All Hallows by the Tower is one of the oldest churches in London. It was first constructed in 675 CE and stands on the site of a Roman building. In fact if you go down into the crypt you can still see part of a Roman floor built nearly 2,000 years ago. The original name was All Hallows Barking. It changed its title to All Hallows by the Tower when the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror.
The ghost that is said to have haunted the church has a pretty good title for a phantom – the Lady in Black. She was seen on a number of occasions in the 1920s and 1930s but not much since. One of the most notable sightings concerns a choirmaster and two choristers in December 1920. They were rehearsing in the church when they noticed an old lady standing quietly and watching them. One of the boys went over to her and offered her a chair. She apparently nodded her thanks and sat down. The choirmaster later described her as wearing “old fashioned clothes” and that she viewed them with a marked intensity.
He was also concerned about how she had gained access to the church as he was sure he had locked the outside door. And not to mention how she had arrived within a few metres of them without making a sound. As they were about to conclude their rehearsal she just vanished but was replaced by the sound of scratching in one corner. Suddenly a cat rushed across the floor and headed up the aisle. All three of them searched the church but there was no sign of the woman or the cat. And it was then discovered that the door to the church was still locked.
Part of the Crypt
It was a few years later that the choirmaster was approached by an old man who had heard the tale. He said that about sixty years previously he had been a choirboy at the church. The organist at the time was an eccentric old lady who fitted the description of the woman who had been sighted. The man said that she loved carols at Christmas and also that she loved cats. Perhaps, thought the choirmaster, the fact they were singing carols that evening might have attracted her to come and listen – and she had brought one of her ghostly cats with her. Who knows but there are no reports of her returning since the 1930s.