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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 P69/ALH1
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): [1400]-1995
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 5.15 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Parish of All Hallows, Barking by the Tower, City of London | Church of England


Administrative/Biographical history:

All Hallows, Barking by the Tower (also known as All Hallows Berkingchirche) was founded in the Saxon period and is considered to be the oldest church in the City of London. Its title suggests that it was originally an appanage of Barking Abbey. The Abbey certainly owned the church for much of the period up to the Reformation, with the Cathedral Church of Rochester and various medieval Kings acquiring it for short phases. The church played a prominent role in medieval London, being the site of the resignation of Lord Mayor Gregory de Rokesley and part of the trial of the Knights Templar. In the churchyard was situated a Lady Chapel (known as Saint Mary's Chapel), which was erected into a royal chantry-chapel by Edward IV. Attached to this chapel, was a religious gild of the Blessed Virgin Mary founded by Thomas Chichele. In 1539, Barking Abbey and all of its property, including All Hallows, was renounced to the commissioners of Henry VIII and, in 1547, the Chapel was demolished and chantries, images and ornaments removed from the church. Shortly afterwards, the Archbishop of Canterbury acquired the advowson from the Crown.

With the abolition of chantry priests, Vicar William Dawes, who was instituted in 1542, had to individually run the parish which included approximately 800 communicants. During the reign of Queen Mary some of the old fixtures including the rood and some altars returned, but these were taken down with the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. On the whole, the church adopted the changes in ecclesiastical doctrine, although there was still some remnants of old practices.

During the sixteenth century, the parish became more actively involved with the secular affairs in the parish, when it formed a select vestry of thirty members, who chose the churchwardens, appointed parish officers, assessed church and poor rates and administered church charities. The parish was particularly concerned with the care of the poor, who were numerous in the parish.

The seventeenth century saw much restorative work to the church building which included the addition of pews. The church was reopened in 1634, and in the following year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, appointed Edward Layfield as vicar. Layfield followed many of Laud's high church tendencies, which upset many of the more puritanical among the parishioners. These puritans complained to Bishop of London and to parliament, which may have played a role in Archbishop Laud being imprisoned in the Tower for treason, where he was later beheaded. Like many others who were beheaded in the Tower, his remains were buried in the church.

In the years that followed, the parish was run by the Puritans. As Oliver Cromwell established a Commonwealth, the church became part of civil life, with new stocks and whipping post placed in the churchyard, and the pews behind the north door removed, to create an engine room, essentially a fire station for the area. However, this did not stop an incident that hit the parish and church on 4th January 1649, when seven barrels of gunpowder exploded in a ship-chandler's house in Tower Street. The 'Great Blowe', as it is sometimes referred to, left many houses destroyed, the church damaged and 67 parishioners dead, while many others were left badly injured or destitute. Through contributions from most of the City Churches and subscriptions from parishioners, the parish and church were cleaned and repaired and the destitute cared for. The church tower, which was severely damaged in explosion, was replaced in 1659.

Edward Layfield returned to the parish as vicar in 1662, shortly after the monarchy had been restored, although there remained a strong puritan element among the Vestry. However, most of these puritans later resigned when they refused to sign the Declaration of the Act of Uniformity. The next major event to hit the parish during this period was the Great Fire in 1666. As a result of the efforts of Admiral William Penn, father of the William Penn who founded Pennsylvania, the church escaped the fire but the vicarage was destroyed. Famously, Samuel Pepys climbed up the tower of the church to view the devastation caused by the fire.

The Vestry remained active in civil functions until the nineteenth century. In 1808, the select vestry was replaced by a general vestry which opened election of members to parishioners. However, the powers of the vestry were gradually reduced and it was eventually replaced by a parochial church council, who were more concerned with church matters rather than secular affairs. The period from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries also saw the population of the parish dwindle, which changed the focus of work. In 1884, All Hallows became the mission church of a small college of priests in Trinity Square. In 1922, it became the Guild Church of Toc H, which was an organisation for Christian fellowship founded by Reverend Philip 'Tubby' Clayton, who was later vicar at All Hallows.

In 1940, the church was badly bombed and only the tower and walls remained. It was extensively restored in period after the war and rededicated in 1957. Saint Dunstan in the East was also badly damaged during the war, but a decision was made not to rebuild it. It became part of the parish of All Hallows in 1960 and was subsequently used for occasional open air services. From 1977 until the 1990s, the parish ran a multi-faith chapel situated in Saint Katharine's Dock. By the end of the twentieth century, the parish became very active as an international ministry with strong links to The Church of the Epiphany, New York; Christ Church, Philadelphia; and the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Since its foundation, All Hallows has had many famous connections. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised at the church in 1644. Marriages have included Judge Jeffreys 'The Hanging Judge' and Sarah Needham in 1667, and John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of United States and Louisa Johnson in 1797. One notable burial was William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1645.

Information from: 'An account of the parish church of All Hallows Barking', Survey of London: volume 12: The parish of All Hallows Barking, part I: The Church of All Hallows (1929), pp. 1-90.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the parish of All Hallows, Barking by the Tower, City of London comprising baptisms (1558 - 1937), marriages (1564 - 1995), burials (1558 - 1853), banns of marriage, confirmations, preachers' books, parish visitors' books, lists of inhabitants who have served parish offices, benefice papers, vestry minutes, parochial church council minutes, administration and finance committee minutes, muniments, papers and correspondence relating to administrative issues, annual accounts, ledgers, journals, treasurers' accounts, churchwardens' accounts, church rate and rent roll accounts, tithe rate accounts, church rate assessment books, tithe rate assessment books, wills and leases, rent rolls, registers of recipients of charitable gifts, overseers' accounts, poor rate assessment books, general rate assessment books, valuations of property, lists of inmates at the parish workhouse.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Latin.

System of arrangement:

These records have been arranged as follows:
P69/ALH1/A Parish registers
P69/ALH1/B Church services
P69/ALH1/C Church personnel
P69/ALH1/D Parish boundaries/ benefice
P69/ALH1/E Church buildings
P69/ALH1/G Parish administration
P69/ALH1/H Parish finance
P69/ALH1/I Parish charities and estates
P69/ALH1/J Civil functions

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Material relating to the parish of All Hallows Barking by the Tower has been deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library at various dates since the1920s from a number of sources. The most recent deposit was in 1973. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009. Further records were deposited in 2011.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For papers relating to Toc H see CLC/437: papers of P B Clayton. In 1891, administration of the charitable gifts and bequests of the parish was transferred to the City Parochial Foundation. Deeds relating to these gifts and bequests, 1479-1777, have been deposited amongst the records of the City Parochial Foundation. Please note that 24 hours' notice is required for access to records of the City Parochial Foundation.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2010, with additions August 2012.

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