Survey of London: Volume 15, All Hallows, Barking-By-The-Tower, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1934.
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The story of the parish of All Hallows Barking as reflected in its Church has been told by Miss Lilian J. Redstone in the first part of this survey. Fragmentary although all such history is, depending on the chance survival of documents, it has shown in no uncertain manner the antiquity of the parish and the important part it played in the medieval and later life of the City. It remains in this volume to describe the buildings, other than the Church, which survived to the period of our survey, and to touch lightly on the ancient sites, the names of which alone remain. The memorials of the citizens in the Church are fully recorded here, and the opportunity has been taken to link their names with the streets and houses of the parish, as far as a somewhat hasty consultation of the Guildhall muniments would allow.
The early history of the parish holds many problems that have been only partially resolved. Its name, a clear indication of its old association with Barking Abbey in Essex, would no doubt grow in significance if we could learn more of its pre-Conquest organisation. The two main conditions that have governed its fortunes have been its riverside position below London Bridge—the first parish within the city walls approached from the sea—and the proximity of the great fortress of the Tower of London, which was a royal residence as well as the military castle defending the Capital. The parish lived largely on the sea-borne trade that used its quays, and it participated, often in poignant manner, in the life and events that make up the history of the Tower.
We have evidence that its boundaries were changed from time to time. In some deeds of the time of Richard II, the site of Trinity House, west of Water Lane, is given as within the parish, but between the sixth and twelfth year of this reign, it had been transferred to that of St. Dunstan, and is thereafter stated to be "late of the parish of All Saints Barking Church." (fn. 1) But more important fluctuations seem to have attended its eastern boundary, for there were constant disputes with the authorities of the Tower, the liberty of which was more likely to expand than diminish. The existence to-day of a detached portion of the parish adjoining the city wall, and separated from the major part by Tower Hill, points to an early extension of the Tower precinct northwards as far as St. Olave's.
The most important development of the riverside activities of the parish was, of course, the institution of the Custom House, which until its removal in 1813 to an adjoining site in St. Dunstan's, occupied successive buildings on the Old Wool Quay. An outline of its history is given in Chapter IX, and illustrations of the buildings are included in the plates. Another interesting occupant was the Muscovy Company, and it is satisfactory that its sojourn on the site of Muscovy Court has been definitely traced. The property extended into St. Olave's, and when later the Navy Office occupied this position, its buildings stood wholly in that parish, although All Hallows continued to house many of the men who were prominent in the Admiralty administration there. Muscovy House, which was the residence of Sir John Alleyn, Lord Mayor in 1525–6 and 1535–6, passed later to Sir Francis Walsingham, and it was to this house that the wife of the Earl of Essex retired to live with her mother when Essex had to bow to Queen Elizabeth's anger at his secret marriage. Three of their children's deaths are recorded in the parish register.
Of the important names connected with the parish, one or two stand out clearly. Sir Robert Knollys, the famous Edwardian soldier, had a house on the west side of Seething Lane and property on the east connected by a bridge or Haut Pas over the street. There are many references to him in Part I of this Survey, and his property can be traced through his endowment of the College he founded at Pontefract. A later magnate also closely connected with the parish was (Sir) Robert Tate, who built the Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury on the north side of the Royal Lady Chapel to receive his tomb. It has always been presumed that this monument was destroyed at the taking down of the Chapel, but it is just possible that it was re-erected in All Hallows Church, in the south Chancel Chapel, where an unidentified altar tomb still stands. The style of the monument agrees admirably, and the transference may have been made, for obvious reasons, with so little noise that it escaped the attention of chroniclers like Stow. Hitherto it has not been possible to trace (Sir) Robert Tate's residence, but it has now been located on the site of the one fine seventeenth-century house that the parish still possesses. This is No. 34, Great Tower Street, which is well known to lovers of London as the most striking example extant of a city merchant's house, built immediately after the Great Fire.
An interesting souvenir of (Sir) Robert Tate is the painted altar-piece, which by the kindness of its present owner, Lady Millicent Hawes, we are permitted to reproduce as the frontispiece of this volume. (Sir) Robert Tate left directions in his will for the furnishing of "a table of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas" in his Chapel of St. Thomas in the Royal Lady Chapel. Since the altar-piece bears his arms and those of his wife, Margaret (Margery) Wood, daughter of Richard Wood, Mayor of Coventry, it is not unreasonable to ascribe its commission to him, and it is at least as likely that it adorned his Chapel here, as the Chantry which he founded in St. Michael's, Coventry. It consists of four panels, two of which were on the inner sides of the wings of a triptych. The other two, now in the centre, form one composition, and were on the outside of the leaves, being seen together when the triptych was closed. The original central picture, which no doubt was an Adoration of the Magi, is missing. The subjects are (in the order of their present setting), a figure kneeling in prayer, with another standing figure behind, both perhaps kings, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Joseph against the background of a stable. On the last is the shield of arms. The panels have been discussed by Joseph Maskell (fn. 2) and G. R. Corner (fn. 3). They belonged at one time to Peter le Neve, Norroy King of Arms (d. 1729), and after forming part of Horace Walpole's Collection at Strawberry Hill were purchased in 1842 by the Duke of Sutherland. From Walpole's own description it may be inferred that he had the wing-panels split, which accounts for their present arrangement. (fn. 4)