A few days ago, I went to one of the oldest churches in London, and found it full of stories…
It’s called All-Hallows-By-The-Tower, which is a bit of a mouthful, but has a good, eerie sound. The church has had a lot of narrow escapes over the years – it’s been blown up by gunpowder, was saved at the last moment from the Great Fire, and was bombed during the Second World War! Down below it are remains of an even older Roman house.
Here are some things I found down in the church’s ‘undercrypt’.
This is a cast of a Roman tombstone for a fifteen-year-old boy. I wonder who he was, and why he died so young?
This barrel was the ‘crow’s nest’ on the Quest, a ship used by a famously adventurous explorer called Shackleton during an Antarctic voyage. I’m not sure I’d want to be perched in that barrel at the top of a mast, looking out across endless plains of ice…
All-Hallows-By-The-Tower has another old story. Once, over six hundred years ago, a local noblewoman called Constance Knollys did something a bit naughty. She had a footbridge built over the road so that she could visit her pretty new rose garden more easily. She wasn’t really supposed to do that without permission, but the City of London decided to be nice about it, and told her she just had to pay a single rose each year as a fine.
The bridge is long gone, but there’s still a rose garden, and every year a rose is picked and paraded through the streets on a velvet cushion so that it can be given to the Mayor of London. There’s lot of dressing up in robes and tricorns – look at those amazing sleeves!
I often get story ideas when I’m looking at churches. They survive even when other buildings are torn down, and most have several centuries’ worth of memories. You can find traces of people long gone, like ghosts in the stones.