“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Finding Shackleton’s Crow’s Nest in one of London’s Oldest Churches

The church shown in the below photos is All Hallows-by-the-Tower, which is located on Byward Street near the Tower of London.

Dating from 675 the church is one of the oldest in London and it still retains a number of clues to its long history. One example is a 7th-century Saxon arch within the church that was built using recycled Roman tiles – possibly from a Roman building that used to occupy the site. This Saxon arch is thought to be the oldest piece of church material still standing in London, dating from only a few years after the Saxons arrived in the city. Other examples of the church’s long history can be found in the church’s crypt museum, which is known as the "Undercroft Museum”. The museum is home to a number of Saxon and Roman artefacts, including Saxon crosses found on the church grounds as well as an impressive section of original tessellated Roman flooring which is still in situ in its original location and shows just how low ground level would have been during Roman times.

Another interesting artefact in the Undercroft Museum is a crow’s nest from Sir Earnest Shackleton’s 125-ton Norwegian Steamer “Quest”. Departing England on the 24th September 1921 Quest set sail for Antarctica on what was to be Shackleton’s last expedition. The ship ventured south visiting Rio De Janeiro and then moving onwards to South Georgia where Shackleton died on the 5th January 1922 and is now buried.

The crypt also contains an altar that is believed to have been carried on the Second Crusade to the Holy Land by King Richard II.

Unlike other churches in London, All Hallows was lucky enough to survive the 1666 Great Fire of London unscathed. Its survival was due to nearby buildings being demolished to prevent the fire from reaching the church. All Hallows' survival is just as well, as the famous diarist of the period (Samuel Pepys) is said to have used the spire of the church as a place to watch the progress of the fearsome blaze. Sadly however, All Hallows fell victim to the Luftwaffe, and the church was gutted by bombing during the Blitz and had to be extensively repaired following the war.

Pepys is not the only well-known person to be associated with the church. Due to All Hallows’ close proximity to the Tower of London it became the temporary resting place for a number of victims of the Tower’s scaffold and executioner’s block. Some of the more notable unfortunates to have visited All-Hallows post mortem include Bishop Fisher (1535), Sir Thomas More (1535) and Archbishop Laud (1645).

Other notable people associated with the church include William Penn, who was the founder of the state of Pennsylvania (one of the original 13 colonies of America) who was baptised in the church in 1644. Also, John Quincy Adams the sixth president of the United States was married in the church in 1797. Adams remains the only American President to date to be married on foreign soil!

So next time you visit the Tower of London consider a trip to All Hallows and see where an American President once got married.

The Church of All Hallows 

Shackleton's Crow's Nest

The Saxon Arch. 

The Roman Floor. 

Pictures, London (August 2016).

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