris, master organ maker during this period. It was finished in 1708 and cost £350.

Walking through the cloister gives an opportunity to study some of the monuments more closely. They are not just from All Hallows but also from the demolished churches of St Dionis Backchurch and St Benet Gracechurch.

All Hallows Twickenham, Cloister | Look Up London

The most impressive remembers Edward Tyson (1651-1708) who was a scientist and physician. Originally this was in St Dionis Backchurch where he was buried.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

He worked as governor to the Bethlem Hospital, better known as the notorious Bedlam Asylum. Tyson is credited with improving the conditions in which patients (or perhaps, ‘inmates’ is a more appropriate term) were treated. This is of course relative to our modern views of mental health treatment.

Tyson’s lasting legacy was in the anatomy of animals where he established that a porpoise was a mammal, produced the most accurate anatomical study of a snake and, thanks to his dissection of a chimpanzee at the London Docks, started to point to the connections between humans and apes.

At the other end of the spectrum, one of the simplest but most moving memorials is that of Vardon family from St Benet Gracechurch.

Thomas Vardon (1799-1867) was Clerk and Librarian to the House of Commons. The family vault details the tragic loss of children during the late 18th century, including two twin boys Frederic and Edwards who were only days old.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

At the end of the cloister is the bell tower and facing you is the former external wooden gateway into All Hallows.

It dates from 1693 and features many skulls and hour glasses, references to time passing and a reminder of ones mortality.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

When I visited I was lucky enough to be shown around by the vicar who kindly offered to show me the ringing chamber, if I was comfortable with the very narrow spiral stone staircase…

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

So up we went!

There are 10 bells in total – six of which date between 1726-1750 – and they can still be heard today each Sunday.

All Hallows Twickenham, Ringing Chamber | Look Up London

I wonder if their faint sound carries the 12 miles back to the City of London, where they once rang out on the end of Lombard Street.

All Hallows Twickenham | Look Up London

You can read more about the church, its opening times and guided tours on their website, here.

Related Blog Post

Although it’s just a spire rather than a whole church, an incongruous Wren spire can be found in a Forest Hill housing estate. Read the blog for the full story!

St Antholin by Christopher Wren | Look Up London

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