This view of Hackney Church was taken from Pig Well, one of several nearby wells known for the purity of their water.
In medieval times, the church had been dedicated to St Augustine but during the 16th century its dedication was changed to St John. The contemporary antiquarian, John Stow suggests this may have been in honour of "the Knights Templar of St John, as they certainly had a mill and some tenures in the parish."
Only seven years after E Howorth captured this scene in 1791, most of the church was pulled down. Only the tower was left standing.
Hackney’s population had outgrown the medieval church. It was replaced in 1797 by a new church of St John, designed by James Spiller and built alongside the churchyard. The new church could seat 2,200 worshippers. The Victorian writer, George MacDonald called the vast yellow brick building "the ugliest church in Christendom save one".
When a stone steeple was added to the new church in 1812, the old church tower, which had been kept as a bell and clock tower, became completely redundant and was threatened with demolition. Saved by the intervention of public outcry, St Augustine’s Tower still survives.