The original church of St Augustine that stood on this site from 1275 was demolished in 1798 to make way for the bigger church of St St John. All that remains is the bell tower.
The plan was to move the bells to the new tower that was built in 1814, however the tower wasn't strong enough and had to be strengthened.
By 1854 when the work was completed the community wanted to keep the historical tower as a reminder of Hackney's medieval past. The bells and tower were saved and are now managed by the Hackney Historic Buildings Trust.
The tower and original church were dedicated to St Augustine the patron saint of the Knights Templar who owned much of Hackney's land until the 17th century. The church changed its dedication to St John in 1660 after the Knights of St John took over from the Templars.