Thursday, 24 May 2012

All Hallows staining

On Mark street around the corner from Fenchurch Station stands a curious old tower now dwarfed by modern office blocks. The tower belonged to the medieval church of All Hallows staining. The name All hallows staining refers to the stone used in its construction which distinguished itself from the other fourteenth century churches which were predominantly wooden in this area of London. Many churches were still made of wood with only a few made of expensive stone, as London became more prosperous the number of stone churches increased. The church was first mentioned in the twelfth century when it would have most likely had a small nave and primitive tower. The tower was rebuilt around 1320 to the one which we see today and it could be assumed that the nave was also rebuilt around this time. 

The photo top left shows the church in a map of London during King Henry VIII rule (1509 to 1547) with the nave in yellow and the tower to the left. During the Great fire of London the church was not initially destroyed but the nave of the church collapsed a few years later, probably due to the heat of the fire. The nave was rebuilt afterwards in 1674 in a similar form to the old one. The church continued to be used for 200 years with little change until 1870 when the parish of All Hallows Staining and St Olave Hart street were combined. The church became redundant and everything was demolished in 1870 except the tower which was saved by the cloth-workers guild and retained.  

During the war the tower was undamaged but the neighbouring church of St Olave Hart street was left a burnt out shell. A temporary church was set up at the site of all hallows in a new nave constructed from timber. This temporary structure provided the parish with a church until St Olave could be restored which it was after the war in 1954. The churches third nave was demolished leaving the tower to standing alone once again. The tower was partly restored some time after the war in which the large arches at the base were filled in creating a small room inside the tower. This created a usable space so the tower could have more of a use than standing as a redundant ruin. Before the war the ground floor of the tower had been open as can be seen on the photograph of 1941 left ©. The photograph also shows in the background the ruins of the cloth-workers' hall after an air raid. Underneath the tower are the remains of a twelfth century crypt which was preserved by the cloth-workers moved from St James in the wall when it was demolished in 1873

From a architectural perspective the tower is underwhelming and has few features of real interest. Most of the windows are of Perpendicular Gothic apart from the west window which is Decorated Gothic. This suggests that most windows were added some years after the tower was built (with exception of west window). The north-west side of the tower is corned by a small octagonal stair turret which like the rest of the tower is topped with castle like castellations. Architectural historian Nikolaus Pervsner had little to say about the tower and summed it up in two lines- 'Pulled down in 1870 except for the small west tower, which now stands against the huge wall of Dunster House'. Despite this it was listed a grade 1 by English heritage in 1950.

A drawing showing the church before the demolition of the nave 


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