A church has stood close by, where St. Augustine's Tower now remains, since the early medieval period. However, by 1789 it was considered that the old Church was too small at a capacity of 1,000 people and so James Spiller was employed to design a new one in 1790.
This new Church - St.-John-at-Hackney - was large enough to hold 2,000 people and was completed by 1797. The original architect had been William Blackburn but he died suddenly in November 1790 and James Spiller was selected to take over the project. The plan was for a building big enough to hold 3,000 but Spiller persuaded the Trustees that the acoustics in such a large structure would be poor and to reduce the size by 1,000.
Work finally began in 1792 and the Church was consecrated in 1797 with a wooden tower where the tower would eventually be placed. This allowed the Tower of the Old Church to be saved (to hold the bells) and it was not until 1814 that the stone tower of the New Church was finally completed, even then it took a few more years of underpinning the tower to allow the bells to be moved.
In 1955 a fire swept through St.-John-at-Hackney destroying the roof and much of the interior furnishings. A rebuild was completed in 1958. Another fire occurred in 2006 which caused less damage.
The grounds of the St.-John-at-Hackney and the area where the old Church of St. Augustine stood are now open as public gardens, the Old Church Tower is open to the public on certain occasions.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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