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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APPENDIX ON RECENT EXCAVATIONS AT ALL HALLOWS (fn. 1)
The following discoveries were made in the course of excavations carried out from 1928 to 1933 in connection with the underpinning of the nave and chancel of the church. Remains of structures of two periods—Roman and medieval—were found and demolished during this work.
Part of a pavement was found at a depth of 6 feet beneath the floor of the tower. The fragment measures about 7 feet by 4 and consists of plain red tesserae about 1 inch square. Across the middle, in an east-to-west direction, the pavement is cut by a gutter 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep, possibly a sleeper-trench for a wooden partition. There is no edge on the portion of pavement now preserved in situ, and it may have extended some 8 to 12 feet further to the east, where a large number of loose red tesserae were found. These have now been relaid where found, but 1 foot 3 inches below the level of the pavement under the tower. The date of this pavement must remain uncertain until the material under it has been excavated. However, the tesserae have the same direction as the third-century walls next described, so that the pavement is probably of this date.
As excavation proceeded further to the east under the nave, occupation debris of the Roman period was found to extend over the whole area. The layers contained a quantity of pottery, some pre-Flavian, but mostly of the period Flavian to Antonine, and also fragments of painted wall-plaster and brick. It seems clear that the site was first occupied, probably by timber houses, about the middle of the first century, and that occupation became denser in the second century up to the Antonine period.
In 1930 part of a stone-built house was uncovered near the centre of the church. Three sides of a long narrow room or corridor remained, running in a N.N.E. direction, and measuring 9 feet in width and at least 20 feet in length. The side walls were 3½ and 2½ feet thick, and the crosswall at the north end 2 feet thick. The walls were preserved to a maximum height of 6 feet above the base of the foundations, which were of large squared blocks of chalk, with wide joints set in hard yellow mortar. Four feet above the base of the walls was a single bonding-course of flanged tiles, and above this the walls were of Kentish rag and a few flints. The foundation trenches for the walls were cut down through the occupation layers containing pottery of the Antonine period, so that the walls are of later date than this, and probably of the third century. The structure is thus one of the few dated buildings in Roman London, and it is, moreover, the most easterly building yet known inside the Roman town-wall.
During 1933 three walls were exposed and partly destroyed in digging under the chancel. One of them ran north and south at a distance of 10½ feet west of the present east wall of the chancel, and is thus apparently the east end of an earlier church which was one bay shorter than the present building. The present east wall is probably of the same fourteenth-century date as the east window. The two other early walls were lateral, and ran west from the north and south ends of the first wall. The inner faces only of these walls were exposed, and even these had already been to some extent cut away in making vaults. Where best preserved towards the west, the distance between the lateral walls was found to be 14½ feet. This width is a common one for small twelfth-century chancels, and the thickness of the old east wall, 3½ feet, suggests the same period. (fn. 2) The south wall was 3 feet thick. The evidence for the thickness of the north wall is not so clear; the northern faces of the dressed blocks in it (see below) were 3 feet from the inner face of the wall, which may give the original thickness. It was found, however, that rubble masonry of similar character extended at least another foot to the north throughout the eastern 10 feet of the wall, but this may represent subsequent thickening.
The foundations of the walls were at a depth of about 8 feet below the present church floor. Roman debris (pottery, oyster shells, and other occupation material) was found against them and also under them, and the south ends of the Roman walls described above had been cut down in laying the foundations of the south lateral wall. The walls were of rubble masonry, consisting of blocks of chalk and ragstone, bedded in hard yellow mortar. The footings of the east and south walls also contained flints and fragments of Roman brick. Part of the inner face of the north wall was well preserved from 1½ to 3½ feet below the underside of the church floor; it consisted of coursed rubble with some fragments of Roman brick.
The cores of the north and south walls consisted very largely of re-used worked blocks, some of considerable dimensions. These are probably all of Roman date, and some are of architectural character. One slab, 2½ feet wide and 1 foot thick, with mouldings along one side, was found lying loose near the south wall, but there were traces of mortar on the mouldings, and it had probably been built into the wall. Lying in position against the remains of the wall, and probably once included in its core, were two other longer blocks, the east end of the more easterly block being 6 feet from the angle of the east wall. One block has three plane faces, and the ends are also plane; the dimensions are 4 feet 4 inches by 2½ feet by 1 foot 9 inches, and a patch of hard white Roman mortar containing crushed tile still adheres to it. The other block has two plane faces and plane ends, and measures 5 feet 3 inches by 2 feet by 1 foot 7 inches. Two other worked blocks remained in the core of the south wall nearer the angle, their exposed faces measuring 15 by 9 inches and 9 by 9 inches. Immediately to the west of the angle was a dressed block measuring 2½ feet by 1 foot, with a lewis hole 1½ inches by 1 inch in it; below this block was a layer of mortar 6 inches thick, separating it from a slab 2 feet long and 4 inches thick, laid horizontally.
As the demolition of the north wall proceeded, two large dressed blocks were removed from its core, the end of the first being about 10 feet from the east wall. The first block is 2 feet long, 2 feet 4 inches deep, and 1 foot 2 inches high, and has on the front two horizontal sets of mouldings above a geometrical design. The second block, 2½ feet long, is of similar character, and the blocks would appear to have formed part of the cornice of a Roman building. West of these blocks was another, which was not removed; its exposed end was plane, and measured 1 foot 9 inches wide and 1 foot 6 inches high.
Thirty feet west of the inner face of the east wall of this early building was the face of a fragment of rubble masonry set in yellow mortar, running north and south. Presumably this belonged to a wall which has been almost entirely destroyed, but which may have marked the west end of the early chancel. It seems reasonable to suppose that this was a sleeper-wall, but it has been given the same thickness as the lateral walls. As thus restored, the chancel measures 14½ feet in width and 27 feet in length internally. An objection to regarding this structure as the twelfth-century chancel lies in the fact that the south wall has been traced westwards for more than 10 feet in the same line, whereas the south wall of the nave should be further to the south. However, the fact remains that this structure is earlier than the present church, and it may well be part of the Norman church given by Riculf to the monks of Rochester. (fn. 3)
In the southern half of the space between the early east wall and the end wall of the present chancel were found a number of interments in stone coffins, with heads to the west. One of them was completely excavated; the coffin was constructed of chalk slabs 4½ inches thick and about 15 inches long, set upright and mortared together, with a round recess for the head. Along the top of the slabs was an edging of mortar with a rebate for a lid, of which no other traces remained. The internal depth of the coffin was 1 foot. The interment was that of a woman aged about thirty. Three feet to the south was another similar interment, which lay partly under the north wall of the fourteenth-century crypt under the south chapel, the wall being carried over it on a roughly constructed arch. To the east were two other coffins, one above the other, with the greater part of their length under the chancel wall, which was also carried over them on an arch. These interments must therefore have been made to the east of the small early chancel, and previous to the building of the present chancel in the fourteenth century.