All Hallow's Architecture

All Hallows Staining
All Hallows Staining, Mark Lane, 1810-23
Trustees of the British Museum

Nineteenth-Century Decline

Like Lancelot Sharpe and the late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century perpetual curates of All Hallows Staining before him, Francis Stainforth benefited from a trust established and endowed by Dame Margaret Slaney in 1607.  The wife of Sir Stephen Slaney (1524–1608), merchant and lord mayor of London, Margaret Slaney bequeathed £2,000 to the Grocer’s Company to support London clergy.  By 1663, this financial support included the perpetual curacy of All Hallows Staining.[1] 

By the mid-nineteenth century, a decline in population in the older boroughs of London and accelerated growth in the newer suburbs led to the consolidation of a number of parishes.  Alfred Povah, rector of nearby St. Olave Hart Street in the late nineteenth century, recorded the changes.[2]  The Union of Benefices Act (1860) unified a number of contiguous London parishes.  It allowed for the demolition of the parish church of All Hallows Staining, leaving only the early fourteenth-century tower and three gravestones – among them those of Lancelot Sharpe and his wife – and stipulated the transfer of the monuments within to the church to St. Olave’s.[3]  The Lady Slaney Trust Estate Act (1869) authorized the Grocers to consent to the union of the two churches and, beginning in 1870, the parish of All Hallows Staining was united to the parish of St Olave Hart Street, located just two blocks to the south east.[4]  

Whether Francis Stainforth was aware of the plan to close the church when he first arrived at the parish in 1852 is unclear.  A plan to unify the parishes and to demolish the church of All Hallows Staining was known publicly at least as early as 1854 – just two years after his appointment to the perpetual curacy of the parish – when The Leader published notice that the Bishop of London had approved such a plan in “Proposed Removal of Thirty City Churches.”[5]  Stainforth nevertheless continued to oversee improvements in church fabric:  in 1862, the addition of windows to the roof added much needed light “to the great improvement of the church”; and, in 1864-65, repair of the wheel of bells was undertaken by “Hall” for just under £2.[6]  The church was brought down in 1870, just four years after Stainforth’s death.

All Hallows Staining Plan 2
All Hallows Staining, Plan, 1867
St. Olaves Hart Street, London Metropolitan Archives

These changes took place over the course of three decades. The plan (right), drafted 31 August 1867, lays out the space along Mark Lane to be left vacant by All Hallows Staining's removal, leaving only the fourteenth-century tower.[7] 

The Company of the Clothworkers purchased the site of All Hallows Staining for roughly £13,000 under the agreement that they maintain the tower and refrain from building on the land that once held the church, the churchyard, and the rectory. A narrow portion of land along Mark Lane was exempted.

The proceeds of the sale of the property that held the church and rectory went toward the construction of All Hallows, Bromley-le-Bow (consecrated in 1874) in the eastern suburbs, at £10,000.[8] The pulpit, font, stained glass, cushions and six bells were to be appropriated by any of the three churches specified in the Lady Slaney’s Trust Estate Act.[9] As late as 1891, the Ecclesiastical Commission and the Grocer’s Company continued to debate the fate of the church furnishings. The Grocers stressed that the sixth bell was reported to be the “earliest dated one in London and therefore of historical value,” which would be destroyed by the recasting that had been suggested for the group; they requested that they be permitted to retain it in its current state, replacing it with another new bell in its stead.[10]

The changes to the site appear in a detail of the Ordnance Survey of London of 1896, seen below.[11] By the end of the nineteenth century, the main body of the church was gone, leaving only the fourteenth-century tower. The Clothworker's Guild to the west, the Fenchurch Street Station to the east, and the Church of St. Olave's - burial place to the renowned diarist of plague-era (1665) London - to the south east, still remain.

London, Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey, London, 1896
National Library of Scotland

All Hallows Staining Tower, with St. Olave's Mark Lane
All Hallows Staining Tower, 1955, Mark Lane, with new office-blocks dwarfing surviving tower of All Hallows Staining
Ben Brooksbank

Twentieth-Century Reconstruction

East London and nearby parishes sustained considerable damage during the London Blitz of 1941. St. Olave Hart Street, which had been united with All Hallows Staining in 1870, was among those churches severely damaged.  Only the foundation, the crypt (now used as a chapel), and elements of tracery survived to be incorporated into the renovation.  Prior to the 1954 reopening of the restored St Olave's, a prefabricated church - St. Olave Mark Lane - stood on the site of All Hallows Staining, the surviving tower used as the chancel.  Taken in 1955, this photograph shows the tower, the prefab structure used as the parish church, with new office blocks under construction.[12]